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Denmark increasingly popular among foreign academics

Denmark is an increasingly popular destination for foreign academics – and for good reasons: it excels in global surveys on innovation, competiveness, prosperity, equality and quality of life, writes British education intelligence unit, QS

The following article was written and published by British education intelligence unit, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). See original article at QS

Denmark is an increasingly popular destination for foreign academics – and it's not difficult to see why. Denmark is ranked eighth in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report for 2011-12 and sixth in the INSEAD Global Innovation Index 2011. In the OECD's Better Life Index 2011 it comes sixth, the Global Gender Gap Report 2011 rates it seventh closest to achieving equality, and it came second (for the third year running) in the 2011 Legatum Prosperity Index – largely due to high levels of social equality and opportunity (see Denmark's rankings).

Still room for more

According to the latest Eurostat figures, there were just under 15,700 researchers in the higher education sector in Denmark in 2009, of which 11.2% had a non-Danish background. In addition, one third of the 2,603 PhD candidates enrolled at Danish universities in 2010 came from outside Denmark.

These are fairly high percentages, but according to Patrizia Marchegiani, Special Advisor at the Danish Agency for Universities and Internationalization (part of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education), recruiting from abroad remains a high priority in Denmark. “Like many other western countries, Denmark needs to attract and retain international employees if we are to maintain and develop our society,” she says. “Higher education institutions play an important part in spearheading this effort."

Attracting top talent

All vacancies at professor and associate professor level must be advertised internationally, and universities are also allowed to offer a higher-than-usual salary to top foreign researchers. They may also cover travel expenses and contribute to additional costs associated with moving. Some, Marchegiani says, are developing dedicated support units to help international staff and their families settle in Denmark, including offering assistance for accompanying spouses seeking employment.

Various national schemes are in place to make it easy for top international professionals to settle in Denmark. Work and residence permits can be obtained immediately by those offered a job within a profession on the Positive List – a list of roles and sectors currently experiencing a shortage of qualified professionals. Under the Pay Limit Scheme, the same applies to those whose job offer includes an annual salary of at least DKK 375,000 (around US$65,800). Those who have not yet secured a position can also enter to seek work, subject to individual assessment, within the Greencard Scheme.

In addition, a special flat rate of 26% income tax (as opposed to the normal rate, which can creep over 50%) is available for foreign researchers and other key professionals, for a period of 60 months. Under this scheme, pension contributions must still be paid, and no deductions apply when calculating taxable income. With the exception of approved researchers, the employee's salary must total at least DKK 69,300 (around US$12,150) per month before pension deductions. Company cars and multimedia may be included in this total.

Work and play

Particular research strengths are in the fields of sustainable energy and health sciences. One current example is the team led by Danish scientist Eske Willerslev at the University of Copenhagen's Centre for GeoGenetics, whose research on ancient DNA has impacted on theories of human colonization, palaeogenetics, DNA and understanding cancer viruses – earning them the cover of Science magazine twice to date.

“As a knowledge-based society with a comprehensive welfare state and a bustling business life, Denmark provides ideal conditions for academic employment,” Marchegiani says. Facilities are excellent, salaries attractive, and career progression increasingly prioritized. PhD candidates are classed as employees and paid accordingly.

Other attractions include rich and diverse cultural and recreational opportunities, including music, theatre, cinema, art, museums and sports. And of course the rest of Europe is only a few hours' flight away, making a weekend in Berlin, Rome or London a viable option.

“Denmark offers great quality of life,” says Marchegiani. “It's an open and safe society with a good work-life balance, clean environment and nature on your doorstep. Children are a priority. There are international schools, free healthcare, and even if it takes some time to learn Danish, you can still interact with everyone, since most Danes speak English.” In higher education, an increasing number of courses are also taught in English.

International partnerships

As a partner in the Bologna Process and programs such as Erasmus and Tempus, Denmark has close ties with other EU countries. It maintains close cooperation with other Nordic countries through the Nordic Council of Ministers, which runs schemes such as the Nordplus education program for lifelong learning.

Individual universities also have exchange and cooperation programs with institutes both within and outside of Europe. On a national level, Denmark has signed research and education agreements with a number of other countries. One such agreement, with China, has led to the development of the Sino-Danish Centre for Education and Research (SDC), based at the future Yanqihu Campus of the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (GUCAS) and scheduled for full opening in March 2013.

The SDC collaboration involves the eight Danish universities, the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education, GUCAS and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). It will accommodate 100 researchers from both countries and offer high quality Masters programs for 300 students and PhD programmes for 75 students.

Denmark is also strongly involved in the development of the European Spallation Source (ESS), a materials research facility in Lund, Sweden, scheduled to open in 2019. Expected to cost around €1.5 billion, ESS will be one of the world's largest and most advanced facilities for materials research at atomic level.

About the Danish Agency for Universities and Internationalization

The Danish Agency for Universities and Internationalization is a government agency within the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education. The Agency is responsible for supporting the internationalization of education and training in Denmark - and provides information on higher education Denmark for international students.

The Agency is also responsible for the assessment of international qualifications and for a number of Danish, European and Nordic student exchange programmes to support international cooperation and mobility in education. In addition, the Agency serves as an information centre on internationalisation of all the educational sectors in Denmark

The Agency’s professed goals are as follows:
To compile, disseminate and utilize knowledge about mobility and international cooperation in education
To encourage participation by Danish educational institutions in international cooperation in education
• To promote and enforce outbound student mobility
• To attract and retain international talent (inbound student mobility)
To assess and recognise non-Danish degrees, diplomas and certificates

This article was written and first published by the british university ranking agency, QS. See original article at QS