The government and opposition begin their negotiations on the student grant system today, with the Liberal Party demanding a six-monthly check on how many foreign students receive grants in Denmark.
Liberal Grant Spokesman Mads Rørvig says a decision by the European Court is a ‘potential bomb under our grant system’.
The court has ruled that EU nationals have the right to Danish student grants if they have had a job in Denmark for several months before their course starts, or work while they are studying.
“So it’s vital to monitor developments and after each course start to keep an eye on what is going on so that we don’t undermine our grant system,” Rørvig says, although adding that the Liberals are happy to have international students.
The government has estimated that the EU Court decision means that Denmark will have to find an extra DKK 200 million each year in student grants, but Rørvig fears that an increased number of foreign students will mean that much more will have to be found.
“I think that conditions (Ed: behind the government estimate) will change. I think that more foreign students will come to Denmark as there is a financial incentive to do so. More who come here will probably get a job as there is more of an incentive to do so if they know it means that they will also get a grant,” Rørvig says.
“We have asked the minister to estimate how much it is going to cost in the future, but we are unable to get a clear answer. What we know is that if conditions are as they are now, it will cost 200 million per year – but I’m afraid it’s going to be more,” he adds.
Denmark currently spends about DKK 19 billion on grants each year. That figure is expected to be reduced under the grant reform in which the government hopes to be able to save some DKK 2 billion each year.
The Danish People’s Party Grant Spokesman Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl agrees that Denmark should keep a close eye on the consequences of the EU judgment.
“We would agree to that. But we also have to do something and not just wait and see how badly things go,” Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl says, adding that he would prefer it if Denmark could ignore the judgement.
“But it seems that it would be very difficult to ignore it,” he says.
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Edited by Julian Isherwood