A degree in reading newspapers

Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen graduated from Aarhus University in 1992 with a Master’s in political science. Since then, he has had several top positions such as Danish ambassador to China and general secretary of the Council of the European Union. He is currently the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, as well Alumnus of the Year at Aarhus BSS.

Dean Thomas Pallesen (left) and Alumnus of the Year at Aarhus BSS Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Photo: Jens Hatmann Schmidt, AU Foto

"On the first day of our political science degree, we all gathered in what was then called the Economic Canteen and we were welcomed by then Associate Professor Søren Risbjerg Thomsen (later professor, ed.), who said: "I don't really know what you can do with this degree, but I will say that you’ll get really good at reading newspapers." And he was right. I've read a lot of newspapers since then, and I still do." 

At that time, becoming a civil servant was not on the cards for Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen. 

"Perhaps journalism or something like that. But I knew it had to be something related to foreign policy, something international. That’s where my interest lay, probably because my family was always very internationally oriented. Every day at 17:10, the radio was tuned to Danish P1 and we listened to the programme "Udefra" (on current affairs abroad)," says Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, who was born in Aden, Yemen, where his father was a missionary and his mother ran a school for girls. 

A blurry discipline 

Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen left Aarhus University eight years later with a degree in reading newspapers, as he calls it. It wasn’t long before he got a job as an administrative officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. The ministry, as well as the Prime Minister's Office and the EU have been his main employers throughout his career. 

The political science programme provided him a broad generalist education, and this gave him a solid foundation for the entirety of his career: 

"It’s perhaps a slightly blurry discipline, but you learn how to handle large amounts of material, and we were taught with students from economics and law, who we also shared a building with. This meant that we could have qualified debates on a host of topics without being an expert," says Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, who can testify that a degree in political science from Aarhus University is in high demand both in Denmark and abroad. 

When Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen was the Danish ambassador to the EU, he had to convince a German director general in the Commission to hire a Dane. However, he did not get much further than mentioning that the person in question had a degree in political science from Aarhus University. 

"Say no more. He’s hired," said the German director general. 

More than an education 

Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen didn’t just leave Aarhus University with a degree. 

During his studies, he was also a student instructor in the political systems of foreign countries: 

"You learn a lot by teaching others.” 

As a student instructor, he had his own office in room 311 in building 1331, from where the other instructors also worked. There was one instructor in particular, who Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen clearly remembers: Birgitte Karnøe Frederiksen. 

"She’s now my wife, and we have two children together.” 

CV – Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen 

Born on 30 October 1962 


1992: Master of Science in Political Science, Aarhus University 

1990: Master of Science in International Relations, London School of Economics 


2022: Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark                 

2015: Secretary General, Council of the European Union 

2010: Ambassador, permanent representative to the EU 

2007: Ambassador to China, Mongolia and the DPRK 

2003: Ambassador, deputy permanent representative to the EU 

2001: Commissioner, the Prime Minister's Office 

2001: Head of department, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark 

1998: Senior consultant, the Prime Minister's Office 

1995: First secretary, Permanent Representation of Denmark to the EU 

1992: Administrative officer, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark