INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC MOBILITY: Towards a Concentration of the Minds in Europe

INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC MOBILITY: Towards a Concentration of the Minds in Europe by Marijk van der Wende CSHE.3.15 (February 2015)

Download PDF Document


The global competition and related international academic mobility in science and research is rising. Within this context, Europe faces quantitative skills shortages, including an estimate of between 800,000 and one million researchers. Within Europe skills imbalances and mismatches increase, with a growing divergence between countries and regions, in particular between the North and South, in terms of their ability to invest and attract human and financial capital for R&D. As a result intra-European mobility is not only on the rise, but may easily turn from an intended brain circulation into a brain drain – brain gain situation. From a qualitative perspective solutions to the skills shortages and imbalances relevant to science and innovation require the training of a broad mix of skills, which is currently provided to only in a minority of students in European higher education institutions and programmes.  Will the intra-European flows of human and financial capital for R&D result in a further concentration of the minds in a limited number of regions or hubs in Europe? Is this (un)avoidable or (un)desirable? The further concentration of talent appears to be Europe’s fate. These forces play out quite differently across the various disciplinary fields. In general the “STEM fields” (including engineering, natural, life and medical sciences) are already most internationalized and especially their experimental branches require the highest concentration of financial and human resources for large-scale and high-tech research infrastructure. The current combination of mobility and funding flows and trends seems to cause an increasing concentration of especially high-tech research capacity (in the natural and life sciences) in a limited number of regional hubs, which is likely to the detriment of the broad comprehensive profile of universities in certain weaker regions and countries in Europe. Those institutions may have to choose more specialized profiles, focusing more on less (human and financial) capital-intensive fields in the social sciences and the humanities.