Thursday, November 6, 2008

Brain drain

I recently read in Helsingin Sanomat (the leading Finnish newspaper) that Finland is one of the few OECD countries to suffer from brain drain. After reading the article, I have had a couple of discussions with colleagues, and they have confirmed my initial reaction to the news. It is no wonder that educated young Finns pack their suitcases and leave the country, when there is so little chance for a person with a doctoral degree to find a decent job!

Finnish free education system is held in high regard. Our schoolchildren get top results in PISA, although I dare say the same quality is not quite met in the higher education where the emphasis seems to be mainly on quantity rather than quality - maximum number of degrees for minimum input in terms teaching staff and facilities. (In fact, considering the ridiculously low numbers of teaching staff in universities we are not doing THAT badly...) What I find incredible that we have this free education system with good-quality schooling up to the doctoral level and then we just WASTE it.

My own experience comes from archaeology, of course, but I have understood the situation is much the same regardless the field. As long as you are a wanna-be researcher doing your PhD, you may get funding through grants or a PhD school (if you are lucky and in a suitable field likely to get that kind of funding). But when you emerge from the university, a fledgeling researcher, you will find out that nobody will fund your research. The reason is that while there are quite a few grants for PhD students, there a significantly fewer of those for young researchers - to get post-doctoral research funding you have to be at first established in your field, but how to achieve that in the first place? Moreover, no employer wants you. You are considered over-educated, too theoretical and alienated from "real" work. Besides, heavens forbid, you might want to have a bigger salary because of your higher education! If your background is in humanities, there is the additional problem of being a specialist in a non-productive field. Here in Finland we have a firm belief in education also in that sense that you are not fit to do anything else than what you were educated for - unless, of course, that "else" is working in an institutional cleaning company.

No wonder there have not been any Nobel prizes in science coming to Finland since A.I.Virtanen in 1945. Those bright enough to do so leave the country and do not come back. In fact, even if they wanted to return, they will find it very hard because the experience and skills they have gained abroad is not valued - not in the sense of money nor in the sense of job opportunities. (This insular attitude is, of course, even more pronounced when it comes to foreigners, but that is another story.)

Somebody tell me, how can we afford this?!

PS. Btw, I've been considering trying to get a post-doc post abroad when my doctoral thesis is finally finished... Specializing in any field in archaeology in Finland seems to be a career suicide. Well... you might actually say that studying archaeology is a career suicide. :)


Pitbullsiili said...

Well, what can I say about degrees and their affect on salaries? I have no degree - and I even didn't study the field I'm working now, but I'm doing surprisingly well :-)

Vulpecula said...

Dear pitbullsiili, I fart in your general direction. :)

As if to confirm what I wrote yesterday, today's Helsingin Sanomat published a small report about a happening called HumanistiUra2008 (loosely translated "career in humanities"). As the headline they had lifted a research result published in the aforementioned happening: for those with a degree in humanities it pays (both literally and in the sense of job satisfaction) to go abroad. What did I say!

So long homeland, and thanks for all the free education.

megglesmcgoo said...

Nearer to Ireland. That's where I want you to move when your brain is drained. But NOT to an English speaking country as I wish to retain my all important sole -native-English-speaker title in a certain foxcub's life :)

Pitbullsiili said...

I have a relative in Queen's College ... ;-)

Vulpecula said...

meggles, just between the two of us and the rest of the internet community, I am currently considering Copenhagen.