During the visit, we had the opportunity to explore DSF, which has been in operation for over 90 years. Their extensive experience provided valuable insights to review and redefine the activities of our own organization, the Estonian Students’ Union (EÜL), in terms of public policy and advocacy.
The first day was spent outside the capital, where we met with DSF representatives and student representatives from two major universities, the University of Copenhagen and the University of Southern Denmark. Together, we discussed various policy topics. We started with an overview of DSF’s activities and then delved deeper into the policy documents they use for their lobbying efforts. Additionally, we learned about how larger universities engage in their advocacy work and collaborate with the national DSF.
An interesting aspect was their categorization of members into universities and cultural institutions. The latter includes, for example, conservatories.
The focus of the second day was on translating policy documents into real-world actions and using them to drive societal changes. The Danes primarily use opinion articles and media communication, direct discussions with politicians, feedback on regulations, and making proposals to policymakers. In addition, they organize public meetings and conduct studies.
Similar to us, the Danes have recently been addressing student support and the reform of master’s degrees, aiming to reduce all master’s programs to one year. At the same time, they strive to highlight other important issues, such as student well-being.
According to Katariina, the chairperson of EÜL, the visit was highly necessary. “At this time, as we are renewing our public policy documents, it’s very beneficial to learn how advocacy and documents are handled in other countries. We gained many good ideas to consider for our advocacy efforts,” she said.
Lennart, the vice-chairperson of EÜL, noted that such meetings are motivating and expand horizons. “It’s always a pleasure to see practices from other countries and share our own methods – this lays a strong foundation for international cooperation among student organizations. Danes are quite similar to Estonians, and open communication with fellow students quickly developed,” Lennart remarked.
Council member Karel praised the versatility of the trip and the opportunity to gain new experiences. “It was fascinating to hear about DSF’s organizational structure and the local representation’s work procedures. Additionally, I was highly interested in Danish student life and how their rights and opportunities are ensured.”
The project was supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers.