The future challenges of scientific and technical higher education

  • Stefano Cesco Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
  • Vincenzo Zara Università del Salento, Italy
  • Alberto F. De Toni University of Udine, Italy
  • Paolo Lugli Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
  • Alexander Evans University College Dublin, Ireland
  • Guido Orzes Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
Keywords: HE system, education, challenges, Industry 4.0, engineering, agriculture


The world is experiencing significant changes, including exponential growth of the global population, global warming and climate change, biodiversity loss, international migration, digitalization, smart agriculture/farming, synthetic biology, and most recently a global human health pandemic. These trends pose a set of relevant challenges for the training of new graduates as well as for the re-skilling of current workers through lifelong learning programs. Our paper seeks to answer two research questions: (1) are current study programs suitable to prepare students for their professional future and (2) are study programs adequate to deliver the needs of current and new generations of students? We analyzed the professional figures and the skills required by the job market, as well as the number of students enrolled in technical-scientific HE study programs in Europe. We discuss the needs of future students considering how the teaching tools and methods enabled by digitalization might contribute to increasing the effectiveness of training these students. Finally, we shed light on the different types of HE study programs that can meet the educational challenges of the future.

Received: 23 June 2020
Accepted: 04 May 2021


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Author Biographies

Stefano Cesco, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy

Full Professor in Agricultural Chemistry at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano (Italy) and President of the Italian Scientific Society of Agricultural Chemistry. He was Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology of the Free University of Bolzano (Italy) and President of the National Conference on Education at the University level for the Area of AgriFood-Forestry Science (Conferenza di AGRARIA). He has been working in the field of plant nutrition and plant physiology since more than 30 years. His research interests are mainly focused on plant nutrition and the rhizosphere processes underlying nutrient mobilisation, uptake and allocation by applying chemical, biochemical, molecular and physiological approaches. His scientific production is documented by 152 papers on peer-reviewed international journal indexed in SCOPUS and more than 200 contributions to national and international conferences. He is Associate Editor of Frontiers in Plant Nutrition, Agronomy and Plant and Soil.

Vincenzo Zara, Università del Salento, Italy

Full Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Salento (Lecce). He was Rector of the University of Salento and delegate of the Italian conference of rectors for teaching. His research has included the following topics: study of the import pathway of some proteins, in particular the metabolite carriers, into isolated mitochondria; study of the assembly reaction of the hydrophobic proteins in the inner mitochondrial membrane; study of spermatozoa energetic metabolism; effect of different hormonal and nutritional states on the hepatic fatty acid biosynthesis. Vincenzo Zara is the author of numerous scientific articles published in specialized international journals. He has participated as a speaker at various national and international conferences.

Alberto F. De Toni, University of Udine, Italy

Scientific Director of CUOA Business School and is Full Professor of “Operations Management” and “Management of Complex Systems” in the degree in Management Engineering at the University of Udine (Italy). He is also President of the Supervisory Board of CINECA, President of the Independent Performance Evaluation Body of the Istituto Superiore della Sanità and member of the Strategic Steering Committee of EUI - European University Institute. He was Rector of the University of Udine, President of the Foundation of the Conference of Italian University Rectors (Fondazione CRUI) and President of the Italian Association of Management Engineering.

Paolo Lugli, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy

Full Professor and Rector of the Free Univeristy of Bozen-Bolzano. He conducts research on nanoelectronics and molecular electronics. After completing his studies in physics at the University of Modena (Italy) in 1979, Professor Lugli moved to Colorado State University in Fort Collins (USA) where he received a Master of Science in 1982 and a PhD in 1985, both in electrical engineering. In 1985 he started working as an assistant in the Physics Department of the University of Modena (Italy). From 1988 to 1993 he was an associate professor of solid state physics in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Rome II (University of Rome Tor Vergata) where he was appointed professor in 1993. From 2002 until 2016 Professor Lugli has held the Chair of Nanoelectronics at the Technische Universität München. He is the author of more than 350 scientific papers and since 2011 he’s been a member of the Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften (AcaTech) and a fellow of IEEE.

Alexander Evans, University College Dublin, Ireland

Dean of Agriculture and Head of the School of Agriculture & Food Science in University College Dublin (Ireland). Professor Evans has a BSc in Animal Science from Nottingham University (UK), a PhD from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and a DSc (Published work) from the National University of Ireland. Following a position as a postdoctoral fellow in Cornell University (USA) he joined the academic staff in University College Dublin, Ireland. His teaching is primarily in the area of Animal Physiology with an emphasis on animal reproduction and fertility. He has attracted over 15 million euros of research funding, has supervised over 30 graduate students, has published over 140 peer reviewed papers and served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Animal Reproduction Science for 9 years. He is Past-Vice President of the Association for European Life Science Universities (ICA). Professor Evans has conducted research on a wide range of topics focusing on reproduction and fertility in cattle and sheep. These areas include the regulation of puberty, oestrus synchronisation, ovarian follicle development, oocyte and embryo development, uterine health

Guido Orzes, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy

Associate Professor in Management Engineering at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano (Italy) and Member of the Scientific Committee of the CUOA Business School. He has been Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter Business School (UK) and Visiting Scholar at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (USA). He has published more than 100 scientific works in leading operations management and international business journals (e.g., International Journal of Operations and Production Management, International Journal of Production Economics, International Business Review, and Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management) as well as in conference proceedings and books. He is involved in various EU-funded research projects on global operations management and Industry 4.0, including SME 4.0 – Industry 4.0 for SME (Marie Skłodowska-Curie RISE), European Monitor on Reshoring (funded by the EU agency Eurofound), and A21Digital Tyrol Veneto (Interreg V-A Italia-Austria). He is Associate Editor of the Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management and member of the board of the European division of the Decision Sciences Institute.


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How to Cite
Cesco, Stefano, Vincenzo Zara, Alberto F. De Toni, Paolo Lugli, Alexander Evans, and Guido Orzes. 2021. “The Future Challenges of Scientific and Technical Higher Education”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 8 (2), 85-117.