Nicholas Rees - European University Association

eua.be

Nicholas Rees - European University Association

Discussion Group 3:

Transdisciplinary & Trans-sectoral

Trans sectoral

Collaboration in Research Training

Reflections on the Irish Case & Beyond

Prof. Nicholas Rees

Dean, Graduate Studies

University of Limerick

03/11/2004 EUA Conference 2004 1


Organisation of the presentation

• Irish context, educational system and skills

needs

• Importance of research funding environment

• Postgraduate research – traditional and new

routes - examples

• Key questions in research training

• Issues in training - expectations

• What needs to change?

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Ireland’s changing economy

Economic Indicators 1993 2003

Unemployment % 15.7 4.7

Gov’t debt as % GNP 93 34

Corporation Tax % 10/40 12.5/25

Personal Tax % 27/48 20/42

Irish GDP per capita as %

of EU 15 GDP per capita

Irish GNP per capita as %

of EU 15 GNP per capita

69 125

75 101

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Irish Government Policy

• Government concerns about Ireland’s

competitiveness, skills needs, and industry failing to

invest in R&D

• O’Driscoll Report on promoting investment in R&D

(July 2004)

• Costello Report of the Entreprise Strategy Group

(July 2004) - emphasis on research & innovation,

education & training

• Report of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs

(August 2004) - a likely shortfall of 3,600 researchers

up to 2010 (8,000 required)

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Skills Report (2004)

Report of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs

(August 2004) - a likely shortfall of 3,600 researchers

up to 2010 (8,000 required)

Recommendations:

• Increase the number of postgraduate researchers

• Increase PG funding to agencies, research councils

(IRCSET)

• Improve mobility of researchers

• Build on postdoctoral schemes

• Attract world class researchers via SFI

• Retain researchers – career path

• Promote return of researchers to work places

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OECD Report (2004)

• OECD (2004) study of Irish education highlights a

number of challenges:

• Dramatic increase in doctoral students

• Significant proportion of staff not research active –

need new researchers

• Need a pool of PhDs to replace retiring faculty

• Industry requires a flow of doctoral researchers

• Recommends: Inter-university graduate colleges

around particular research strengths

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Irish educational profile

• 20 public tertiary institutions: 7 universities,

13 institutes of technology – total pop. 4m

• Growth in tertiary education from 11% in

1965 to 57% in 2003 (or 21,000 to 137,000)

• 90% of expansion in 8-20 year olds

• In 2002 entry rates into tertiary education

stood at 39% (Type A) or 57%(Type B)

• But Irish investment in tertiary education is

below the OECD average (25 th out of 30) or

1.3% GDP 1995-2000

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Sources of educational funding, 2001/02

Exchequer – block grant 55.5%

Exchequer - fees 29.6

Postgraduate fees paid by

students

3.6

Student contributions 2.8

International students 4.4

Other sources 4.1

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R&D expenditure in Ireland as % of

GDP, 2001

All

Sectors

Tertiary Gov’t Business

Ireland 1.17 0.26 0.11 0.8

EU 1.98 0.41 0.25 1.30

USA 2.82 0.40 0.20 2.10

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The Irish funding environment

• HEA/Programme for Research in Third Level

Institutions (1998+) – €605m

• Science Foundation Ireland (2000+) – €625m

• 2 Research Councils (IRCSET, IRCHSS)

• Other national programmes

• Private funding

• EU framework programmes / Marie Curie

Programme

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HEA/PRTLI funding, 1999+

Thematic area €m

1. Bio Science 295

2. Chem / Physical Sciences 60

3. Engineering 28

4. Environment / Marine 62

5. Humanities 16

6. ICT 59

7. Social Science 30

8. Library 54

Total 605

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PRTLI Funded Postgraduates

Biosciences/Biomedicine 344

Chem & Physical Sciences 185

Environment 207

ICT 108

Humanities 38

Social Sciences 87

Total 969

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Science Foundation Ireland

• €250 m for outstanding researchers and

their teams

• €42 m invested in 3 new centres for

science, engineering and technology

aimed at connecting with world’s

leading research corporations and Irish

ICT & biotechnology companies

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Outcome - massive injection of

national funding 1999+

• Beginning to realise research potential

• Institutes, researchers, publications, etc.

