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Report2021Open access

Synthesis report of soil science capacity in Higher Education in Europe

Villa Solis, Ana; Fahlbeck, Erik; Barron, Jennie


Soils and their management are fundamental to a range of essential ecosystems, societal and climate challenges facing humanity. In Europe, 25-30% of agricultural soils are considered degraded, affecting food systems, GHG emissions, habitats and water ways. To manage soil resources for multiple uses require expertise and competence from farmers and landowners to policy makers and the private sector. This report provides a synthesis on the current state of soil science in European Higher Education (HE), as a baseline to assess competency and resources for capacity development in soil science. A total of 120 survey responses were received in 2020-2021, representing Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in 25 European countries. Resultsshowed that only 13% of the HEIs hosted a dedicated soil science department. The majority of soil science is embedded in a department where environmental sciences, agricultural sciences and earth sciences are the main academic topics. Respondents reported an increased enrolment at BSc, and no change for MSc and PhD. Mixed trends could be seen for specific countries and universities, with both increases and decreases in student enrolment. Teaching capacity is high in soil science, with a majotrity of teachers having both PhD and training in HE teaching and learning. Yet, traditional lecture based teaching dominates soil science teaching and learning activities, both at BSc and MSc levels. At BSc level the proportion of courses that did not have any computer/modelling component was about 1/3. According to responses internationalisation is of great importance to many soil science HEI. Top three priorities for internationalisation were attracting students from abroad, providing more opportunities to send students abroad and developing strategic research partnerships. Finally, respondents’ perception was that job opportunities for students have mainly increased in the past ten years, and one important explanation to this is an increased interest in soil, in relation to environmental concern, sustainability and climate change.


tertiary education; soil; Europe; survey; baseline education

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eISBN: 978-91-576-9950-3
Publisher: Department of Soil and Environment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences