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Get ready for the food market of the future at new Danish-Chinese education

The "International Food Quality and Health" Master’s degree programme equips students to develop the food market of the future across China and Denmark. Aarhus University and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences have created the programme, and together the educational institutions foster a unique cross-cultural learning environment.

[Translate to English:] Gennem hele uddannelsen er der fokus på, hvordan de studerende kan bruge deres viden i praksis, både inden for fødevareindustrien og forskningen. Foto: Colourbox

China is an interesting market for Danish food companies, and Danish products are popular in the Chinese market, especially because of the high Danish food safety. However, the two countries have very different cultures, also when it comes to consumer behaviour and how people perceive health and food.

It is a key element in the new two-year Master’s degree programme "International Food Quality and Health" to acquire knowledge about these cultural differences. The programme provides a double Master's degree at Aarhus University and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Students strengthen cross-cultural understanding

One of the students who boarded when the programme was launched in the summer of 2020 is Chanette Frederiksen, and she has already strengthened her cross-cultural foundation.

-          We touch on many different areas of food and food quality, and our professors are both Danish and Chinese. This has definitely given me an insight into cross-cultural work, she says.

During the MSc programme, the students learn about food quality, safety and health from a holistic chain perspective, ranging from food production to supply and consumer behaviour. During the first two semesters, this translates into subjects such as “food toxicology”, “modern food analysis”, “food, quality perception and eating behaviour”, and “nutrition and health”. At the third and fourth semesters, the students conclude the programme by designing and developing a Master's thesis, usually as part of an internship at a food company or a university. Along the way, they will receive academic guidance from both a Danish and a Chinese supervisor.

New learning from Chinese peers

Admission to the programme requires a natural science bachelor from e.g. Molecular Biology with focus on nutrition; Food Science or Nutrition and Health (see the full list of degrees that give admission here) The programme is aimed at both Danish, Chinese and international students.

The students from Denmark, China and other countries work closely together throughout the process. Even though you are peers in the food sector, there may be many new lessons to learn simply by collaborating with students from another cultural background. This is also the experience of Chanette Frederiksen.

-          It is something new and different – and not least very instructive – to work with people within my field of study who come from a Chinese culture and background. They have a different way of approaching the tasks and a completely different workflow than we are used to here in the Nordic region. Alongside their high level of dedication and work ethic, they are very humble and courteous, she says.

Researchers run the programme

Barbara Vad Andersen is assistant professor at Department of Food Science at Aarhus University, and she has been one of the driving forces in setting up the Danish-Chinese programme. For her, the start of the programme is the culmination of six years of research and preparation, with visits to Chinese universities and food companies as well as Danish.

-          It is very special to get to complete the programme for the first time. It is unique to the degree programme that the students do not only learn about cultural differences, but also work in the environment and together with the people you want to learn something about. This is done in collaboration with fellow students, professors and companies – and not least through the fact that the students live in China, says Barbara Vad Andersen.

The programme is run by researchers, and the students will therefore gain insight into the latest knowledge within their respective fields of research. Throughout the master's degree programme, there is focus on how the students can use this knowledge in practice, both within the food industry and in research.

Barbara Vad Andersen coordinates and teaches herself in the course "Food Quality, Perception and Eating Behaviour".

Teaching on the newly built campus

The programme is part of Sino-Danish Center's (SDC) Master’s programme, which aims to strengthen collaboration within Danish and Chinese educational environments and to increase the exchange of students and researchers between China and Denmark.

SDC has a brand-new campus, which is located right next to the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS). The building is designed by a Danish architect and contains state-of-the-art technological facilities. Here, students at "International Food Quality and Health" receive teaching and conduct research. The coronavirus pandemic currently prevents Danish students from being in China, which is why teaching takes place online. But when life finds its way back to normal, everything is ready for students from all over the world to come to the campus. Both Chanette Frederiksen and Barbara Vad Andersen are very much looking forward to this.

Many career opportunities

Derek Victor Byrne is professor at Department of Food Science at Aarhus University and the Danish Head of the Master’s programme. He sees many good career opportunities with the new Master's degree in International Food Quality and Health in your backpack.

 -The students will be prepared to work with cross-cultural understandings within areas such as food quality, food safety, nutrition and health in food supply. Career opportunities are both within academia as well as in small and large food industries – especially among industrial companies with an interest in exports and growth in the Asian market. Graduates from the programme can find employment in project management, research and development, sales and in consultancy and advisory jobs, says Derek Victor Byrne.

Read more about the International Food Quality and Health programme. The application deadline is 1 March 2021. Find out more about the application process here.