Universitas Helsingiensis 1/1996

Universitas Helsingiensis 1/1996

Helsinki Summer Academy

Helsinki is a city of universities: there are eight within a radius of a few kilometres. The largest and oldest, the University of Helsinki, has nine faculties. The neighbour institutions offer study programmes in technology, business and arts. For more information about all these institutions see the centrefold section of this issue.

In the winter season the student population of Helsinki exceeds 50,000, and the local universities offer jobs to over 10,000 employees. On the basis of these figures, nearly half of Finnish higher education (around 40%) is provided here. In addition, several polytechnics and large research institutes are also located in the Helsinki area.

The provision of study programmes is more restricted in the summer season than during term-time. Yet the local institutions and their annexes are not entirely closed down: there may be courses attended by enrolled undergraduates, preparatory courses offered to prospective students and programmes for those ever- active citizens who like to study as a hobby. Another typical summer audience consists of conference participants, who concentrate on the latest developments in science and refresh themselves with visits to Ainola, Sibelius's idyllic home, or to Alvar Aalto's works in the greenness of Otaniemi. And we must not forget that the light of fragrant summer nights provides a perfect setting for all sorts of parties and festivities, not just for young people but for senior citizens as well.

Finnish universities are independent, and they all have some special qualities and strengths. It is a characteristically Finnish feature that everyone prefers to work alone, evident also in the development of foreign relations. However, the Rectors of the eight Helsinki area universities, who were discussing ideas for the cultural capital project, decided to break this tradition of working alone. Their action resulted in the information package entitled Helsinki Summer Academy, which is attached to this issue.

We want to tell our foreign co-operation partners Ä present and prospective ones Ä about Helsinki today, what its academic community is like and what is on offer in the summer season, specifically in the English language.

We are designing new programmes and also focus on improving our joint information services. We know that from the visitors' point of view the local universities together are much more than just a numerical sum. Helsinki Summer Academy is an attempt to tell you that this city and its academic community is much more than you already know.

Apart from this issue of UNIVERSITAS HELSINGIENSIS, Helsinki Summer Academy is also open to perusal via Internet. See you in Helsinki!

Hellevi Majander, Planning officer, University of Helsinki

Nature has intrinsic values independent of man

Finland's first doctoral dissertation on environmental philosophy

Finland has got its first doctoral dissertation on environmental philosophy. Leena Vilkka believes that nature and animals have intrinsic values which are independent of human value. According to Vilkka, even entire ecosystems can have values.

Leena Vilkka's interest in nature and animals is philosophical. This is rare, for philosophy is generally regarded as human-centred, and philosophers deal with questions relating to man. Those who are interested in nature and animals usually study biology, veterinary sciences, or forestry. Leena Vilkka too first studied to be a forestry foreman, but she wanted to find another approach to nature. She enrolled at the University of Helsinki to read philosophy, with environmental protection, ecology and zoology as her minor subjects.

Ever since her childhood, Vilkka has felt uncomfortable with the way biology describes nature. "For me, the forest is primarily a place for aesthetic experiences. In a forest one can find a bearing for one's relationship with nature and animals."

As the topics of her advanced studies, Vilkka chose nature's intrinsic value and animal consciousness, both subjects which have been shunned by Finnish philosophers. "My starting point is a strong intuitive conception that the present concept of reality is erroneous. The idea prevailing in Finland is a conception created by the natural sciences, technology, the industrial society and the economy, according to which nature is only a raw material reserve at man's disposal." What this involves is, for Vilkka, a misconception: we treat nature and animals differently from what their real essence is. For instance a pig or a cow is seen only as a vehicle for production. "What interests the modern society in a pig is its fat percentage, nutritional value and meat qualities. We are not interested in the pig as a feeling and conscious animal with a different soul."

According to Vilkka, the human being's relationship with nature is mistaken and distorted and mainly based on power and exploitation - not on a desire to understand what pigs, cows or the forest really are or what kind of communication could exist between people and the rest of nature. "Technological and economic power and different interest groups have been allowed to define what nature is. I believe that these definitions are far from reality."

"The forest is marketed to us in the form of interesting books and nice furniture. The forest is no longer seen in the end-product, it has become alienated from its origin. This also relates to meat products in shops. We no longer buy pig, but chops, ham or steak," Vilkka explains.

"Inherent in both capitalism and communism is the basic assumption that natural resources are free," Vilkka underlines. A natural resource is seen to become valuable only through human activity. Man has been able to obtain natural resources for refinement, and has never needed to compensate them in any way. The forest, rocks and animals have existed for man.

