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Five student research programmes to boost researcher recruitment

Students from five study programmes will have the option of completing a student research programme alongside their regular programme. This can give them a head start on a potential doctoral degree. The Research Council of Norway is working together with five different universities on pilot projects to promote greater recruitment of young talent to research.

“We must constantly consider how we can raise both the quality and the amount of research at Norwegian universities. I think the new student research programmes will serve as an important stepping stone to a research career for more students,” says Henrik Asheim, Minister of Education and Research. 

The white paper “Quality Culture in Higher Education” from the Ministry of Research and Education states that the incorporation of research options into programmes of study for professions will play a key role in increasing recruitment to research. Psychology, law, engineering science, informatics and veterinary medicine, respectively, are the subject areas in which the Research Council is starting up  new student research programmes, in cooperation with five universities.

The existing medical student research programmes have been very successful. Pilot programmes in five other subject areas are or will now be launched. (Photo: Sverre Jarild)

“The Government supports the establishment of student research programmes for talented, motivated students in more subject areas. Experience has shown that this type of programme increases the attractiveness of a career in research and encourages a greater number of young, talented and independent students to pursue a doctoral degree. High-quality training is a prerequisite for ensuring the future quality of research,” the Minister of Education and Research adds.

“We want to appeal to more of the best and the brightest before we lose them to business and industry. Society needs talented individuals who want to devote themselves to research. They can provide key knowledge, insights and innovations that will help to meet major national and global challenges,” states John-Arne Røttingen, Chief Executive of the Research Council.

Success stories from the medical student research programmes

The student research programmes within medicine that were introduced in 2002 have been highly successful. The number of doctoral degrees has increased from 337 per year in 2008 to 432 in 2016, representing in percentage twice the growth in doctoral degrees in general. Participants in medical student research programmes spend on average a year less on their doctoral degrees than other medical students, and the average age for PhD completion among these students is 30, as opposed to 40 for other medical students.  

Candidates are older and take longer to complete their degrees

“Researchers in Norway tend to start at a later age and take a long time to finish. The average age for PhD completion in Norway is 38, whereas the average in OECD countries is 35. The student research programmes will enable researchers to start at a younger age. We also want to establish stronger links between research and education at an earlier stage of the educational pathway. Student research programmes will be an important measure for fulfilling these aims,” Dr Røttingen says.

Pilot programmes at five universities

Five universities with prior experience with student research programmes in medicine or veterinary medicine will in collaboration with the Research Council start pilot student research programmes in other fields. The universities themselves have chosen fields in which they are struggling to recruit researchers or where the need for expertise is expected to increase in the future.

The following student research programmes will be launched in 2018:

  • Engineering science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim
  • Informatics at the University of Oslo (UiO)
  • Psychology at UiT The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø

The following student research programmes have already started and will be continued in 2018:

  • Law at the University of Bergen (UiB) (since 2017)
  • Veterinary medicine at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Ås (since 2014)

The pilot programmes will be funded in the same manner as the existing medical student research programmes, but will be organised to fit the specific needs of each subject field. 

“Now we want to gather experience from the various models implemented by each pilot programme. This will create an important knowledge base for both the Research Council and the institutions, which will provide us with a basis for considering whether it would be beneficial to introduce student research programmes in other subjects,” concludes Røttingen.

For more information about the pilot programmes and how they will be organised, please see the Rapport fra utvalget for forskerpiloter [“Report from the researcher pilot programme committee”] (in Norwegian). 

Written by:
Christian Lund. Translation: Glenn Wells/Carol B. Eckmann.
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