New research opportunities open at University of Verona
The EU-funded INVITE project has boosted the profile of the University of Verona and is helping it to attract international research students.
© Yasonya #121673247, source: stock.adobe.com 2019
Across the EU, some universities benefit from a long-established, global reputation that acts as a magnet for potential students. Other institutions, though, are less well-known internationally, even though their teaching and research standards may be high.
To begin to bridge the international reputation gap, the University of Verona in Italy is leading an EU-funded programme called INVITE, which aims to attract international PhD students in a wide range of disciplines to study there.
The University of Verona ranks high for its doctoral programme within Italy, but this potential has not been grasped at international level, says Mario Pezzotti, INVITE project coordinator and delegate to research of the University of Verona. We have attracted students from some non-EU countries, but PhD candidates and students from other EU countries are still in the minority.
From science to economics
Under the INVITE project, the university opened up 14 PhD positions to early stage researchers in natural and engineering sciences, life and health sciences, the humanities, law and economics in early 2018. It then carried out an intense communication campaign worldwide on social media and in scientific journals to improve promotion of the research opportunities it offers.
The projects activities resulted in 955 applications for the 14 positions in 2018-2019. The previous years call received a total of 723 applications for 100 positions. The doctoral programme for the 14 students started in October 2018, and they are due to complete their training in three years.
INVITE improved the call procedures by aligning them with the European Charter for Researchers, the European Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, and the Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training. University staff also introduced pro-active support for applicants and drafted a series of frequently asked questions and a handbook for students.
The project also helped the university make its PhD programmes more attractive by integrating training courses on transferrable skills, supporting the secondment of PhD students both to companies in the Veneto region and to universities abroad, providing training in ethics and gender neutrality, grant writing, project management and showing students how to make the most of their research results.
In addition, the project is planning to set up a counselling service to help INVITE PhD students plan their careers, in academic or non-academic sectors, while improving their employability.
Our goal is to attract and train a new generation of talented international fellows in a wide range of disciplines and to provide them with the ability to establish professional collaborations with academic institutions and the private sector in Italy and in Europe. We hope the students enjoy their experience and it would be a great pleasure should they decide to stay on to find a job in Italy, says Pezzotti.
INVITE also aims to boost innovation in the Veneto region by connecting researchers with local businesses. According to the European Commissions Regional Innovation Scoreboard, in 2014 Veneto was classed a moderate innovator, which means it performs below the EU average on all indicators and its performance has not changed since 2004. To tackle this, the Regione del Veneto has drafted a strategy for attraction and qualification of human resources in research and investment, of which the INVITE project is part.
The project has received funding via the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme.