SU for international students is an investment

By Sara Grex, chairman of the Committee for Education and Research at IDA

The debate about international students has flared up again because the expenses for SU (state education grants) for EU citizens has once again exceeded the stipulated amount.

As usual, the political debate will likely be concerned with how to best limit the number of international students from other EU-countries, and whether we might close study programmes taught in English, so the international students opt for other countries instead.

It would be refreshing if political parties would instead take a deep breath and decide on an alternative and less predictable course of debate and instead look at how to best harvest the fruits of our educational system.

"What if politicians focused on how to keep more international students in Denmark after they graduate so they can contribute to meeting the demands of Danish industries for STEM employees, while contributing to the Danish economy?"

We do not need to close any more English programmes. If we keep going down that road, we will ultimately lose the competition for international talents and find that we have missed out on the chance to develop our businesses and research fields – areas in which it is essential to draw in talent from outside our national borders to find new solutions.

No country – including Denmark – is self-sufficient with regards to talent pools in technical and scientific fields. That is why the time has come to sharpen our efforts to keep the international students. Let’s draw up a clear political action plan for how Denmark can keep more of them in the long run.

It seems counterproductive to discourage and hinder international students. Instead, we need to become far more internationally minded and embrace the foreigners who, for example, choose to do their Master’s degree in Denmark and encourage them to remain here permanently once they have graduated.

An additional advantage is that the foreign graduates are good business for Denmark. Damvad Analytics has shown that the economic contribution of every international graduate from technical and scientific study programmes amount to close to a million DKK on average in the period between beginning their education and eight years after graduating – notwithstanding that not all remain in Denmark. If more stayed, that number would be even higher.

That is why we need to shift our focus from excluding international students to convincing them to stay in Denmark after graduating – because it is a good business.