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AU to train more online engineers for the green transition

Aarhus University is creating 50 new online student places on the Bachelor of Engineering programme in Electrical Energy Technology. This will give more Danes the opportunity to train as an engineer, regardless of where they live.

It is now possible for more Danes to study engineering from home. Aarhus University is creating 50 new online student places on the Bachelor of Engineering programme in Electrical Energy Technology. The above image is of Jeppe Østerbæk Sørensen, who was part of the first batch of graduates from the online engineering programme (Photo: Anders Trærup)

Over the next 25 years, Denmark will have to phase out all fossil fuels and switch to an energy supply based on green electricity.

This has significantly increased demand for engineers by the energy sector, and Aarhus University has therefore decided to increase the number of student places on its online engineering degree programme in Electrical Energy Technology from August 2024.

"There’s already a shortage of engineers in the energy sector. The shortage limits growth in the sector and innovation opportunities and throws a spanner into society’s green transition. Aarhus University has therefore decided to give more people a chance to take a degree online," says Mikael Bergholz Knudsen, head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Aarhus University.

On the programme, students learn about various sustainable forms of energy, and they learn to develop technology solutions to enable us to efficiently produce, distribute, store and consume energy.

In addition to the purely technical skills, students also learn to understand the political, security and economic aspects of energy technology development, and they work closely with the business community throughout the degree programme. 

Click here for more information about the degree programme

Denmark lacks engineers for the green transition

In the coming years, we will need to electrify our society, modernise our heating supply and build a completely new industry to produce green fuels in large quantities.

Electrification of our society will require new wind turbines and solar cells, a sustainable transport sector, kilometres of power cables and a completely new Power-to-X infrastructure.

It therefore makes no sense to discuss the green transition without also discussing who is going to plan and carry out the work, develop the technologies and future-proof our energy system.

According to a workforce analysis by the business organisation Green Power Denmark, the energy sector will need an average of 10,000 additional full-time equivalents with a higher education each year between 2023-2030. And many of these will have to be engineers.

Watch the film at the bottom of the article to learn more about some of the challenges that graduates of the programme work with.

A more mature target group

The Bachelor of Engineering programme in Electrical Energy Technology has been offered as a distance learning course since 2020, and the experience has been positive so far.

“The students who apply for the study programme come from all over Denmark and they all have very different backgrounds. Most of them are at a point in their lives where they want to change direction, and for them, not having to move their whole family to a new, bigger city is a huge advantage," says Mikael Bergholz Knudsen.

The university's online students follow a completely digital degree programme, and they can choose between varying degrees of flexibility so their studies can better fit into their lives.

They can participate in teaching in real time or have a video recording sent to them, so they can pursue their studies at any time of the day.

He continues:

“There’s a very high degree of diversity among our online students, who are often quite a bit older than the students on campus. We’ve enrolled opera singers, pilots, insurance salespeople and soldiers, and this creates a very special study environment," he says.

Never too late to change direction

One of the students the head of department is referring to is Dennis Villadsen, who was 50 years old when he began his studies. He originally trained as an electronics technician and has a full-time job and a house in Viborg. For him, the decision to apply for the programme was based on a desire to learn new things.

"After all, we have to be on the labour market for many years, and it’s very important to me to have something to dream about. My curiosity and my desire to learn new things and improve my skills has always been a driving force for me. I want to get better at analysing problems and designing solutions, and I've always thought that I should have taken an engineering degree when I was younger. Getting a university degree just wasn’t on my radar back then," he says.

Read the article "Never too late to change direction” (in Danish) 

Torben Bjerre has just graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical Energy Technology, and he was one of the university's first batch of online graduates. He decided to replace his hectic career in sales with a future as an engineer, and he has never regretted his decision.

"I’ve nothing negative to say about sales, I enjoyed my years in the industry. But it was also very hectic and once I turned 30, I couldn’t see myself growing old in that job," he says.

He went straight from his studies to working for DIS/CREADIS - Dansk Ingeniørservice. His first job was as a consulting engineer on a project in the wind industry, and he is now head of an engineering team and two business areas.

Read the article "I quit my hectic job and applied for uni” (in Danish)

A small lab at home

When students begin the online engineering programme, they are sent a package with the experimental equipment and digital tools that they will need during their studies. They can set up a small laboratory at home and perform the experiments without needing to show up at the university.

"It’s important to us that our online students have the same opportunities to participate in experiments as our students who attend classes on campus," says Mikael Bergholz Knudsen.

Like their peers on other Bachelor of Engineering programmes, online students are also required to complete a work placement. The university helps by setting up agreements with local companies.

The online degree is formally provided by AU Herning, and the many new study places will open as early as August 2024.

Students must apply via the Coordinated Enrolment System (KOT). The application deadline is 5 July at 12:00.