EU moves to close gender gap

November 29, 2002

The European Commission has asked universities to do more to increase the number of female mathematics, science and technology graduates by 2010.

In a communication listing five benchmarks for developing education in the European Union, it says that by 2010, all member states should have "at least halved" the level of gender imbalance in these fields while at the same time securing "an overall significant increase of the total number of graduates compared with the year 2000".

Brussels says that while the EU produces more maths, science and technology graduates than the US or Japan, significantly fewer of them go into research careers. It suggests a better gender balance could correct this.

"Efforts should be made throughout the education systems to motivate students, especially girls, to choose scientific/technological subjects throughout initial, upper secondary and higher education," the commission says.

The commission says there are two male students for each female in these subjects in the UK, compared with 4.7 in the Netherlands. The best ratio - 1.6 male students to each female - was found in Ireland, Portugal and Italy.

Overall, Britain can claim to lead other EU countries in making Europe the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010 - and particularly in the area of lifelong learning.

The commission says the proportion of UK adults participating in education, 19.6 per cent, is more than twice the EU average. It is equalled only by Finland and Denmark.

A commission spokesman confirmed that Britain "perhaps has less to do than others in reaching the benchmark targets".

* Universities across the EU have been invited to apply for grants to finance joint cooperation projects with higher education institutions in the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) countries.

The commission is proposing that the EU contribute €7 million (£4.4 million) towards the €7.7 million cost of the programme, which aims to strengthen mutual awareness of European and Southeast Asian cultural perspectives.

The programme covers common applied research, human resource development and curriculum development in collaborative projects between universities in the 15 EU countries and those in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Chris Patten, the external relations commissioner, has identified Asean as "a strategic economic and political partner of the EU" and a protagonist in the field of relations between Europe and Asia.

Details: /projects/aunp/index_en.htm

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