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North-south divide in Europe's science funding

The South and East of Europe face cuts to education and research budgets. Not so, the North and West. European University Association warns of the consequences

A growing inequality between richer northwestern European nations and their poor southeastern counterparts, is curbing Europe’s total research output, writes Danish newspaper Information. The report follows a debate in this media and others on how the European recession is draining brains from the South to the North.

Denmark has increased the number of PhD students it trains by 70 per cent since 2006, which is on par with the rest of northern European countries, and is keeping in line with the expectation of ever-expanding knowledge-based companies. Conversely, southern and eastern Europe have seen cuts in research and education.

“Today we face issues of climate, growth, and food-supply, which we can solve by investing in knowledge. This is why it is important we focus on educating more people to a PhD level”, says Thomas Jørgensen, head of research at the European University Organisation (EUA), to

See data on the University Post from an earlier EUA report: Where are the jobs in Europe?

Improper use of talent

This growing rift between northwest and southeast, can be disruptive for both sides, according to other experts. Southeast Europe can experience political instability, along with massive brain-drain, while Europe as a whole is unlikely to meet its goal of training a million PhDs by 2020.

“It can not be done without the south. Research is the most important strategic tool for setting a new agenda with regards to growth and prosperity. If we are to leave southern European countries to take care of themselves, Europe, as a whole, will be in a far weaker position to maintain its position internationally as a knowledge power”, says associate professor Johnny Laursen, who represents Aarhus University in the European Network for Research Training, Coimbra, to Information.

“The problem, is that our talent doesn’t get used properly, as a number of countries are lagging behind. This isn’t a good idea for a peaceful and sustainable continent”, Thomas Jørgensen of the EUA adds.

See our earlier interview with a Greek PhD on the issue here: In Greece social media replaces cash

See the University Post’s articles on this theme: EU downplays brain drain at Erasmus event, and Comment: How should we respond to the crisis in Europe?

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