The Study Progress Reform and other regressive steps

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The Study Progress Reform will represent a barrier for many undergraduate students, e.g. supplementary courses are no longer relevant when applying for graduate programs.

The agenda of the Study Progress Reform is to get you through the educational system fast and into the job market so you can start paying your taxes. However, it turns out that large numbers of students are stuck in the system due to the new reform. 

When progress turns into regression        

The Study Progress Reform wants you to start your education sooner and finish it earlier, and to get you off the couch, changes in study regulations, including study grants, have been forced through by political initiative.

Despite the fact that the reform has only just been implemented there are already a number of cases in which the reform has had the opposite effect, i.e. a significant number of students are projected to experience delays in their programs.

Thus, CBS OBSERVER will publish a series of articles during this semester under the theme ‘The Study Progress Reform and other retrogressions’. Our objective is to shed light on examples of absence of progress in the new progress reform.

Supplementary programs to be phased out

In relation to the new progress reform it was politically decided to phase out supplementary programs, i.e. typically programs followed by professional bachelors who have to supplement their education in order to get into graduate programs.

Moreover, a significant number of undergraduates follow the programs as they opt to change directions in terms of choice of graduate programs.

Wilbert van der Meer, Director of the Secretariat of the Dean of Education, says that it is not uncommon that business language undergraduates opt to apply for the various MSc in Economics graduate programs.

The option to change educational directions after an undergraduate degree is also the essence of the idea of the Bologna Process, the articles of which were ratified by 29 European countries in 1999.

The Bologna Process dictates a division of higher education into levels, i.e. undergraduate and graduate levels, which is the foundation of the intention to make it possible for students to alter their educational direction.

Must continue in line with undergraduate program

However, the Minister of Higher Education and Science’s interpretation of the Study Progress Reform neutralizes the agreements of the Bologna Process: 

As the option to qualify for an alternative graduate program through supplementary courses has been phased out, the universities are no longer allowed to include students’ supplementary courses in relation to the application process; not because these courses are irrelevant but because they have not been passed at the right time.

Thus, overnight students are no longer able to choose freely from the catalogue of graduate programs, but are now eligible to apply only for their ‘natural’ graduate program, or a limited number of related graduate programs.

In other words, your choice of undergraduate program determines your educational fate as your bachelor’s degree is now the only thing the Admissions Office is allowed to take into consideration to determine whether or not you fulfill the requirements in relation to a specific graduate program.

CBS can offer limited number of supplementary courses

CBS could opt to reevaluate and ease requirements of some graduate programs to make it easier for students with an alternative educational background to get accepted into the programs.

But for students to receive and actually benefit from lectures at graduate level, CBS has to demand a certain set of qualifications, is the message from the Office of the Dean of Education.

Within the limits of the reform CBS has the opportunity to offer up to two supplementary undergraduate courses per student, i.e. courses that represent a combined maximum of 15 ECTS points.

CBS has opted to offer this solution to students starting their graduate programs in 2015, but as a consequence of absence of additional funds, this will not be offered in 2016. CBS simply does not have sufficient funds.

Supplementary course controversy a question of interpretation

Wilbert van der Meer thinks it is absurd and a blatant waste that some students’ documented qualifications are now disregarded based on the minor detail that these qualifications were not obtained as part of a specific undergraduate program.

As a consequence he applied for dispensation from the new interpretation of the regulations with the Ministry of Higher Education and Science earlier this year.

CBS presented the main argument that the Ministry did not portend the changes at least a year in advance, which is an official requirement according to graduate programs regulations.

However, the attempt proved unsuccessful and in the published answer from the Ministry students were informed that unchanged paragraphs on the matter are now subject to alternative interpretations.

That it remains a question of interpretation is undeniable as the wording of these paragraphs has not been altered, and as Wilbert van der Meer puts it:

- If the Ministry of Higher Education and Science’s new interpretation is correct it consequently means that universities have been wrongfully accepting students for years now – with the Ministry being full aware of this.

Estimate: More than 1,000 CBS students affected

In an early letter to the Minister of Higher Education and Science Ralf Hemmingsen, spokesman of the organization Universities Denmark, expressed his concerns in relation to the lack of flexibility in the new reform, and additionally pointed out that the Ministry’s new interpretation of the regulatory paragraphs is inappropriate.

He believes that “in line with existing regulations it is possible to accept students on alternative grounds, if the acquired academic competencies of a specific applicant are comparable to the stipulated entry requirements”.

Obviously, Sofie Carsten Nielsen disagrees with this notion and that is going to affect the more than 1,000 graduate program applicants who have a different educational background than a directly qualifying undergraduate degree.

For instance, as of next year, several students will not be able to get accepted into the various MSc in Economics and Business Administration programs.

