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Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE) presented the results of a survey on Croatian high school graduates’ interest in computer science, information-communication technologies, business computing and mathematics study programmes, conducted as part of the eSkills for Jobs 2014 project. Survey results were presented by ASHE Assistant Director Igor Drvodelić at the CARnet Users Conference, which was held from 19th to 21th November 2014 in Zagreb, as well as at the final eSkills for Jobs project conference in Rome.
The Agency’s Central Applications Office analysed the data for the last five years, during which the process of application to higher education institutions in Croatia was done via the National Information System of Applications for Higher Education Institutions. Results were compared with the Croatian Bureau of Statistics and Eurostat data on the number of students who graduate from computer science study programmes, which makes this analysis very relevant and comprehensive. The analysis showed that interest in business computing and information-communication technologies study programmes has been dropping steadily until this year, when it increased, and that young people in Croatia still prefer humanities and social sciences, despite the fact that Croatia’s youth unemployment is among the highest in the EU. Because of insufficient interest for natural and technical sciences, Croatia will have an IT-expert deficit problem in the next few years.

  • since 2004, Croatia has been experiencing an upward trend in the number of computer science graduates, and in 2012 reached the annual number of 1500 computer science graduates.
  • number of applications for computer science study programmes has been continuously decreasing since 2010, and only in 2014 began to rise by more than 20%.
  • as part of their application to study programmes in the last three years (2012 – 2014), candidates have been giving the computer science, business, mathematics and information science study programmes ever higher ranking so that this year, computer science study programmes on average occupied the 3.8th place, while in 2011 they were positioned near the 7th place.
  • • analysis also included social science study programmes such as information-communication science and business computing, which saw a negative enrolment trend that will make it impossible to satisfy the growing demand for IT experts on the Croatian and EU labour market.
  • out of the total quota for all study programmes, 9.4% of places are available for computer science study programmes. Experience has shown that interest for computer science study programmes is influenced by the enrolment quota for these study programmes, so that lower enrolment quota is followed by decreased student interest in these programmes and vice versa. Considering the current trend of decreasing enrolment quotas, a turnabout can only be achieved by increasing the number of available places for these study programmes, which is not possible without significant financial investments by the industry and the state.
  • candidate interest is also affected by admission requirements for computer science study programmes, especially by the necessary knowledge of mathematics that is crucial for successful study of computer sciences.

This trend of student interest in computer science study programmes means that, in the next three to five years, Croatian employers will have trouble finding IT experts because the available workforce will not be able to meet the growing demand of the labour market, especially considering the brain drain of young experts to EU and other countries.
ASHE analysis was positively received by the European Commission’s André Richier, who is responsible for digital economy and main technologies that enable economic growth within the Directorate General Enterprise and Industry. Richier pointed out that “no other participant country entered into the eSkills for Jobs project with such a measurable and specific analysis, which is exactly what is needed in order to gain a better understanding of how to motivate young people to apply for engineering and natural sciences – STEM – study programmes“.

About the eSkills for Jobs 2014 initiative
European Commission’s eSkills for Jobs 2014 initiative is primarily focused on raising awareness of the necessity of acquiring, applying and continuously developing information science and digital skills, which are a prerequisite for building an innovative economy in today’s world. The aim of this initiative is to organise various activities, events, discussions and other public appearances during 2014 to mark the importance of investing in the development of IT skills and the constantly rising demand for workforce with those skills as well as to promote ICT industry and ICT jobs. In today’s world, it is inconceivable to talk about building a competitive and innovative economy without computer literacy and ICT professionals.