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Academic offer of advanced digital technologies

A perspective on the availability of higher education offer in the fields of artificial intelligence, high performance computing, cybersecurity, and data science

Overview of the study

This work, which started in 2018, supports policy making by providing insights on the availability and composition of education offer in four key digital domains:

  • artificial intelligence
  • high performance computing
  • cybersecurity
  • data science

Given the strategic importance of acquiring such competences for future economic productivity, we investigate the availability of education offer in these advanced digital domains, to keep track of its evolution and identify possible gaps of digital competence in these key areas.

Following a text mining methodology that captures the inclusion of advanced digital technologies in the programmes’ syllabus, we monitor the availability of masters’ programmes, bachelor’s programmes and short professional courses and study their characteristics. These include the scope or depth with which the digital content is taught (classified into broad or specialised), education fields in which digital technologies are embedded (e.g., Information and communication technologies, Business, Administration and law), and the content areas covered by the programmes (e.g. robotics, machine learning). Also, we consider the overlap between the four domains, to identify complementarities and synergies in the academic offer of advanced digital technologies.

Since 2018, the study is repeated yearly. In order to provide comparison with other competing economies, besides the EU Member States, the studies cover six additional countries: the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, and Australia.

Results of the study have been used as reference in the European Artificial Intelligence Strategy, the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence – a European approach to excellence and trust, in the Artificial Intelligence Index Report 2021 and 2019 by Stanford University, have substantiated the assessment of the national Recovery and Resilience plans, and are used as input for the Digital Resilience Dashboard, among others.

Policy background

Over the last decade, advanced digital technologies have developed significantly due to the rapid increase of processing power and data availability, and the development of new algorithms and methods, boosting the “fourth industrial revolution”. The European Commission’s priority A Europe fit for the digital age aims at benefiting from digitalisation in a safe and ethical way, and to achieve technological sovereignty.

Within this priority, the EU has set a range of policies aimed at improving digital skills, both at basic and advanced level, backed by several investment instruments:

  • The new Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027 includes a set of actions to improve and integrate advanced digital skills as part of a wider promotion of digital skills and education.
  • The European Skills Agenda sets objectives by 2025 and includes actions to ensure that people have the right skills for jobs, also covering the digital dimension.
  • The European Pillar of Social Rights funds the promotion of job creation and job-to-job transitions towards expanding sectors, including digital.
  • The Digital Europe Programme provides strategic funding for advanced digital skills, including the design and development of specialised courses in key digital technologies.
  • The Recovery and Resilience Facility, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, funds reforms and investments in Member States to make the European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions; more than 26% of its available funding is related to digital.
  • The Digital skills and jobs coalition shares and promotes digital skills initiatives to reduce the digital skills gap and focuses, among other objectives, on developing high-level digital skills for ICT professionals in all industry sectors.
  • The Digital Decade Compass sets ambitious targets towards 2030 in four areas, with specific targets on basic digital skills of the population and increasing the number of highly skilled digital professionals.
  • The European declaration on digital rights and principles reflects EU values and promotes a sustainable, human-centric vision for the digital transformation.