Denmark ignores objections and proceeds with legislation

January 31, 2003

Denmark's universities and research community have had only limited success in changing plans for university reform.

Commenting on legislation brought before parliament by the science minister, Linda Nielsen, rector of Copenhagen University and chair of the Rectors' Conference, said: "The bill is very close to the draft that we commented on last year. We can't see that our concrete, constructive proposals for changes have had any impact." The universities objected to the introduction of boards of governors, with a majority coming from outside academia, to appoint the rector.

"With appointed leaders and boards with external majorities, the universities fear a weakening of the strong and necessary connection between top and bottom in the system," she said.

Other concessions have been won. The universities have now been allowed to decide who will sit on the first boards, which must be in place by January 1 2005, subject to ministerial approval.

The government has also acceded to universities' demands for more transparency in the work of the boards of governors and the appointment of course supervisors.

The legislation is unclear on the issue of making each university an autonomous economic body. "We don't yet know how much autonomy we'll get," said Else Sommer, director of Copenhagen University.

"We have difficulty in seeing the advantages, and we fear that it will be an expensive solution," she said.

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