The Fine Balance – University of Copenhagen

04 September 2016

The Fine Balance

Keeping a balance between your personal income and your expenses is a very sensible thing to do. We all do it all the time. Returning from holiday and having the ambition to maintain a good work-life balance is also very sensible. I am sure most of us have that ambition. Creating balances between in-and outbound student mobility numbers is a fact that we - working with international student mobility - have to deal with whether we ideologically agree with it or not.

Time to “Balance the Books”
Over the years, the University of Copenhagen has become quite successful in attracting inbound mobility students. In 2010 we had 2200 inbound students. At the same time we “only” sent out 1600.

In other words, our numbers were not balanced.

Many of the Danish universities had similar imbalances between in- and outbound students. At the national level the imbalances created some concern. As universities in Denmark are state institutions and the inbound students are financed by tax payers, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research asked us to ensure that our numbers were balanced.

As with many other things in life, there is no one right way or magic formula to achieve this. To simplify a complicated scenario, we had to create a balance in the FTE’s of students and the tuition paid by the state, which differs between the various academic disciplines. It was not an easy task - neither internally nor externally. We had to send out many more students instantly or reduce the number of incoming students.

We decided to do both.

A Balancing Act: Process and Partners
As some of you might know, what we have done is to assess many of our partnerships and to annul or pause those where we had little or no mobility at all. It has been a process of mixed emotions. There has been both opportunity and regret. In some cases we have had to annul old partnerships, and in other cases we have been able to increase the mobility numbers – like for instance with the University of Sydney. In most cases we adjust expectations with our partners annually.

We have learned much from the process, and it is still ongoing. Today we send out 2200 students which are more than we receive – however, we have still not managed to reach the financial equilibrium completely.

Finding the “Right” Balance
We are committed to provide international study programmes of high quality for your students, and equally to provide study abroad experiences for our students. As international educators - we are enthusiastic about that, and perhaps less enthusiastic about counting FTE’s and monitoring numbers. However, as a state institution, we are of course very committed to abide by Danish law and regulation.

We will continue to monitor the student numbers, focusing on partnerships with the potential to grow and invest properly in them. This autumn we will be working intensively with the overall institutional partner portfolio to make sure that we can honour our obligations to our partners and international students, as we strive to maintain partnerships of high quality and with a reasonable volume of student numbers.
Ultimately, international student mobility should be about the students and their experiences and learning outcomes and less about monitoring.

I realize that for some of our partners there has been disappointment that we have not been able accommodate as many students as previously. Any questions you might have are welcome and please share with us any good advice you might have in how we can improve in sending more students your way.
We are also present at this year’s EAIE in Liverpool and would be happy to connect with you if you have questions and comments related to this specific topic.