Now the Study Progress Reform is to be revised

Skrevet af Bjørn HyldkrogJesper Snedker Adamsen, (versioning) - Foto: Kim Vadskær - 24. november 2015 - 14:080 kommentarer
Minister for Higher Education and Science Esben Lunde Larsen is seemingly willing to roll back some of the provisions of the Study Progress Reform.

The universities need more autonomy and a more flexible framework in order to ensure that students graduate as fast as possible. On Monday, November 16th, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science published a press release describing the Administration’s suggestions for adjustments of the Study Progress Reform. 

Throughout recent years, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science has been a reliable supplier of bad news for the Danish universities – from the Study Progress Reform to dimensioning of programs to the most recent cuts in education and research grants.

But finally, good news: now the Administration aims to “adjust the Study Progress Reform to give universities more independence and a more flexible framework”. That is the overall theme of the Administration’s proposal for adjustments of the Study Progress Reform, titled ‘Frihed og ansvar for studiefremdrift’, which was published on Monday, November 16th.

In the following, CBS OBSERVER cites from the press release.

“Bureaucratic straitjacket” to be removed

During the fall, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science and the Minister for Higher Education and Science have been in contact with, among others, the higher education institutions to discuss the undesirable and unintended consequences of the Study Progress Reform.

As of now, the reform embraces all university students, but delays in students’ average program completion time vary significantly among universities and programs. Thus, the Administration believes that the provisions in the reform are applied too broadly.

- The Study Progress Reform does not work as well as it should. The reform has proved a bureaucratic straitjacket for universities and students, says Minister for Higher Education and Science Esben Lunde Larsen (in the press release) and continues: 

- We want to change that. However, we will not relinquish our initial intention of forcing students to be active; for the good of both the students and society.

The Administration has presented a proposal for adjustments of the Study Progress Reform, which is to give universities the responsibility for the proportioning and application of the tools necessary to solve the issues. Thus, the universities are given the opportunity to focus their efforts on programs where students’ average completion time is too high.

- Freedom comes with responsibility. The universities need a more flexible framework to be able to shape their organizations in correspondence with current challenges and needs, and flexibility is key in relation to efforts to try to reduce students’ average completion time, says Minister for Higher Education and Science Esben Lunde Larsen.

6 initiatives to increase autonomy, flexibility and responsibility

In its proposal, the Administration suggests 6 initiatives of which the most significant are to discontinue forced exam registration and credit transfers, to reinstate options for supplementary courses in accordance with requirements valid in 2012, and to treat entrepreneurs as elite athletes:

1: The Administration discontinues requirements of forced exam registration corresponding to a total of 60 ECTS points; the equivalent of a full year’s studies. Instead, universities can opt to apply internal requirements in relation to exam registration and students will be allowed to cancel exam registrations.

2: The universities will be allowed to implement requirements that force students to obtain at least 60 ECTS points during any one year of full-time studies. This can be applied to all programs or just a number of programs, and the decision to implement these requirements lies with the universities and it is optional.

3: The universities can opt to introduce compulsory written assignments that determine a student’s final grade in combination with the student’s performance in the final exam of the course.

4: A system should be put in place to allow students, who are also involved in entrepreneurship to easily obtain exemptions or leave from courses and exams – comparable to regulations relevant for elite athletes.

5: Focus on subject relevance of programs must be increased in relation to students applying for a change of programs and students’ completed courses must be academically relevant for the student to be allowed credit transfers.

6: Options to enroll in supplementary courses must be improved for graduate program applicants, who are initially only partly accepted, by universities offering supplementary courses equaling up to 30 ECTS points. This scheme is to be financed partly through grants and partly through course fees.

However, the universities will still have to improve students’ overall completion time by 4.3 months before 2020. Hence, the Study Progress Reform is adjusted, but if the universities do not manage to get students through faster, it will eventually have financial consequences for the universities.

CBS’ perspectives after the adjustments

As we look at what effects the 6 initiatives will likely have on CBS, it is clear that ‘financial punishment’ for allowing students to exceed standard completion time remains a central part of the Study Progress Reform.

The new framework basically just means that the responsibility for improving students’ average completion time is now in the hands of the universities, and the overall situation remains the same for the students.

1: The roll-back of forced exam registration is a fulfillment of the universities’ biggest wish, and it is almost more than CBS dared hope for. But the fact that the roll-back happens just after the Study Progress Reform started to embrace all students – and after all the administrative restructuring has been done – is, of course, regrettable.

2: Actually, CBS has always had the authority to implement higher standards for what it takes to pass and now CBS can freely opt to tighten requirements.

3: Basically, this just means that CBS can now introduce grading of compulsory semester assignments and include these in the basis for a student’s final grade in combination with the final exam of a course.

4: New regulations in relation to leave of absence and exemptions can only be welcomed by the entrepreneurial community at CBS. However, CBS has to administer this in a way that still enables an overall improvement of students’ average completion time.

5: Stricter requirements in terms of academic relevance in relation to credit transfers for undergraduate students opting to apply for other graduate programs than the ones they have legal claim to is not likely to have any significant impact on the status quo at CBS.

6: It is beneficial that the Administration aims to expand options in relation to supplementary courses and even helps finance the new structure, but several issues still remain unaddressed in this area.

Akademikerne: no proof reform spawns profits

It is no secret that the Study Progress Reform has been the subject of significant criticism from a wide variety of stakeholders including the vice president of the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (Akademikerne), Jakob Brandt, who elaborates on his views in a piece published on the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations’ website on Wednesday, November 11th. 

He writes that – after a year of trying to obtain access to the information that forms the fundamental financial arguments for the implementation of the reform – he considers it to be very likely that the reform will have no financial output at all.

Jakob Brandt severely doubts that the requirements in the reform will not impact students’ involvement in part-time jobs negatively and he generally questions the simplified calculations on which the arguments for the reform are based:

“I believe it borders on manipulation that the economic advisers present decision-makers with such an obvious attempt at a ‘best case scenario’. And when the Ministry of Higher Education and Science chooses to base such an extensive reform on such insufficient calculations, it makes perfect sense why they have been so very reluctant to grant access to the relevant data.”