First moral experiences at the age of four

Leena Vilkka's earliest moral experiences relating to nature date from the time when she was four. "My eldest brother studied medicine in the sixties. At that time medical students took cats with them as test animals. In this way our own pet cat ended up as a test animal in smoking experiments. I knew something very wrong had been done to our cat, although I could not blame my brother or parents for it - at that time it was common for pets to fall victims of animal testing."

This strong empathy with a creature was followed by another experience later, when Vilkka saw the natural environment in her home town being destroyed. Roads, markets and residential houses were being built in the nearby forests. "I did not see any added value in asphalt and buildings. I saw this as impoverishment, for me the forest was more valuable than human constructions."

For Vilkka, work with nature and animals was self-evident. The job of a forestry foreman is ideal for many nature-lovers, as it involves roaming in the woods, marking stands for felling and directing forestry workers. Vilkka did not, however, feel satisfied in her job, aware that the exploitation of forests had gone too far. "In Finland nearly all forests have been put to economic use. Clearly less than ten per cent of forests has been reserved for recreational use. In my opinion, the figures could be reversed: ten per cent could be harnessed for exploitation and the rest should be left for various other uses, recreational areas, and for nature itself as an environment for animals and plants."

A Finnish pioneer

Leena Vilkka's study "The Varieties of Intrinsic Value in Nature - a Naturistic Approach to Environmental Philosophy" is the first doctoral dissertation to deal with environmental philosophy in Finland. For seven years Vilkka did pioneering work and encountered a pioneer's problems: it is appropriate for a young woman researcher to question old traditional values. A book published by Vilkka in 1993, which dealt with international and Finnish philosophy of environmental research and nature preservation, initiated a Finnish debate on environmental ethics.

In her book Leena Vilkka develops her idea of the intrinsic value of nature. "Earlier philosophers considered that the intrinsic value of nature is impossible, because nature belongs to the sphere of natural sciences and values are generated by human activity. Nature has been seen as a value void - only human beings can have values."

Vilkka distinguishes between anthropocentric (human-centred) and naturocentric (nature-centred) intrinsic values. Both involve human values, but naturocentric intrinsic values are those assigned by human beings to nature, as being intrinsic to nature - nature is valuable in itself. We can give the forest either an instrumental value or an intrinsic value."

A bigger problem arises when we ask where values come from. Vilkka speaks of "anthropogenic" and "naturogenic" values. Opposed are two conceptions: either values originate in human culture, or values were generated in the course of a long evolution, already before the human era. "According to naturogenic thinking, values exist not only in man but in plants, animals and even in ecosystems. This, of course, is a very radical idea," Vilkka admits.

The most natural point of departure for finding values is to look for them in animals. One central value found in animals is suffering, Vilkka thinks. "Suffering has a definite purpose in nature. Suffering increases animals' chances of survival, and on the reverse side of suffering there is well-being. The human being can measure animal well-being, yet it is not created by man; it is a question of the animal's own suffering and well-being."

Vilkka regards the idea that only human beings can have values as artificial. For a wolf, the elk has an instrumental value as prey which sustains the wolf's life and well-being. The same wolf can look upon the members of its own pack as animals with an intrinsic value and does not treat them as mere instruments. "Animals create values independently of what the human being thinks of them."

Vilkka also contemplates plant values. The environmental philosopher Paul W. Taylor talks of "the good of an organism", which implies that all organisms have their own good. The human being can either promote or harm this quality, but it is still independent of man. "Whether a house plant thrives or not depends on people, yet well-being or feeling poorly is the plant's own quality."

The problem arises from the alleged lack of self in plants. If a plant has no self, what is it that suffers or thrives? According to Vilkka, this requires totally new thinking. Despite the difficult philosophical problems, Vilkka wants to take her train of thought further. The most demanding level for Vilkka is ecogenic values: Could systems have values which cannot be traced back to the individual?"

The philosophical tradition relates values to individuals, and hence cannot comprehend that a mountain could have intrinsic value. Vilkka tosses us the question of whether nature as a whole could be a subject with a holistic consciousness and whether a mountain or a river could "experience". "Here we are looking for a world of experiences which differs completely from our world of human experiences. Current research on consciousness and artificial intelligence could throw new light on this."

