Mankind now enjoys many benefits from nuclear-related technology in areas as diverse as medicine and advanced materials, as well as electricity production. Today, nuclear technology is widespread and multidisciplinary. Yet the advancement of this technology, with all its associated benefits, will be threatened, even curtailed, unless the declining number of university courses associated with it.
In most countries there are now fewer comprehensive, high-quality nuclear technology programs at universities than before. The ability of universities to attract top-quality students to those programs, meet future staffing requirements of the nuclear industry, and conduct leading-edge research in nuclear topics is becoming seriously compromised. A number of concerns exist:
• The decreasing number and the dilution of nuclear programs.
• The decreasing number of students taking nuclear subjects.
• The lack of young faculty members to replace ageing and retiring faculty members.
• Ageing research facilities, which are being closed and not replaced.
• The significant fraction of nuclear graduates not entering the nuclear industry.
There currently appears to be enough trainers and quality staff in industry and at research institutes. However, the provision of suitable trainers in the near future is becoming a concern because of the university situation.
Student perception, an important factor contributing to low enrolment, is affected by the educational circumstances, negative public perception, the downsizing of the industry, and reductions in government-funded nuclear programs, where little strategic planning is occurring. Low enrolment directly affects budgets, and budgetary cuts then limit the facilities available for nuclear programs. Unless something is done to arrest it, this downward spiral of declining student interest and academic opportunities will continue.
A wide range of initiatives to encourage the younger generation to enroll in the nuclear field have had great success. However, these are often taken by individuals rather than by organizations; there are few national initiatives.