Thanks to its various initiatives, the EU has become one of the biggest contributors to space programmes in Europe, and it is currently the largest institutional client bolstering the European launcher industry. At the same time, new technological breakthroughs and innovations by NewSpace actors are driving profound change in the global space industry as new opportunities entice new companies to pursue new business ventures. Skilled human capital and an entrepreneurial spirit are necessary prerequisites for a prosperous future in the European space sector.

The space sector is a highly interdisciplinary field that covers knowledge areas ranging from fundamental sciences to applied disciplines like engineering. The different degrees leading to a career in the space domain are another example of the multidisciplinarity of the sector. To objectively compare the wide range of education and training offerings by universities across Europe and match them with the needs for research and innovation (R&I) at a later stage, a consolidated and streamlined list of terms (“vocabulary”) describing the knowledge field “space” is necessary.

Making space curricula comparable

A STEAMT (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Transversal) segmentation, with further specifications along space-related knowledge domains and areas, is employed to classify fundamental curricula orientations. Each knowledge area acts as its unit of concept and skills, which can be combined as building blocks of curricula. Workload, through weighting ECTS credit points, is also considered.

This information allows for a direct comparison of various curricula and their primary focus, as indicated by the two figures below. While both are Master’s programmes in (Aero-) Space Engineering, their shares of STEAMT education in their respective courses differ significantly, suggesting that the studies emphasise different aspects of space-related knowledge and the resulting skillset.

Figure 1: Knowledge areas of two ECTS weighted MSc programmes


Analysing European space-related curricula

60+ current training and educational programmes at Bachelor, Master and PhD levels are analysed to assess the composition of available education offers. Taking into account the interdisciplinary character of the space sector, topics pertaining to the core curricula of the field, such as Space Engineering or Space Science are inherent to the analysis. Related fields such as Earth Observation, Space Law or Engineering complete the picture.

The analysis is complemented by interviews with representatives of educational institutions who add insights into the considerations behind developing a curriculum. Another aspect considered is the collaboration with industry when developing the programmes and the opportunities for internships or collaborative projects and theses. Lastly, comparing the acquired insights from curricula and the requirements from R&I and industry contributes to ensuring alignment between the needs and educational offers under consideration of emerging trends in the sector.

This effort will result in a consolidated and streamlined taxonomy for the European space sector, strengthening the community’s collaboration and leading to a deeper understanding, thereby fostering more coordination among academic space research studies and beyond.

The STARS*EU Consortia carried out the analysis within a service contract with DG DEFIS. Learn more about the project and scope.