The future of postgraduate education in Europe. Firenze, 17-18 June 1996

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Publication Date 1999
ISBN 92-828-6173-2
EC CG-46-96-005-EN-C
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In the Europe of today, postgraduate training represents the top level of higher education systems, based as it is on the principle of training through research. The period young researchers spend writing their dissertation is generally considered to be the most creative time of their lives. While on the one hand the doctorate is deemed the main tool for the production of scientists, at the same time it appears to function as an indispensable filter for selecting university teachers. More recently, however, postgraduate education has extended its scope beyond traditional doctoral training, taking new forms in the context of the development of life-long learning.

More PhDs are produced in Europe and in the United States than ever before. In contrast to previous forecasts, universities and research organizations are no longer able to absorb the now. As a result, PhD holders arc increasingly pursuing alternative careers, for example in industry and administration. The need to examine the content and modalities of postgraduate training is stimulated by the development of PhD careers outside research and teaching, and of new possibilities for society to exploit their skills and knowledge. This issue, addressed everywhere in the world, takes on a special character in Europe. One of the distinguishing features of Europe, in this field as in many others, is the differing models of doctorates which exist in the various countries.

Against this backdrop, the European University Institute in collaboration with the European Commission, DG XII, organised a conference entitled The future of postgraduate education in Europe on 17 and 18 June 1996. The objective of this conference was to shed light on the (necessary) evolution of postgraduate training in Europe, the questions it raises and the perspectives it offers. Emphasis was put on new career paths for PhDs and the corresponding need to reconsider the content and form of postgraduate training. Up to now, studies on postgraduate education predominantly comprised inventories and comparisons of national systems. This conference aimed at a more conceptual approach to the issues at stake in order to allow for a structured European study of the relevant topics in postgraduate education.

At the conference a new perspective to postgraduate education was introduced: a career path analysis. The application of this perspective generates fruitful insights in two senses. On the one hand, it provides novel concepts on the basis of which to formulate and address the problems at stake, and, on the other hand, the study of postgraduate career paths provides relevant information about the added value of doctoral study for both the employer and the individual who pursues a doctorate.

Further information:

Euroscientia Conferences, formerly The European Science and Technology Forum were created in 1994 by the European Commission in order to stimulate reflection and debate on science and technology on a European scale. To this aim, they provide a framework for conferences and studies on subjects related to historical, cultural, ethical, social, but also economic and political aspects of science and technology.

The originality of the Euroscientia Conferences, when compared with other initiatives in this field, is to address the questions dealt with specifically within their European dimension: attention is concentrated on the particularity of the situation in the field concerned in Europe in comparison with other parts of the world; the differences between European countries and regions; the aspects related to the process of building Europe; the needs and possibilities of collaboration at European level, etc. Over the years, the European Union has developed its own research policy.

Conceived in order to both supplement and support national research efforts, this policy is implemented through large collaborative research programmes co-ordinated within the so-called pluriannual Research and Technological Development Framework Programmes. The basic principles of these programmes are: stimulating the creation of collaborative networks across Europe; supporting joint research projects associating universities, enterprises and research centres from different European countries; and promoting the mobility of researchers and exchanges.

The main characteristic of the Fifth Framework Programme (1998-2002) is to focus the European research effort on a limited number of subject matters relating to the large social and economic needs, issues and challenges which the European Union is currently facing: employment and industrial competitiveness; problems related to public health, environment, transport and, in general, the quality of life of European citizens.

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