Researcher as a civic activist

Environmental philosopher Leena Vilkka, an Academy of Finland scholar, seeks to practice the ethical values which she discusses in her research. She is a vegetarian and an environmental activist. She chairs two Finnish organisations: the Animalia Federation for the Protection of Animals and Green Union for the Protection of Life, which both strive to promote the ethics of honouring life in practice. "I think a researcher cannot be a politician, but influencing through civic activity goes well with research work."

Animal and nature rights activists had adopted an ethical responsibility for nature and animals well before researchers joined in, and considerably earlier than legislators began to ponder how man should treat nature, its lakes, mountains or animals. Among Finnish environmental activists, Vilkka values Pentti Linkola and Eero Paloheimo, who both in their own radical way have shaken Finnish society with their opinions.

According to Vilkka, the burning problem in Finnish society is our super-efficient wood production, fur animal farming, and meat production based on big units. She thinks all these reflect man's idea of nature as a resource reserve which has only instrumental value.

Nina Korhonen

Air stewardesses plagued by sleep disturbances

Rapid time-zone transitions cause great stress for air stewardesses. Many people who fly in the line of their work experience difficulties in falling asleep, poor or restless sleep quality, and difficulties in waking up.

Flight attendants' work is difficult because they are often exposed to night shifts and rapid time-zone transitions, which upset their natural day/night rhythm and cause sleep disturbances. A research project at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, in cooperation with Finnair studied flight attendants' sight reaction, subjective alertness, body temperature and the hormonal secretion of melatonin and cortisol, on the initiative of the Finnish Flight Attendants' Association. The aim was to improve flight attendants' occupational health.

All Finnish flight attendants were sent a questionnaire on their working conditions, sleep and jetlag in 1985. Forty flight attendants, average age of 33, were chosen for a field study. The final report was presented to the contracting organizations in 1988, scientific articles were published in international periodicals between 1990 and 1994, and Sakari Suvanto's dissertation was published in the series People and Work by the Institute of Occupational Health in 1995. Apart from Suvanto, the research team included a physician specializing in research on shift work, a neurologist specializing in sleep research, a professor of work physiology and a chemist.

The effect of jetlag was studied on two routes: Helsinki- Seattle-Helsinki and Helsinki-Tokyo-Helsinki. The questionnaire revealed that for flight attendants the heaviest shift was the return flight from Seattle on the US west coast to Helsinki. What made this flight especially heavy for the crew was the night work and the crossing of ten time zones.

To find out the impact of transmeridian flights on circadian (day/night) rhythm and sleep, the researchers measured the test persons' visual search capacity, subjective alertness, body temperature, and the secretion of melatonin and cortisol. The tests were made before the flight, during the flight, during the stopover and on the second and fourth days after the return flight. The quality and amount of sleep were studied with special mattresses, and the subjects also kept a sleep diary.

The most important finding was that flight attendants' circadian rhythm was desynchronized for eight days after their departure from Finland, if the rest time in the United States was four days. The time needed for recovery depends on the number of time zones crossed. "A flight over three time zones begins to have clear effects. The fourth zone already causes significant effects," Suvanto says. A longer rest is needed after an eastward flight than after a westward one.

After a flight from Helsinki to Seattle, that is from east to west, flight attendants went to bed one to three hours earlier than usual, but about half of the test persons woke up too early, unable to fall asleep again. After a flight eastward, the flight attendants felt very tired and slept 11 hours on average, but did not feel refreshed on waking up. On the following four days, they had more difficulties in falling asleep, suffered from restless sleep and also encountered difficulties in waking up. In addition, many had unpleasant dreams.

According to Suvanto, airlines have not made sufficient use of the mathematical models which help predict the need for sleep by people who are exposed to rapid time-zone transitions in their jobs. "Every country and every airline seems to have regulations of their own. Shift systems are based on experience and on flight attendants' subjective sensations rather than on researched data."

Naps help

Suvanto recommends naps for minimizing the fatigue and decline in alertness due to time-zone crossings. A short nap before a long flight and a nap during the flight prevent flight crews' fatigue. On the other hand, Suvanto does not recommend sleeping pills.

Reduced alertness, which is mainly experienced as fatigue, is a common problem among people who do night shifts. A study made of Helsinki bus drivers revealed that people who are able to sleep well in all kinds of conditions have fewer symptoms than light sleepers. Flexible sleeping habits are an asset for people who have to work at nights. Similar results were obtained in a study on deck crew's alertness and in one on bus, tram and metro drivers' health and sleep quality.

