The SU Debate: is your education really worth the government’s money?

This week my student friends have been bitter and dismayed with the thought that their study allowance, (known as ‘SU’) will be cut back in reforms of the social welfare handouts in Denmark.

SU’s current model sees students receiving a monthly allowance to help with the cost of living so that they can focus on their studies. It follows the logical idea that by assisting and encouraging youth to further their studies, Denmark’s population will be more highly skilled and educated: a benefit to the country’s economic and business sector.

However, with the proposed reforms announced last weekend, Denmark’s MacBook-toting uni students may not be spending leisurely afternoons studying with a giant latte much longer. The University Post states that students under 23 years old living at home will be set back to 1,274kr per month from the current 2,860kr, whereas the Copenhagen Post online states that students’ living in the family home will receive ‘around 2,500kr.’

The reforms also call for an overhaul of the time it takes to finish a Bachelor-Masters degree program. Danish students are currently entitled to SU payments for 5 years and 10 months of their studies, despite the fact a Masters degree is expected to be completely within 5 years. Students often use the last ‘free’ 10 months of SU payments to study in another faculty or undertake unpaid internships to enhance their degrees. Under the new scheme, students will now only be entitled to SU for the exact duration of their degree program, meaning the so-called ‘year of slacking’ is lost. Those that start higher education within two years of graduating from high school will be granted the traditional 5 years and 10 months of SU. What this means is that students will be encouraged to start university earlier and finish their degrees faster, and those who chose to further their program with extra-curricular studies or internships will have to fund the extra time themselves.

By 2020, the reforms to SU payments are set to save the government two billion kroner. Higher education minister Morten Østergaard indicated that the extra cash will be put to stimulating the economy and business sector in the hope of creating more jobs for these new graduates. But at what cost? If the reforms mean that students start university earlier and rush through their degrees, Denmark may well end up with burnt out young graduates who hate the education they just took – like me.

However, in the light of the ever-dragging financial crises and the privilege of free university education in Denmark, perhaps these reforms are necessary. In such early days it is difficult to weed through the heated debates and passionate opinions to find out whether the reforms will bring positive change or a depressing decline in Denmark’s famed social welfare system.

Got an opinion on the SU debate? Weigh in and share you thoughts in the comments below.

By Emily Merrick • February 20, 2013
Categories: , , , , , ,



  1. Posted February 20, 2013 at 18:58 by Anne | Permalink

    Wow! “…Denmark’s MacBook-toting uni students may not be spending leisurely afternoons studying with a giant latte much longer”. That sentence has an underline of spite and it is somewhat stereotypical! Didn’t bother to read the rest after that.

  2. Posted February 20, 2013 at 22:29 by Emily Merrick | Permalink

    Dear Anna, I’m terribly sorry to have caused offense, that was certainly not intended. I myself spent many hours studying in Aarhus’s fine cafes, latte at hand. You are more than welcome to revisit the article and share your opinion on how you feel the SU reforms will affect Danish students and their experience of university life.

  3. Posted February 23, 2013 at 06:11 by Joanna Marie | Permalink

    I returned home after visiting Denmark with an image of Danish students in cafes earnest in discussion over lap top and coffee laden round tables. My husband spoke enthusiastically of the design of Aarhus cafes supporting technological connections to the world beyond self … specifically, access to power points.

    What’s that got to do with SU? Simply the image of a government (and community) supporting a student is certainly a very positive take-away image. This, an international, professional and parental perspective.

    That internships and further study hold a valuable opportunity for enhancing learning is granted… as does the workplace. Surely these opportunities are built into programs of study? (Unpaid internships? now that demands reform!).

    A burnt our young graduate who hated their degree – assuming you didn’t study in Denmark, how about a factual global comparison. Rationally, all and sundry will surely agree that any SU is generous indeed… and yet, recalling student years, concur this reform certainly threatens living the dream.

  4. Posted February 24, 2013 at 08:26 by JL | Permalink

    Danish entitlement are so lucky- do you guys wanna swap with the Australian system???? But I guess both Australian and Danish are much better than the American system? Ya!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Emily i Danmark

Emily Merrick

After a six month exchange jaunt in Århus in 2011, I've made my way back on the arm of a gentleman and in the pursuit of hygge. In this city I fill my days riding around on a rusty bicycle, observing the seasons change and drinking an obscene amount of coffee. I enjoy taking photos, writing shy poems and telling lies to drunk men in bars. This blog is where I share our adventures and shenanigans as we drink, dance, eat and cycle through the streets Århus.