In its efforts to make Denmark competitive in the global economy by securing a highly qualified workforce, the Danish government is attempting to attract more talented, international students (UVM 2008). Unintentionally, this branding of Denmark as an 'education country' has resulted in an increasing number of students from poor developing countries being admitted to Danish colleges and universities.
In 2008, 710 Nepalese students received a student visa, making them the third largest group from countries outside the EU (Udlændingeservice 2009). Most enter two-year vocational programmes in, for example, computer science, multimedia and management.
The Nepalese students are typically recruited through the Danish educational institutions' local agents in Nepal and have paid up to 150,000 DKK for their education, excluding travel, room and board. According to the Ministry of Education, many study irregularly and discontinue their studies, resulting in the suspending of their residential permit (UVM 2008).
As students they are allowed to work 15 hours per week and full time during the summer. Restaurants and cafes, in particular, hire many young Nepalese to work in the kitchen.
This study aims to move beyond the negative image of foreign students often painted by media and in public discourse by exploring how a study abroad, in this case Denmark, equips young Nepalese people with both academic and social skills, which in a longer perspective might contribute to improve the livelihood of the young migrants themselves as well as their families in Nepal.
Fieldwork will be concentrated within and around Copenhagen, where the majority of Nepalese students live and study. Initial contacts to the Nepalese community have already been established and will be expanded partly through informal social networks, partly through Nepalese student, cultural and political organizations. The project also includes a short term fieldwork in Nepal which will focus on the perspective of relatives staying behind.
The project is carried out by PI, Associate Professor Karen Valentin, Aarhus University, Department of Education.