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Sociological trends in Denmark

Insights from a Copenhagen University Professor.

Photograph: Copenhagen University

Text: Skyler Bentley Hall

Elite education, cosmopolitan nationalism, and global middle-class research - meet Claire Maxwell, a sociology professor who impacts Denmark and beyond. Raised in Luxembourg with Australian and German heritage, Claire studied and worked in the UK before moving to Copenhagen. Through a recent interview, I was enlightened by Claire's personal and professional journey.

"It is fair to say that Danish society is now beginning to realise that it needs to integrate international perspectives, experiences, and knowledge."

What brought you to Denmark?

In early 2018 I was tapped for a Chair in Sociology at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). The University has been making efforts for some years to 'internationalise', and recruiting non-Danes to senior faculty positions remains a core part of that strategy.

In my case, they were pushing at an open door. I have an extended family association with Copenhagen and already had extended family here. We holidayed here as a family several times in the 2010s, and it seemed like a nice place to live. So we decided it would be good for the family to move from Oxford and have an adventure.

Elaborate on your role at the University of Copenhagen.

I teach undergraduate and Masters courses, supervise PhDs, am on the Department's senior leadership team, and win grants to conduct research. I also consult outside the University. When I was based at University College London in the UK, my research was mostly about education – its internationalisation, how elite forms of education operate, and how inequality can be entrenched – or offset – through education. I have recently focused on families who move internationally for work – the education choices they make and how they anchor themselves in a new country.

What work are you most proud of as a professor at UCPH?

I think one thing I have brought to UCPH is a sense of how world-leading Universities operate, teach and conduct research in a global market for talent and funding. I have focused on what a 21st-century sociology degree programme should look like, started discussions about the need to de-colonialise the curriculum, expanded how we understand mentoring early career researchers to develop global careers.

It is fair to say that Danish society is now beginning to realise that it needs to integrate international perspectives, experiences, and knowledge. A case in point: I've just won a six million DKK grant to help Danish SMEs recruit and retain international staff. We have a broad set of Danish actors signed up. The very fact we can get research funding to try and bolster recruitment and retention of non-Danes is an acknowledgement of a changing mindset. It's like getting a Mærsk container ship to change course, but it's exciting to be using research to innovate in a critical area.

How have students contributed to your research?

I have just published a book – 'Nurturing Mobilities. Family Travel in the 21stC'. It explores how and why families travel and examines how COVID-19 and climate change concerns are shaping cross-border leisure mobility. I had four students collecting data and contributing findings. They each get a thesis, and I get help writing a book!

What local initiatives are you involved in?

I was invited to sit on a kommune working group in Gentofte to make the kommune more welcoming for international residents. I have also been on the board of my children's school. In addition, I work out hard at my local CrossFit gym and have many friends there. And of course, our children's friends all have interesting and accomplished parents! So I really feel happy and at home here.

Learn more about Claire Maxwell's innovative research and collaborative efforts in Denmark -

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