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Swiss look to plug "brain drain"

Too many scientists have been tempted abroad Keystone

Switzerland's scientific community is launching a campaign to attract scientists from around the world to its universities.

This content was published on May 10, 2001 - 17:47

The "Brain Gain" campaign, launched by the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, hopes to plug the hole in Swiss graduate programmes left by the so-called "brain drain".

The ETH hopes that within six to 10 years, they will have reversed the "brain drain", creating a brighter future for both students and businesses in Switzerland.

In recent years, Swiss universities have been unable to stem the tide of home grown students being tempted abroad by big research budgets, notably in the United States.

The president of the institute, Olaf Kübler, said he hoped to double the number of graduate students in Switzerland working in strategic areas such as life science, information science, computer science and entrepreneurial science.

He has enlisted the support of the universities of St Gallen, Basel and Ticino to help him reach his goal.

"What we want to achieve is a substantial 'brain gain' for Switzerland by recruiting worldwide, by doing what we have done all the time for our faculty, by going out and trying to attract the best from everywhere in the world to ETH Zurich," Kübler told swissinfo.

"Over 40 per cent of our doctoral students come from outside Switzerland already, but they come mainly from the Euro-centric system. We have very few students from Asia, southern Asia, South America and eastern European countries.

"Our first effort will be to tap into the talent reservoir in eastern Europe, and then we will try to go the way that the Australian universities have gone by looking at southern Asia. Right now it's an untapped continent."

One obstacle currently standing in the way of the ETH's ambitious international recruitment campaign is language. Some of the graduate courses are still taught in German, but Kübler hopes that by teaching the entire programme in English more students will be attracted to Switzerland.

The recruitment drive will also try to woo back Swiss scientists who have been lured abroad by bigger research budgets.

"ETH Zurich has been living with flat budgets for almost a decade now. Fortunately the political scene is realising more and more that this needs to be changed, that these old mental barriers have to be overcome and that more investment into education and research will have to be made," explained Kübler.


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