Europe has long been keen to promote the mobility of its students and workers in science and technology and to attract foreign talent. A recent report from Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Commission, suggests that many Europeans prefer to stay at home.
Looking at 2004 figures on tertiary (post-graduate) science students in the 27 EU nations, the report found that only 7.8%–around 123,000 students–came from another European country or further ashore. Cyprus topped the diversity list with 21.5% of its post-graduate science students coming from abroad, followed by the U.K. (16.3%), Austria (14.1%), Germany (12.1%), and then Denmark and Sweden (11.3%). The star European destination for science students was clearly the United Kingdom: a third of all expatriate students across Europe chose to study there.
Looking at 2006 figures on the mobility of the European scientific workforce, the report found that the share of science and technology workers living outside their own country was 5.7% across the EU-27. About half of these came from other European countries. The country that fared best in terms of workforce diversity was Luxembourg; 46% of its scientific workforce was foreign. Next came Switzerland (18.4%), Estonia (15.2%), Cyprus (14.2%), and Ireland (10.3%).
Other than pleasing European politicians, there are many good reasons to go abroad during your scientific studies and the early stages of your career. The experience may be unnerving and challenging at first, but almost all of those who made the jump found it rewarding, professionally and personally. In case you missed it, a recent Science Careers article explored the pros and cons of doing your Ph.D. abroad and offered some practical tips on, for example, funding for training.
If you feel like discussing your (working) experiences abroad or are burning to hear about others’, you may join José Fernández of Science Careers, and other young scientists, on Facebook. If you don’t have a Facebook account you will need to open one, but it’s free.