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.