New plan for degree programme resizing

At present, it is still uncertain how many study places will be affected by the reductions Aarhus University in general and the Faculty of Arts in particular will be required to make, but there is no doubt that the reduction will be significant. The new model does, however, contain some improvements in the form of a longer phasing-in period and greater flexibility.

Last Friday, the higher education minister presented new adjustments to the so-called dimensioning model which sets new upper limits for student admission to a number of our degree programmes – primarily at Arts.

The senior management team generally agrees with the government that university degree programmes need to undergo some kind of adjustment in light of the increasing intake and the employment situation. But it would have been preferable if the universities themselves had been allowed to make this adjustment in dialogue with the employers.

The ministry’s model involves a significant reduction in admissions that will have a particularly heavy impact on humanities degree programmes. According to the ministry’s preliminary calculations, Aarhus University will be required to reduce admissions to Bachelor’s degree programmes in 2018 by 838 places. The reduction in admissions to the affected degree programmes, which will be phased in starting with summer admissions in 2015, will be introduced over four years at both Master’s and Bachelor’s degree level. If the Bachelor’s admissions quota results in more graduates with a legal right of admission to particular Master’s degree programmes than the number of places available at Master’s level according to the dimensioning plan, the ministry guarantees that the affected educational institutions will be compensated for all students admitted who have a legal right of admission.  

Nonetheless, at Aarhus University, we find it difficult to understand how the ministry arrives at 838 places at Bachelor’s level on the basis of the 525 Master’s degree places the new model is based on. We drew this to the minister’s attention last Friday. It does not appear that the ministry has taken such factors as the large uptake of graduates of professional Bachelor’s degree programmes on Master’s degree programmes tailored to this group, degree programmes of which AU has several, in particular at Arts. As a consequence of the ministry’s ratio for the conversion of reductions in admission at Master’s degree level to reductions at Bachelor’s degree level, the universities are expected to make extra reductions in admissions to completely unrelated Bachelor’s degree programmes in order to compensate for the intake of graduates of professional Bachelor’s degree programmes, international Master’s degree programmes and other applicants who completed their qualifying degrees at other institutions. We are currently waiting for an answer from the ministry as to how this problem will be solved.

Whatever the case, however, there will be quite significant reductions in admissions to Bachelor’s degree programmes at Arts. The senior management team is currently considering the extent to which we are in a position to work together to alleviate the consequences of the resizing of the degree programmes.

The senior management team has not participated actively in the media debate and has virtually confined its statements regarding the resizing of degree programmes to the weekly newsletter. The decision to do so was made out of respect for the ongoing negotiations, and because the ministry’s calculations have given rise to additional questions that needed to be answered before it was possible to gain a meaningful overview of the real consequences of the ministry’s plan.

Aarhus University has chosen the approach of negotiation, and as mentioned above, the university is still in dialogue with the ministry regarding the final implementation of the figures. With the most recent adjustments, the ministry has demonstrated a willingness to compromise.

First and foremost by extending the phase-in period to four years at both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree level,  which mitigates the drastic impact of the original proposal. According to the original proposal, we would have had to implement the entire reduction at Bachelor’s level in one go starting in 2015. The minister has also guaranteed that students with a legal right of admission to Master’s degree programmes will be financed and introduced a certain degree of flexibility by making it possible for professional Bachelor’s degree students and international applicants to enrol on the affected degree programmes even in situations in which this would mean exceeding the admissions quota.

Nonetheless, the resizing of these degree programmes still presents a major challenge for Aarhus University. After the current dialogue with the minister is concluded, we will perform detailed calculations of the consequences of the reductions in admissions, after which we will begin to consider how Aarhus University as a whole will deal with the new requirements regarding the maximum size of certain degree programmes.

The universities must report their concrete plans for the implementation of the reductions to the ministry on 20 November. The work of finalising these plans, a major effort in which the affected departments and programmes will be involved, will continue in the meantime.