The Valley of Life: Back to school!

This year a record number of students – 66,439 to be exact – were admitted to university and other such institutions.

Still cause for concern
This is a positive trend for society. As an industry depending on well-educated, ambitious young men and women, the life science industry strongly encourages and supports the tendency to pursue an academic and professional career.

However, there is still cause for concern. Despite the fact that no other industry, in my view, offers more in terms of individual career opportunities, contributes more to growth or contributes more to tackling major societal challenges like preventing and treating chronic disease, environmental challenges etc. We still apparently need to make more young people more interested in natural science in general and life science in particular.

Disappointing numbers
The number of applicants for some of the life science-related studies has unfortunately more or less stagnated – and in some cases even decreased. For example, the interest in becoming a bio analyst has decreased by 7 percent, while biology, chemistry and IT & health courses at the University of Copenhagen (KU) still have room for more students.

An education at KU´s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, which combines disciplines particularly relevant to the pharmaceutical industry, is apparently far less attractive and prestigious than, for instance, odontology and veterinary medicine. On a positive note the number of engineer students has increased by 9 percent, which is crucial from a life science perspective, since top-level engineers are important for the production and value chain.

Keys to the future
All in all, the results indicate that we have not succeeded in marketing all the most relevant fields of study to a sufficient number of the best and brightest.

How many young people actually know which study courses can lead to a successful international career in the life science industry? How many young people know that they very often lead to professionally challenging and rewarding working lives, in which you actively contribute to creating better health and wealth for patients as well as society as a whole?

It requires a collective effort to increase the awareness of the potential, relevance and perspectives of life science. This work should start in elementary school. I hope the warmly-welcomed increase in prospective teachers can help facilitate that development. After all, the teachers are the ones holding the keys to the future!