Law against taking two educations is a colossal dirty trick

A terrible gamble with the nation's education was made on Monday when the government, together with the Social Democrats, passed a law preventing double degrees

Starting next year, it will no longer matter if we as students have made a thorough plan for our studies. It doesn’t matter if we followed the advice of our student councillor, or if we have taken supplementary courses. Whether or not we have worked our butts off to make a great application.

On paper, we could have done all the right things and still not be allowed to begin a new study, if we’ve previously completed an education on the same or higher level.

This is because of the so-called educational cap (uddannelsesloft) that the Social Democrats (S), Danish People’s Party (DF) and the Liberal Party (V) snuck into the passing of the unemployment benefit agreement that was passed in June 2016. 

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There was a good reason that the law was rushed through parliament without any debate. Both democratically and in substance, the parties behind the law have, in fact, played a major, dirty trick.

There are no good arguments against letting students who have completed one Bachelor’s degree not start a new one – on the contrary. Also, there is no consistent logic as to which courses and students the law affects.

But it doesn’t matter. The law isn’t aimed at creating better degrees – it’s about saving money on education.

And if we have to grant exemptions from the new rules every time they miss the mark, or ruin a student’s course of study, then they’re not going to save any of the money that the deal is meant to save.

In this way, V, DF and S are cynically disregarding all academic and personal considerations, and are instead gambling with the future of thousands of young people.

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The result will be an education system where it is impossible to change your mind and where students risk ending up with half an education if, after completing a Bachelor’s degree, they don’t want to continue on to the relevant Master’s degree. They can’t start a new Bachelor degree, so they’re stuck. We’re creating an education system filled with dead ends.

With the new law, V, DF and S have made a political deal that is comparable to an educational policy version of Russian roulette.

The law will, in fact, hit thousands of students who – on paper – did all the right things, but had no chance of knowing that their course of study would come to a grinding halt, without them having any chance to do anything about it.

And it does matter that we can change the direction of our education mid-way. The choice of education is one of the most defining choices in our lives – both while we’re studying, but also afterwards. When we lose the right to choose the direction of our studies, we lose the right to define our own lives.

It’s an important decision when we choose to either be a biologist or a social worker – both for ourselves and for society. Innovation, excitement and hard work come from people, who are passionate about their trade. It doesn’t come from people who have realised that their chosen education isn’t the one that is going to define the rest of their working lives.

It doesn’t make the situation any less tragic, that now-former Minister of Education and Research, Ulla Tørnæs (V) tried to deflect the criticism by pointing out that 120 of the 428 million kroner that the law will save the state, will stay within the educational sector.

V and the rest of blue bloc have just agreed on a budget that will cut no less than 10.2 billion kroner until 2020. 85 times more than the so-called “quality funds” of 120 million kroner.

But according to Tørnæs, we should be happy about the 120 million kroner that she could have cut, but most graciously let stay in the education sector. Tørnæs’ comments demonstrate a striking lack of insight or knowledge into the day-to-day work in the education sector; if she thinks that 120 milllion kroner can function as anything but a plaster on an open fracture.

It also emphasises that Venstre doesn’t have any ambition to prioritise education. No, we should be thankful after these historically big cutbacks.

Education is pivotal in giving people life opportunities. Therefore, it is extremely alarming when it is, apparently, no longer taken for granted that we as a society should do our utmost to give young people the best basis for taking an education. Not just so they will get the opportunity to define their own lives, but also so they get the best opportunities to contribute to the rest of society.

Instead, we now have politicians who would rather close doors for students than help open them. M

This op-ed was originally published in Politiken newspaper.

News, Commentary

By Yasmin Davali

Chairperson of the Union of Danish Students.

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