22 SES 06 D, Academic Work and Professional Development
The Budapest-Vienna Declaration (2010) officially inaugurated the European Space for Higher Education (ESHE). As is noted in the third objective of the ministers’ declaration of 2010, the ESHE is expected to become a competitive and attractive space within the context of higher education on the international level. Furthermore, the 2012 declaration in Bucharest affirms the following: ‘Quality assurance is essential for building trust and to reinforce the attractiveness of the ESHE’s offerings.’ This objective stems from the growing importance attributed in developed countries to the possession of human capital with university education (Baker, 2009) and the impact of this education on the economic development of countries (Agasisti, 2009). The objective also comes from concern regarding the relatively low positions of European universities in international rankings, such as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. These facts spurred a change in the European political agenda concerning a process of university convergence to assure the quality and competitiveness of the ESHE.
The academic profession is presently facing serious challenges in the international context: massification, pressure for accountability, competition to attract the best local and international students, worldwide quality rankings, diversification, economic crises, flight of talent and the difficulty in attracting talent (Altbach et al., 2012). All these factors help to determine many countries’ policies in the area of higher education. In this context, working conditions have worsened, making the academic profession less attractive in many countries.
Italy has a negative flow rate (entry minus exit) of academics (Beltrame, 2007; OECD, 2005; Dumont et al., 2010), which implies a problem with incorporating qualified personnel arriving from abroad. Italy has high-quality university training, as demonstrated by the finding that many graduates find posts abroad. The USA, Australia and the United Kingdom are among the destinations preferred by Italian researchers.
The problem lies not only with ‘brain drain’ but also with the circulation of talent, that is, the possibilities for expatriates to return to the Italian university system, as well as the capacity to attract foreign talent (CENSIS 2002). If this problem were remedied, the flight of some academics would not imply a loss of the investment made in training elite human capital, nor would it impair the transfer of knowledge.
Within the worldwide scientific context, and to improve the quality of the Italian university system, it is fundamental to investigate specific policies that can favour greater quality and competitiveness of the universities, which would contribute to attracting both more academics (professors and researchers) and more talented students on the international level.
This paper evaluates the degree of university attractiveness in Italy to tackle the brain-drain problem and the ways to facilitate the backflow of highly qualified human capital. Using manly qualitative methods, we analyse the opinions and perspectives of Italian faculty working abroad, as obtained by open-ended questions in an online semi-structured questionnaire.
Some of the objectives/questions we analyze are:
1.Brain drain & Reasons to migrate 2.Problems to attract foreign high talented staff 3.Opinion about Italian university quality and 4.Policy Issues to improve.
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