Changes in wood science education in Eastern Europe

The former regions of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire hold a tradition of more than 120 years of higher education in forest science, including wood processing. After the Second World War, with the political changes and dissolutions in Central Europe, each country established a Faculty of Forestry, which included the wood processing technologies. These departments of wood science educated the first generations of wood engineers, specialists in processing technology and furniture manufacturing, all following five-year diploma programs. Some of these forestry and wood science faculties also established state research centers for forest management, harvest and transportation, primary processing of wood, and furniture manufacturing. Socialist states built a number of wood processing centers, which covered the entire processing line from logs to timber, boards and finally half-products and furniture. Between the 70s and the 90s the demand for highly qualified engineers was enormous and more than 100 students graduated each year and from each study program. Higher education in wood processing included anatomy and chemistry of wood, physics and mechanical processing of wood, chemical processing, adhesives, wood preservation, panels and half- product technologies, furniture design and manufacturing, wood finishing, and marketing. - After the political reforms in 1989, the large integrated production centers were not able to survive the economic changes. Pressure from western countries was high and resulted in a decline of the paper and wood processing industries. Higher salary jobs in other sectors had a major impact on quality and number of students. The effects of these developments during the past two decades have been dramatic for wood-based industries. Imports from multinational corporations, combined with low exports of own products and furniture at low margins impacted the industry. Many of the traditional production centers had to close. The number of students and faculty reduced to half; governmental support declined. Political changes during the past decade, and the expansion of the European Community improved the situation, as foreign companies invested modern processing facilities and created new jobs. The impact of the Bologna agreement required continued reformation of the state institutions, and the quick preparation for the job market requires highly motivated students.



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