Reform impedes internationalization

The new reform affects not only Danish students as also international students will get stuck in the system as a consequence of the reform.

This becomes evident as international undergraduate programs do not entirely resemble the design of Danish undergraduate programs, and thus the need for case-by-case evaluations of international students’ qualifications, and supplementary courses for these students becomes a necessity.

Unfortunately this cannot be changed; and thus Wilbert van der Meer estimates that CBS will have to reject up to two in three of next year’s international applicants based on the Ministry of Higher Education and Science’s new interpretation of current university regulations.

Policy makers becoming aware of the complications

However, it seems that the extensive consequences for Danish and international students are dawning on the policy makers.

Spokesman for Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party) on educational affairs, Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl, says that he has received several emails from students from CBS and UCPH describing the unfortunate consequences of the reform.

Along with the other signatory parties to the reform he is set to meet with the Minister of Higher Education and Science, Sofie Carsten Nielsen, and will demand an elaborate explanation of how she intends to help the students negatively affected by the reform.

- I believe that the political parties can easily agree that the intention of the new reform was not to establish obstacles in the way for dedicated students, says Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl and adds:

- It is a significant problem that students have not been timely and adequately informed. They have to believe that they can trust the information and guidance they have previously received from official entities; thus, I firmly expect the Minister to be willing to find a suitable solution. 

Info 

Five examples of students negatively affected by the Study Progress Reform

The following five examples have been evaluated by the Danish Agency for Higher Education at a meeting with CBS in May.

In every case the Study Progress Reform represents an obstacle for the students, which contrasts with the original intention of the reform, which was to make it easier for students to get into graduate programs without having to follow supplementary courses to meet the entry requirements.

Case #1: With a BSc in Mathematics from Aarhus University she worked for an insurance company for a couple of years after graduation. Now, she has applied to get into the MSc in Economics and Mathematics program at CBS.

She is fully academically qualified as she has documented competencies in mathematics and business economics; and the entry requirement for this graduate program is an undergraduate degree in business economics and mathematics.

The Agency’s verdict: She cannot be accepted. Business economics is not a part of her undergraduate program.

Case #2: After studying a BSc in Economics and Business Administration for two years at the University of Southern Denmark he switched to the BSc in Business Administration and Information Systems program at CBS. Most of the credit transfers have been approved. He is interested in the MSc in Economics and Business Administration.

Normally, BSc in Business Administration and Information Systems students can qualify for the above-mentioned graduate program through specific electives. However, because of his switch of programs, and the new reform’s regulations on mandatory accreditation he cannot supplement with another electives course. Thus, he will include the courses from the University of Southern Denmark that have not been credit transferred to CBS in his application for CBS to determine whether or not he meets the requirements in terms of business economics.

The Agency’s verdict: He cannot be accepted. Only courses that are formally part of his undergraduate program (credit transfers) can be evaluated.

Case #3: A student holds a BSc in Business Economics and Communication from a Danish university. He has been offered to study political science at undergraduate level for a year in London.

The student wants to know whether or not this enables him to get into the MSc in International Business and Politics (IBP) at CBS, where it is required that applicants have documented competencies in business economics and political science.

The Agency’s verdict: The student cannot be accepted. Only the student’s original undergraduate degree has a saying in the application process.

Case #4: A student with an undergraduate degree from a university in the UK applies for the MSc in Economics and Business Administration program at CBS. Accounting is not part of her undergraduate program; a course that must be completed to get into graduate level economics programs at CBS.

However, at the Open University of the UK she completes the course Management Accounting and reapplies. She now meets the requirements.

The Agency’s verdict: She cannot be accepted. The supplementary course is not part of her undergraduate program.

Case #5: A student from the HIST college in Norway wants to complete a variety of relevant supplementary courses, among others a course in Theory of Science as the student’s current program does not fully correspond to a Danish undergraduate program due to a different program structure in Norway.

CBS wants to conduct an individual evaluation of this student’s qualifications as the student’s program does not correspond with a Danish undergraduate degree or a Danish professional bachelor’s degree.

The Agency’s verdict: The student cannot be accepted. If the student’s degree is defined as an undergraduate degree in Norway then it must also be defined as an undergraduate degree in Denmark, thus CBS cannot include other factors than the contents of that specific program in the evaluation.

A more elaborate evaluation of an applicant’s qualifications can only be applied in the specific case that the applicant does not hold an undergraduate degree, and thus must be evaluated based on another set of criteria.        

Kommentarer

I know that there is also a petition from about 2000 students who are adversely affected by the Reform in regards to pursuing their favourite graduate studies.
I wonder has this been delivered to the minister? What is the answer? I do not see anything wrong with summer supplementary courses being accepted in addition to the undergraduate diploma. This doesn't slow students. Can the reform provide for such?

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