Degree programmes miss career target

Many academic programmes at European universities are not adapted to the needs of the labour market, Ján Figel, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, told the Gothenburg "Knowledge Triangle" conference.

A large proportion of graduates in Europe today are still out of work six months after their graduation, while other sectors of European business and industry are crying out for more experts, he said.

This gap between a huge demand for certain skills and competences and the lesser need for those holding academic degrees should be addressed, Mr. Figel' said. The European Commission is asking for more accountable ways for universities to inform their potential students about the employability of the degrees offered, so that they can make better choices. The "new skills for new jobs" initiative of the Commission is addressing this in more detail.

The ongoing work to forecast the supply of, and demand for, skills in 2020 is another example, he said.

The Commission is also looking for more transparency to help policymakers improve the design of education policies through reliable collection of data, supported by the project on a European classification system of universities. Figel' said the Commission's initiative to encourage the Member States to modernise their universities remained a priority, hand-in-hand with the primary goal of a greater proportion of Europe's young people taking part in higher education.

Ligia Deca, chair of the European Students Union (ESN), said that European students welcome the fight to broaden the role of education in the Knowledge Triangle - something that is not sufficiently strongly incorporated in the Bologna process follow up. More emphasis on student-centered learning and greater accountability was needed.

Nikola Macharova, president of the European Council for Doctoral Candidates and Young Researchers (EURODOC) called for greater inclusion of the Knowledge Triangle in the modernisation of academic doctoral degrees. The role of doctoral candidates in KT should not be omitted and should be considered as a link between education, innovation and research.

* Jan Petter Myklebust is deputy director of research at the University of Bergen.