22 SES 14 C, Employability of Researchers Inside and Outside Academia
In recent years, European countries have invested heavily in education as well as in knowledge and research. This has been a political agenda meant to ensure the supply of highly educated people to the labour market and through this to support economic development and competitiveness (Elken et al., 2015; European Commission, 2016; OECD, 2016). In particular, research is considered important for strengthening economies. For this reason, the number of PhD positions has also increased across Europe in recent decades.
If such a strategy is to be successful, it is of course a precondition that PhD students develop skills and competencies considered relevant and valuable on the labour market and that the majority of them also gain relevant employment after graduation (OECD, 2012; European Commission, 2016; Brown et al., 2001; Larsen et al., 2001; OECD, 1995; Roll-Hansen, 2009).
This has given rise to an increase in the political interest in the career paths of PhD students after they graduate from university. Thus, different kinds of research projects have addressed these issues by focusing on questions such as which kinds of employment PhD students get in the academic job market after they graduate, which competencies they develop during the PhD, and how they use these competencies in different areas of employment (Ecclestone et al., 2010; Illeris, 2009).
In recent years, the number of PhD graduates gaining employment outside of academia has increased. For instance in the Netherlands about 60% of the PhDs have to seek employment elsewhere, with large differences between disciplines. These processes are linked to the changes in the modern labour market, in which a PhD education is considered valuable. Thus, another area of interest in this area of research has addressed the question of which competencies can be considered relevant to ensure a match to different kinds of job functions and support employment, and what this could mean as the structure and content of the PhD education at the universities.
Since the PhD graduates represent different scientific and academic areas, questions have also been raised about whether differences can be seen for PhD graduates from the humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences, or other areas with regard to their rate of employment, their career paths, and the way they use their competencies.
In this symposium, we address the issue of the employability of PhD graduates by focusing on how PhD graduates use their competences and how they follow different career strategies and move between institutions. By including research from different research projects in European countries, we wish, on the one hand, to illuminate which competencies they apply and how this adds to the question of researcher employability in different national contexts. On the other hand, we will also address the educational policies in different national contexts that influence these processes.
The symposium is based on paper contributions from three European countries, namely Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark. These three national contexts all pay great attention to the employability of PhD graduates, but also represent differences as to the structure of the PhD education as well as job markets and policies in this area of education. The papers report from research from these three national contexts.
Brown, P., A. Green, and H. Lauder (2001) High Skills: Globalisation, Competitiveness and Skill Formation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ecclestone, K., G. Biesta, and M. Hughes. 2010. “The role of identity, agency and structure.” In Transitions and Learning through the Lifecourse, edited by K. Ecclestone, G. Biesta, and M. Hughes. Routledge Illeris, K. 2009. “Kompetence, læring og uddannelse. Hvordan læres kompetencer, og hvordan kan de udvikles gennem formaliseret uddannelse?” [Competency, learning and education. How are competencies learnt and how can they be developed through formalised education?] Nordisk Pedagogik, Vol. 29: 194–209.Statistics Denmark, 2014 OECD. (1995) Barcelona Declaration. ACT. Final Declaration of the Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference of 27 and 28 November 1995 and its work programme. Available from http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3Ar15001 OECD (2012) Education at a Glance 2012: Highlights, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag_highlights-2012-enOECD. (2016). Europe is underachieving in the global competition for talent. Available from http://www.oecd.org/migration/europe-is-underachieving-in-the-global-competition-for-talent.htm Roll-Hansen, N. (2009). Why the distinction between basic (theoretical) and applied (practical) research is important in the politics of science (Report). The London School of Economics and Political Science. Available from http://www.lse.ac.uk/CPNSS/research/concludedResearchProjects/ContingencyDissentInScience/DP/DPRoll-HansenOnline0409.pdf
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