Light is another effective way to fight fatigue. It does not necessarily have to be natural light; exposure to any light brighter than normal room lighting helps the body to adjust to time-zone transitions. Bright light is also used to treat winter depression. Suvanto says that the length of day has a clear effect on the resynchronization of circadian rhythm: the longer the day, the faster flight attendants recover from jetlag.

Passengers can use the same methods as flight attendants to fight jetlag. "It does appear, however, that people whose jobs require them to fly a great deal find it easier to adjust to time differences."

Adrenaline increases operational capacity in emergencies

Flight attendants' work could not be called dangerous: flying is no more dangerous than road traffic. In fact, more accidents happen on the road than in the air. There is nevertheless room for improvement in the cabin crew's operational capacity in an in-flight emergency. "If there is an emergency during a flight, for instance owing to weather conditions, flight attendants do not have the best possible operational capacity if they suffer from jetlag and lack of sleep," Suvanto says. "Since this is a touchy question for the airlines, it is not shouted from the housetops."

When the body temperature falls, alertness also declines. A comparison between flight attendants' night-time and day-time alertness reveals a clear difference. In any job, the circadian rhythm reaches its ebb between two and six in the morning.

According to Suvanto, there is no reason to exaggerate the decline in flight attendants' operational capacity: in an emergency situation the body secretes adrenaline, and the shock effect improves alertness.

Long-term adverse effects subject to speculation

The flight attendants who took part in the study took a very positive view of cooperation with researchers. "Flight attendants are highly motivated. Who would take their temperatures every two hours for five days in a row and spit samples into a test tube just for pleasure, if they did not feel that they were contributing to important research?" Suvanto asks.

Women's night work has interested researchers in recent years, because night shifts represent a clear risk for women's health, well-being and fertility. A study on flight attendants' night work is a special challenge because they are also exposed to rapid time-zone transitions.

Suvanto emphasizes that since this was not a long-term follow-up study, the more profound effects of jetlag can only be speculated about. Other studies have found that 25-39 per cent of female flight attendants have some menstruation disorders. "All in all, flying is not too strenuous, if flight attendants are given enough time to rest between intercontinental flights."

Light treatment helps winter depression

When autumn comes, light diminishes and the day shortens, some people are in for the most depressing season. Apart from a depressed mood, the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include nervousness, decreased physical activity, difficulties in social contacts at home and at work and decreased libido. Eating habits also change: sufferers have an increased appetite for snacks and a craving for sweets and other carbohydrate-laden food. Sleep disturbances only add to the problems; sleep is troubled, waking up is difficult and daytime tiredness undermines work stamina.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) does not generally require hospitalization or lead to disability, but difficulties with sleep and other symptoms cause a substantial decline in the sufferer's efficiency and safety at work.

The best cure for winter depression is longer daylight, but in a country like Finland, one has to wait long into spring for that. Measures have, however, been taken to find a cure for seasonal depression, and bright light treatment appears to yield the best results.

In Finland people with recurrent SAD were identified for the first time by Timo Partonen in his doctoral dissertation, which was recently approved at the University of Helsinki. In his study "Seasonal affective disorder", Partonen claims that the disorder is less prevalent than has been assumed. Typically, the symptoms appear at the age of 20 to 30, but the sufferers often do not seek psychiatric care until the age of 40 to 45. Children have also been diagnosed as suffering from winter SAD; according to some estimates, about three per cent of young people between 9 and 19 have winter SAD.

Partonen studied winter depression in a female-dominated population in the south of Finland. Patients suffering from SAD and a healthy control group were treated with exposure to bright light of over 2,500 lux. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of daylight one inch inside a window on a bright spring day. The best results were obtained with bright light treatment given in the mornings over a period of one week or more.

Bright light significantly relieved the patients' symptoms. It proved an effective and well-tolerated cure for winter depression. Bright light treatment helped to shift the phase of alertness in the day/night rhythm in the anticipated direction, and to reduce the mean level of subjective sleepiness. Sleep quality also improved, although the treatment did not influence the amount or structure of sleep.

To date, the way in which the treatment works is largely unknown. The study did show, however, that there are some changes in the regulatory mechanisms of subjective sleepiness which explain why the symptoms were alleviated. The study did not support the original hypothesis that the effect of bright light treatment is based on the shift in the circadian rhythm or on the suppression of melatonin secretion.

Nina Korhonen

International Programmes: Health care quality improvement at the University of Helsinki

Quality improvement has become a popular concept in health care. In many countries, the importance of quality of care assessment has been emphasised. The need of functioning quality assurance mechanisms was emphasised in the Health for All (HFA) strategy. The methodology of quality of care improvement and assurance have been developed since the early 1950's.

