Restricting the choices of young people in Denmark

A few weeks ago, I went on a bit of a rant on twitter about how the Danish politicians are restricting the education choices of young people, instead of giving them the same opportunities as they themselves had back when they were young.

Since Twitter isn’t the best platform for such a rant, I decided that I’d expand on my rant here. I’ll do that by posting my tweets, and add comments those places where I feel it is necessary.

In Denmark there are two different ways to apply for university – one is through what is called quota 1, which is directly related to your grades in high school. The other one is through what is called quota 2, where one can use relevant experience to add on to your grades. If your grades are high enough to get admitted, you automatic get in through quota 1, even if you apply for quota 2 admissions.

Back when I applied for university, there was a fairly large group of activities that you could use to up-qualify when applying for quota 2. The activities in this group has been reduced through the years, making it harder to get in through quota 2. At the same time, there has been a change in the rules, which means that grades count for more when you use them to apply for university within two years of receiving them – this is done by multiplying the grades with 1.08.

This obviously increases the required grade average to get in, making it harder to get in through quota 2 (and even quota 1, if you wait more than 2 years before applying).

In Denmark, students get a student’s grant, allowing them to focus on studying. This grant is usually not enough to pay the bills, but it allows the student to keep their work hours to a reasonable amount while studying. The rules for getting this grant is that you have to be an active student – at university this includes going to exams, and not fall more than half a year behind. This is more strict than when I was a student, but this is more due to the fact that it wasn’t possible to monitor these things as easily back then, as it is now.

More problematic, is the fact that the Universities kick people out, if they consider them inactive. While the rules are less harsh than the rules for the student grants, it still requires the students to go to exams and pass a certain amount of exams every year.

This doesn’t sound too bad, but this is much stricter than when most of the politicians went to university, where the only requirement was that you passed exams in 3 tries (and you could apply for a dispensation for trying a 4th time). Back then, it frequently happened that students at the university took a break for a year or two, traveling, working, or even studying something else, before returning to the study and finish it. This is no longer possible.

When it comes to writing the Master’s thesis, the rules have also changed significantly. It used to be that students could spend years on writing it, becoming experts on whatever subject they wrote about. Now, they have to finish it with 6 months of (officially) starting it.

This was actually what started the whole rant. It is a brand new law, blocking the possibility for someone to take an education in case they already have an education at an equal level. This means that a nurse (who, in Denmark, has a bachelor degree), cannot decided that they want to upgrade to becoming a doctor, since a doctor degree requires a bachelor degree in medicine.

What makes this worse, is that in recent years, a number of degrees, including the nursing degree, has been upgraded to be a bachelor degree.

I started in 1994 studying Business Management (Almen HA) at CBS. After spending a couple of years doing that, I figured out that it wasn’t for me, and I switched to economics at the University of Copenhagen.

Waking up one morning, realizing that I couldn’t face a career in economics, I dropped out of that study. After spending some time working manual labor (warehouse work), I decided to take a shortish education called Advanced Computer Studies (Datamatiker), which was a course in programming and systems development, which took just over 2 years.

Graduating from that study coincided nicely with the burst of the bubble, meaning that it was hard to get a job. Since the study has showed me that programming and computer science was interesting, and that I was pretty good at it, I decided to go on studying, rather than desperately hunt for a job.

I applied to study Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen. Since I had already been enrolled at two university level studies (business management and economics), I had to submit a motivation for my application and my reasoning for why they should admit me. This was not exactly a triviality, as someone actually was going to evaluate my application based on this, but it wasn’t a very high barrier either.

I got my B.Sc. in Computer Science in 2007, having at that time, worked full time for years.

The thing is, since I started working with IT systems, the stuff I learned while studying business management and economics has come into good use, allowing me to be better at my job, than I could have ever been if I had just gone straight to computer science.

I cannot emphasis this enough. It was not considered a problem back then. It seemed more important that people found something that they liked, than that they finished on time. This definitely doesn’t appear to be the case now.

This is the part I don’t get. Why are the politicians so focused on reducing the opportunities of the youth today. What is it that drives their restrictions? Do they think that the opportunities that we had back then was bad? Or that young people now, somehow doesn’t deserve to get the same chances as we did?

I will correct myself here. I can see that an economic argument could be made for the benefit of people finishing their first study, but I can also make an economic argument for the benefit of people finding the right study, since that will probably increase their job satisfaction in the long run (job satisfaction and productivity is linked).

Back when I started studying, Computer Science existed, but it didn’t show up on my radar. If I hadn’t changed around like I did, I’d never have ended up there. It would have been horrible to find out what I really wanted to study, and then be blocked from studying it.

Also, what is going to happen to the future type-setters. Here I am talking about people working in a field which suddenly becomes obsolete because of the change in technology. It is very possible that a field today, suddenly becomes obsolete tomorrow. By denying the people in such fields the chance to get a new education, they become stuck, and will probably have a hard time getting jobs.

I really don’t see why that is so hard.

Edit: I have written a follow-up post, where I take a look at the CVs of the current government