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Attract Project

Jan 02, 2017




  • Enhancing the Attractiveness of Studies in Science and Technology

  • ATTRACT Project First Edition Published in Sweden, October 2012 Copyright 2012 by ATTRACT Project - Enhance the Attractiveness of Studies in Science and Technology. All rights reserved. Funding under: Education and Culture DG Lifelong Learning Programme Cover Image: European Space Agency This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is distributed with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. If professional advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of the individual work package coordinator and partners should be sought. ISBN 978-91-7501-127-1

  • "The ideal engineer is a composite ... He is not a scientist, he is not a mathematician, he is not a sociologist or a writer; but he may use the knowledge and techniques of any or all of these disciplines in solving engineering problems." N. W. Dougherty (1955)

  • Executive Summary

    Background and Objectives

    ATTRACT, funded in 2009 under the EU flagship programme Lifelong Learning, is a follow up initiative of a Swedish national project (Ung Ingenjr/Young Engineer coordinated by KTH) which had the main objective of investigating the attractiveness of engineering studies for young student.

    The project partnership is represented by a sub-group of universities members within the CLUSTER Network (, a consortium of 13 elite European Universities in Science and Engineering with associate members from around the world.

    ATTRACT has brought together key actors in engineering education from eight European Countries with the idea that a better understanding of why young people are becoming less attracted to engineering education would enable a range of measures to be undertaken to ultimately increase the attractiveness.

    ATTRACT has aimed at investigating recruitment, admissions and retention from different points of view by involving secondary schools and employers. Participating universities supplied background data from their national database and project findings have been used as a basis for future interactions with policy makers and other authorities within these participating countries.


    ATTRACT has brought together over a time-span of 34 months universities, secondary schools, employers, policy makers, professional association and media leaders. All of these actors from the involved countries and beyond have been invited to the open meetings and have been involved in the surveys carried out within the different work packages through interviews and questionnaire based studies. In particular, the different stakeholders have participated in three occasions during the project lifetime:

    Mid-term open meeting (Dublin, April 2011)

    Meeting with stakeholders and discussion or recommendations (Leuven, April 2012)

    Final conference and discussion of dissemination, exploitation and follow-up activities (Stockholm, October 2012)

    A general framework was developed in the first phase of the project in order to compare the educational systems and circumstances within each of the partner countries under a series of relevant headings, and to help introduce the context of engineering education in different countries. The information provided has offered a general overview of the education system in each partner country, as well as further detail into areas relevant to the ATTRACT project, such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education at primary and secondary level. The comparison framework presented is classified within the following categories:

    General information about partner universities

    Pre-university education in each partner country

    Career Guidance provision for school students

    University admissions practices

    Financial situation for third-level students

    The project activities have been carried out within the following four development work packages (WP):

    The Attractiveness of Being an Engineer (coord. KTH)

    Barriers (coord. TCD)

    Attraction (coord. IST)

    Retention (coord. Aalto)

  • Results


    In general Engineering is still perceived as a difficult subject since studies in different countries have shown that aside from Health, all other areas are considered to be easier than engineering by upper secondary education pupils. Although important, the difficulty issue is not detrimental. The fact is that engineering has a positive image and other encouraging aspects that are identified by, not only secondary school students, but by a range of social groups.

    High income, exciting job, high status and highly respected are normally positive thoughts from what people think in regards to engineers and engineering. Recent graduate engineers play a key role in presenting an attractive and realistic image of the engineering profession for younger generations. The perception of difficult and academically challenging engineering studies has been the main reason for its decreased interest.

    Globally, the impact of engineers on the labour market extends far beyond traditional roles. Each country has its own characteristics and particular social, economic and political contexts, and therefore has differing focuses when analysing the labour market. The statistics from respective countries have to be compared within their contextual circumstances.

    One important action point in attracting students to the engineering areas is to show them that it does payoff to be an engineer. Not only in terms of economy capital but also when it comes to social or cultural capital. There also remains a shortage of engineers in several fields so the labour market looks good for most countries. Figures also show low unemployment rates.

    In Germany, Ireland and in Portugal engineering is often mentioned in a positive way in relation to the labour market since it has for long been put in relation to a good employment outlook and a high salary. In these countries engineers are also described in a positive way as experts are co-responsible for bringing forward the economy. In Sweden on the other hand, engineers are often considered, by non-engineers, as cold, insensitive technocrats, deeply specialized with highly repetitive work and with little or no social contact.

    The perception of engineers in media is different within different parts of Europe. Based on our results the overall picture of engineering in the media is positive.


    It is important to understand that when attracting students to engineering studies, the desirable goal is to attract not only students, but the most highly-motivated and well-qualified applicants.

    Globally, each country develops a wide range of national activities aiming not only to raise the public awareness in Science, Technology and Engineering, but also to garner a students interest in taking up studies in this area. Similarly, tertiary education institutions also have a widespread variety of actions to recruit students to Science and Technology Engineering programs.

    It is important to notice that several institutions carry out several actions aimed at balancing the gender representation in Science and Technology Engineering programs, particularly designed for girls.

    In general, the opinion of female students tends to be in accordance with male students views in secondary school. However, the trends show female students to be less likely to undertake an engineering program, especially in Finland. Moreover, female secondary students are more pessimistic about the contribution of engineers to the countrys development. It should also be noted that, in Finland, female secondary students seem to consider that engineers duties do not involve a high level of difficulty in contrast to their male counterpart. In addition, they seem to be more pessimistic about engineers pay level. On the other hand, in Ireland, girls are less likely to believe that engineers have easy access to the labour market.

    It is important to notice that the perceptions of engineering considerably differ between secondary students and university entrants. The percentage of university entrants who enter an engineering program, having chosen it after 10th grade is much higher than the percentage of secondary students who wish to undertake an engineering program, having decided it after 10th grade.

    Therefore, in light of the results, the following actions should be recommended:

    To promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses among the youth;

    To support teachers training and development in Science and Technology;

    To enhance the womens participation and role;

    To promote engineers as role models;

    To increase general public awareness about the importance of Science and Technology.

  • Formal Barriers

    Data analysis in Ireland and Portugal shows a clear link between achievement in mathematics, physics and chemistry at high school, and subsequent achievement in university engineering. This reinforces the practice operating in many ATTRACT partner countries of requiring these subjects for entry to engineering programs. Where they are not (or not all) required, recommendations have been made to ensure students have the required prior achievement in these areas, through the weighting of results in the most relevant subjects.

    The particulars of the high school systems vary from country to country, but in all students have some degree of choice over what they study. This can forc