• Greater inter-institutional collaboration

• SFI research focussed on economic /

industrial rationale, less true of PRTLI

• Emphasis on ICT, biotechnology,

pharmaceuticals, materials

• Implication – research training becoming

more important, especially in context of

economy

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Postgraduate research

• Average university postgraduate population

stands at 25% or 3000 students

• Involves taught & research programmes

• The number of PhDs graduates per 1000 head

of population (aged 18-25) = 1.8%, compared

to EU average of 2.9%

• Postgraduate as % of tertiary sector = 16%

• Why are the levels low?

• favourable job market, lack of int’l students &

limited pg funding

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Traditional research masters/ PhDs

• Entry requirements – usually 2.1/1 st class

honours degree

• Duration: masters, 1-3 yrs, PhD 3-5 yrs

• Largely research based, with limited

instances of formal course work & some

industrial placement

• Research thesis: Masters 60,000 words, PhD

100,000 (involves a viva voce examination)

• Alternative paths – limited developments

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New routes to research training

• Small number of taught PhD programmes

• Trinity College Dublin, UCD, Maynooth

• Mix of methodology training plus thesis

• Largely in social sciences

• Professional doctorates

• U of Limerick: profess. doctorate in clinical psych.

• Industrial doctorates?

• But is the traditional PhD changing? Are the

distinctions between old / new blurred?

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Research training in Ireland

• Key issue: lack of a career path for early

stage researchers

• Limited tradition of research training,

voluntary & institutionally based

• Training including research induction

courses, faculty & student training

courses (not always required)

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Key questions

• What role should / can universities

play in the knowledge based economy?

• Is transdiscplinarity important and

why?

• How can universities and industry

better interact and work together on

research training?

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Examples: Transdisplinarity and

Interinstitutional collaboration

• Conway Institute for Biomolecular & Biomedical

Research (UCD)

• Materials & Surface Science Institute (UL)

• Environmental Research Institute (UCC + NUIG, UL,

UCD, ITs)

• National Centre for Sensor Research (DCU)

• Centre for Biomedical Eng. Sci. (NUIG)

• National Institute for Regional & Spatial Analysis

(NUIM)

• Institute for the Study of Social Change (UCD)

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What’s happening in Ireland

• Conference Heads of Irish Universities (CHIU)

• Research policy for the University sector

• Looking at careers paths for researchers

• School for Training of Advanced Researchers (STAR)

• Guidelines for good practice on PhD programmes

• CHIU/Irish Universities Quality Board project

• Study of the Organisation of PhD programmes (2003-04)

• Code of good practice in organisation of PhD prog.

• SFI programme – OECD recommendations –

greater role in research training and research

career promotion

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CHIU- CHIU Key deliverables expected

of the universities

• High quality researchers

• Knowledge – cutting edge

• Exploitation of knowledge – patents,

commercialisation, licensing, spin-offs

• Anchoring multi-nationals / developing R&D

in indigenous companies

• World class research centres – links to Its,

MNCs, indigenous industry, ngos, etc.

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What has to change if universities

are to respond to these

challenges?

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Typical career path of researcher

Undergraduate

Postgraduate

Postdoctoral

Senior

Researcher

4 years

3-4 years

4 years

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Researchers: needs beyond

academia

• Need for multiple career paths

• Reflect on what institutions are preparing

students for in terms of careers – research and

non-research roles outside of academia

• Prepare students for other types of careers –

more involvement with industrial partners

• Need to improve academic – industry

interactions

• Industry needs to up-skill researchers, many

of whom do not have research degrees

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Training issues that need to be

addressed

• What are the learning objectives of the PhD –

generation of new knowledge?

• What skills do researchers need beyond those

associated with “doing” research?

• Should training be more systematised and

taylored to needs of industry?

• Should all PhD students be required to follow

generic skills courses?

• Do researchers needs more management

training (& business planning)?

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Training issues that need to be

addressed… continued

• Should all researchers be required to

undergo placements in industry?

• What are the requirement for

postdoctoral training?

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Expectations of industrial

partners

• How can we improve industry’s

understanding of academia?

• How is the traditional PhD viewed?

• What does industry require of researchers?

• How can industrial partners be more proactive

in promoting training opportunities for

researchers?

• Should there be more opportunities for

industrial researchers to be placed in

academia?

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Examples in U of Limerick

• UL located on the National Tech. Park/Mid-

West Region

• Strategic partner companies (MNCs & SMEs)

– collaboration with research institutes &

centres

• Technology Transfer Initiative (3 universities)

• Regional innovation - actions

• Research commercialisation

• Campus companies

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