The problem which becomes clearer and clearer seems to be the fact that despite extensive fluency in describing quality improvement, the actual skills in quality of care assessment and improvement seem to be lacking. This has created lucrative markets for consultant firms selling total quality management (TQM) or continuous quality improvement (CQI) tool packages to health services organizations.

Very few formal quality improvement training programmes can be found in universities internationally although the WHO, for instance, has recommended that training in quality assurance should be offered to all categories of health workers. In the interregional consultation held in Beijing in 1990, a recommendation was given to offer training programmes which would develop analytic thinking through broader research training and only then gradually move to quality assurance methodologies. This was considered necessary because of the obvious failure of direct quality assurance training courses.

Establishment of the programme in Helsinki

One of the few formal, postgraduate academic quality improvement programmes was established at the University of Helsinki in 1994.

The Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care has been one of the pioneers in the training of health professionals in management and quality of care assessment and improvement in Finland and in Europe.

Its first formal courses in quality assurance were offered in the early 1980's. During the last decade, the Department developed and tested a new multiprofessional team and problem-solving focused approach in its training activities. This experience and expertise was also recognized by the World Health Organization in the designation of the Department as a Collaborating Centre for the Development of Human Resources for Health and for Primary Health Care.

The international programmes

The Department has established two international multiprofessional postgraduate training programmes. The satisfactory completion of the programme will lead to: a Master's in Health Care Quality Improvement (MQI) or a Diploma in Health Care Quality Improvement (DQI). The Faculty of Medicine of the University has approved the pro- grammes and the titles.

The objectives

The courses are linked with real world problems in health care organizations or services. They offer managerial tools to facilitate change and improvement activities, suggesting methods through which the quality and effectiveness of services can be improved and the motivation of various health worker groups can be increased. The courses also offer tools for the assessment and improvement of clinical and other skills of physicians and other health care related personnel.


The core curriculum in quality improvement programmes consists of ten courses. Depending on his/her interest, the student may choose options to some of them to strengthen either the management or education element of his/her programme. The following courses are offerred during the academic year 1995-96:

1. Introduction to research in primary health care 2. Biostatistics I, 3. Primary health care, 4. Research and evaluation methods in health care, 5. Quality improvement in health care, 6. Medical informatics and its application to QI, 7. Management and leadership in health care, 8. International health, 9. Biostatistics II, 10. Ethics in health care, 11. Quality management information systems in primary health care, 12. Instructional process in adult education, 13. Communication and information technologies in education, 14. Effective health care management, 15. Human resource development.

Masters programme

In addition to the course work, the masters programme has a thesis requirement. This includes a research seminar entity, an individual study entity, and a thesis work entity. The candidates are required to submit a 10,000 word dissertation for which the participants can choose a variety of topics related to health and social services.

The total credit requirement for the masters programme is 60.0 Finnish credit units (90 European Community standard credits, ECTS). The duration of the programme is approximately 1.5 years if taken full time.

Part of the thesis work can be done in the country of origin of the participant.


The Diploma in health care quality improvement consists of 10 individual courses. The total credit requirement for the Diploma is 40.0 Finnish credit units (equal to 60 ECTS credits). The duration of the programme is one academic year (9 months) if taken full time.

Distance education

There is a possibility for distance education for many of the courses. This consists of written assignments, tutorials and evaluations. Methods of telecommunication available are, for example, telephone, telefax, letters, and e-mail. More sophisticated distance education possibilities are available depending on the equipment at the other end. If distance education modules (part time) are used, the duration of the programmes may be extended.


The following two groups of applicants are considered: 1. graduates of approved schools of medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine, 2. Individuals who are interested in health care or have previous experience in it and have at least a baccalaureate in fields such as nursing, business administration etc, or a degree in one of the sciences such as social sciences, nutrition, etc.


There is a tuition fee which at present is FIM 18,000 for the DQI and FIM 24,000 for the masters programme. 1 USD equals about 4.30 FIM.

The faculty

The faculty is international. The Department collaborates with a number of foreign universities including such universities as Johns Hopkins University and the University of Utah in the United States. New collaborative agreements have been made. Besides the Helsinki faculty, teachers in 1995-96 are coming from Johns Hopkins, Salt Lake City, Athens, Geneva, and Canada. In Europe, the Department collaborates with 5 foreign universities.

The language of instruction throughout the whole programme is English. Applications are taken continuously. The deadline for the new class starting in September is 30th June.

