Nordic research training – international quality!

25.11.2002
Photo: Sverre Chr. Jarild After the conference Nordic research training – international quality! organised by NorFA, HØGUT and FPR in Oslo November 18 and 19 2002, chair of HØGUT Mr Jan S. Levy concluded that the conference had been an inspiration and had given many ideas and porposals for policy-makers in the field of research training. The conference participants were invited representatives from Nordic universities, colleges, research councils, ministries and other research relevant sectors.
Photo: Sverre Chr. Jarild
After the conference Nordic research training – international quality! organised by NorFA, HØGUT and FPR in Oslo November 18 and 19 2002, chair of HØGUT Mr Jan S. Levy concluded that the conference had been an inspiration and had given many ideas and porposals for policy-makers in the field of research training. The conference participants were invited representatives from Nordic universities, colleges, research councils, ministries and other research relevant sectors.

When Norwegian State Secretary of the Ministry of Education Mr Bjørn Haugstad opened the conference, he stated the importance of mobility in order to keep research training at an international level. Reseach training also has to be relevant to academia as well as public and private enterprises. Our knowledge-based society is in great need of researchers, a need that we will have to be able to meet. The candidates must finish their training on time, which is not always the case in Norway. It has been said that older candidates are not as attractive to the industry, given their shorter productivity time compared to younger colleagues. However the State Secretary thinks that age should be of minor importance than the quality and relevance of the work. Researchers should be part of a large environment, which is not alwalys possible at a national level. In this way, Nordic co-operation can benefit small research environments.

Photo: Sverre Chr. Jarild
Professor Hans Siggaard Jensen is chair of a Nordic working group on common objectives for research training, organised by NorFA in co-operation with NUS. The group was established upon a request from the Nordic ministers of research. The working group‘s report states that the biggest problems in all Nordic countries are: too few completed degrees, high average age on completion and low progression. The working group thinks that Nordic co-operation in this field should be at a supernational level, and that the national authorities should be in charge of the framework conditions. Nordic co-operation should take place in the fields of quality assurance, mobility, graduate schools, programmes, centres of excellence, marketing and analysis.

Director Sakari Karjalainen of the Finnish Ministry of Education presented the Finnish experiences with graduate schools, which were established as a system in 1994. The objectives were better quality and effeciency in research training. The results so far show that these objectives have been met, and that international co-operation has increased.

Senior researcher at UNI-C Denmark, Bertel Ståhle, stated that even if the number of candidates is increasing, this does not mean that they end up in the research environments of the universities, that do not always have the resources to offer them positions.

Researcher Agnete Vabø of NIFU in Norway presented her intermediate findings that are to be used in an analysis of barriers to mobility in Nordic research training. Such barriers can be language problems, new academic culture, lack of time and family obligations.

Rector at the University of Bergen, Kirsti Koch Christensen, stated that one condition for an open market for researhc training is that information is available to all and that courses are concentrated in time to avoid too much travelling. She also launched the idea of a Nordic version of Marie Curie Training Sites.

In his presentation on quality assurance in research training, professor Udo Zander of Stockholm Shool of Economics explained that they stress the need for the thesis to be relevant to society and to its development. There is also a system of compulsory (philosophy of science etc.) and elective courses.

Karsten Vandrup, global R&D co-operation manager of Nokia, stated that 50 percent of all Nokia employees have university degrees, and that 32 percent are involved on R&D. He also reminded us of a third dimension in addition to width and depth knowledge, so-called behavioural skills.

Jocelyne Gaudin, head of unit at the EU Commission for research, presented the mobility strategy of ERA, European Research Area. The objective is to create a fruitful environment for mobility of researchers to ensure the supply of human resources in European research. Gaudin too, mentioned lack of information as an important obstacle to mobility along with social rights and every day problems. A portal for researcher mobility that opens in 2003 will inform the visitors of job opportunities, national conditions and attempt to solve practical problems.

Dean and associate provost of research at University of Alabama at Birmingham, Joan F. Lorden, talked about American research training, and was amazed to see that the Nordic countries have the same problems as they do in the USA, in spite of different systems. The areas of focus in the USA are equal participation for different groups in society, completion of degree, number of years used, and the post. doc. system. Cross-curricular themes and new disciplines are also focused upon. The students themselves want cross-curricular competence, more information about the processes of the education and more effective career planning and mentoring.

The concluding debate was opened by dr Priya Bondre-Beil of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, who stated that graduate schools are not common but emerging in Germany, where research training generally is not organised in a singular fixed system.


Read presentations from the conference:
Bjørn Haugstad (word)
Anneli Pauli (ppt)
Sakari Karjalainen (ppt)
Joan Lorden (ppt)
Agnete Vabø (word)
Karsten Vandrup (ppt)
Bertel Ståhle (word, Swedish only)
Priya Bondre-Beil (word)
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