Universities “failing to prepare people for science careers”

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Publication date: 1 October 2004

Citation

(2004), "Universities “failing to prepare people for science careers”", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 36 No. 6. https://doi.org/10.1108/ict.2004.03736fab.001

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Universities “failing to prepare people for science careers”

Universities “failing to prepare people for science careers”

Europe's universities are failing to provide the range of skills required by a large diversity of science careers and are tending instead to focus on preparations for academic careers only, says a high-level expert group on increasing Europe's human resources for science and technology.

The group, chaired by former Portuguese Science and Technology Minister Professor Jose Mariano Gago, consulted almost 300 key European institutions dealing with the shortage of skills in science. It concludes that European governments are failing to support the public sector, which suffers from inadequate resources, salaries and career prospects. The group calls for a new partnership between universities and industry to promote careers and a better mutual understanding.

The group also argues that science taught in schools is often detached from everyday life and work experience. Better links are needed with the real world of science. More hands-on experience is necessary, especially in primary and secondary- level courses, which should be designed to meet the needs and interests of young people. Countries that appear to do well in terms of scientific literacy among young people and number of people employed as scientists tend to have policies aimed at increasing the overall performance of all school children.

“Excellence in scientific and technological development is central to securing Europe's future”, said European Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin. “To become the world's most dynamic knowledge-based economy and to boost research investment in Europe in line with the Lisbon and Barcelona objectives, the EU must address the current shortage of scientists and researchers in Europe. It must not only retain and attract top-quality scientists, but also encourage young achievers to become the next generation of innovators and inventors in Europe. Improving training and promoting career opportunities for researchers and scientists is key to this goal. The high-level group's recommendations provide us with concrete guidelines to meet this challenge”.

To address the shortcomings outlined by the expert-group report, the commission is assessing the possibility of launching an awareness-raising campaign in 2005.

“Far from reaching the Lisbon objectives in terms of the numbers of scientists needed, Europe risks a crisis with the number of its scientists sharply decreasing”, says Professor Mariano Gago.

As far as the number of science professionals needed to reach the Barcelona goal is concerned, the group found that the current annual European growth rate of 2.1 per cent is insufficient to catch up to similar levels of scientists employed in other regions of the world. Although some countries are making progress, Europe's biggest countries are struggling to meet their commitments in terms of their overall population.