Monday, January 1, 2007

Improve Danish research and education policy

Improve Danish research and education policy

(Translation of a Danish petition, May 2008).
Petition site | Follow-up notes in Danish

You don’t need to have experienced the universities from 1970 to 1990 to see the problems they face today. University autonomy has been severely restricted with decreasing academic freedom, governing bodies with a majority of external representatives and a detailed centralized management by the Ministry of Science and Innovation. As university employees and students, we protest against the present regime.

The Danish University Act of 2003 marked a culmination of a period of decreasing academic freedom. Formerly Danish universities were broadly democratic institutions. They were far from perfect, but they had abolished the professorial hegemony of classic elitist universities, and they could in principle pursue free inquiry to the benefit of the whole of society. Before the Act of 2003 Danish universities enjoyed a high esteem internationally especially considering their relatively modest funding. After the 2003 Act it has become difficult to keep and develop this high level. A top-down government of universities has been installed whose decision-making only minimally includes the majority of those actually working at the universities. Internal democracy has been abolished and instead research and teaching is directed from the Ministry setting up constraining frames for what the candidates should able to do and what kind of research areas should be promoted, based upon the illusion of foresight regarding what kind of knowledge is needed by the society of tomorrow.

Social relevance of research is reduced to corporate relevance and science policy is cannibalized by industrial policy. Public universities are no longer seen as an institution to guarantee all citizens an equal access to education disregarding social status, or to assure that free inquiry, so crucial to democracy, can flourish.

We wish to oppose this one dimensional and divisive policy for the sciences, the humanities and higher education. By signing the petition you contribute to making clear that the need for a changed policy is no sectarian craving from a dissatisfied minority (as the Minister so often has claimed) but has a broad basis of support among Danish students and researchers.

Make your contacts aware of the petition! Thanks for your support,
Yours sincerely
Sune Auken, Pia Mejdahl Daugbjerg, Claus Emmeche,
Birger Steen Nielsen, Heine Andersen and Tom Fenchel
(Our initiative; thanks for inspiration to university NGO's like: Opponenterne, Forum for Konstruktiv Universitetskritik, facebookgroup and blog Forskningsfrihed?, Studenterrådet, Humanistisk Forum and Akademisk Forum)


By this petition we demand that politicians of the Danish parliament Folketinget change the policy for research and education that we have experienced since the Universities Act of 2003. The Danish knowledge society of the 21th Century requires free public universities and a democratic research and education policy. We demand:

  • Guaranteed access to higher education irrespective of economic status. We demand a stringent law against user payment (fees).
  • Establishment of forms of university governance building upon principles of self-government and academic freedom. This implies a system of governance for all university affairs giving real power to democratically elected bodies representing all groups of employees and students.
  • Full academic freedom under responsibility for the individual researcher as well as the institution as a whole. This freedom includes choice of subject matter, hypotheses, methods and publication.
  • Securing of needed resources for maintaining and developing research, independently of any goodwill or patronage from external funding, politicians or private firms.
  • Securing of the continued existence of research based university education and securing the freedom of universities to provide teaching and programmes within all scientific subjects.

This is not simply a question of better administration of existing acts with this field. Substantial changes of law are demanded. This is true especially for the announced assessment of the Act of Universities in 2009 –revision rather than mere evaluation is necessary.

In order to demonstrate that the opposition against the existing Act of the Universities is extensive within the university population, we kindly ask you to fill out the field “Kategori” with STUD (if you are a student), TAP (if you are employed as administrative or technical staff), VIP (if you are a teacher or researcher) and ANDET (if you are none of these).

Sign petition

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