Further information and application kits are available on request from the Department. Address: University of Helsinki, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, Lääkärinkatu 8 F, FIN-00250 Helsinki, FINLAND. Telefax: + 358-0-434 6689.

The author is Pertti Kekki, M.D., Sc.D., Professor and Chairman, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki.

Young Estonian appointed to the first Finnish Professorship in Japanese

Twice a year, the University of Helsinki holds inauguration ceremonies for newly-elected professors. In their inaugural lectures which are open to the public, the new professors present their fields of study and and their work to the greater university community.

The Estonian Rein Raud, 33, holder of the Professorship in Japanese Language and Culture - the first in Finland - is no ordinary polyglot, but rather a natural-born linguistic genius. In addition to almost all of the European languages, he is also fluent in Japanese and Chinese. At a time when studying Japanese is becoming increasingly popular, the University of Helsinki has every reason to be proud of the newly-established chair and its newly-elected holder.

The flourishing trade with Asia and the dramatic fall in building contracts in the Near East have led to the fact that Japanese is today the most popular subject offered by the Department of Asian and African Studies. The vacant professorship aroused wide international interest, and in the end, Rein Raud from Estonia won over his fellow candidates from Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Japan.

An easy-going cosmopolitan, Raud has an established reputation as an author and translator in Estonia. He began his studies in Japanology in St. Petersburg, and last year completed his dissertation on classical Japanese literature at the University of Helsinki. Raud has been a visiting lecturer at the universities of Helsinki, Tampere, Stockholm, Hamburg, and, of course, at universities in Japan. He has also done research both in Oxford and Cambridge.

Finland and Japan close to each other

Raud chose Helsinki instead of the University of Tartu, because Helsinki is closer to Tallinn where his family live. Raud has a seven-year-old son who seems to take after his father in linguistic talent, and a one-year-old daughter.

Raud does not consider himself to be a linguistic genius; according to him, children can learn anything, and as a child he went to an English-language school, watched Finnish and Swedish TV and read German magazines.

Raud has a passion for language, and most of all, he loves his native tongue Estonian. Raud comes from a family of writers - his grandfather was also an author. "There is an inner force that draws me to books," he explains.

Raud finds that mentally, Finland and Japan are very close to each other. And they can also be said to be very close physically, as the flight from Helsinki to Tokyo only takes as long as the train ride from Helsinki to Oulu in Northern Finland!

In his inaugural lecture Raud drew attention to the uniqueness of Japan. "Japan is the only country in Asia that is considered Western in the political sense of the word. So far, it is the only economic power of global influence that speaks a non-Indo-European language with primarily a non-phonetic writing system," he points out.

According to Raud, the relationship of Japan to the other cultures of the world is paradoxical. On the one hand, the Japanese take it for granted that their culture has many borrowed elements, but on the other hand, one of the cornerstones of Japanese traditions is the assumption of the uniqueness of the Japanese. After all, their imperial family is of divine origin.

The chair in Japanese Language and Culture is an endowed professorship with a five-year contract. One of the sponsors is the Japanese Government.

The first thing Professor Raud intends to do is start developing teaching. Right from the beginning of their studies, future Japanologists will be expected to write essays, "so that they will develop the ability to think independently," Raud explains.

Raud aims to educate his students beyond their specific field. He stresses, for example, the fact that you cannot study Japanese culture without knowing Chinese culture.

Irma Stenbäck

This article was previously published in the daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

Precision farming brings individual treatment to the field

Traditional farming, where a field is normally given a uniform treatment in the form of fertilizers and chemicals, does not pay very much attention to local variations in soil, which may be quite significant even within a small area. Overdosing may cause severe environmental problems, besides being unwise from the economic point of view. The existing systems have in many ways proved unsatisfactory, and new solutions are being developed. A recent one, based on computer-aided local control, comes from the University of Helsinki.

Dr Hannu E. S. Haapala and his team from the Department of Agricultural Engineering and Household Technology have been working since 1989 on a new method called Position Dependent Control (PDC) of plant production. It takes into account the specific qualities of the various parts of the field and allows for individual and precise treatment of every spot.

The principle of precision farming is to use exact measurements as the basis of plant production. Local variations in soil, such as its texture and fertility, as well as the quality and quantity of the crop, are first measured by means of advanced techniques. The results are then stored in a computer database.

The information received in this way is utilized to plan the production process and to determine the optimum amounts of fertilizers and chemicals to be used. The system needs controllable machines for seeding, fertilization, spraying etc. that read their instructions from the memory card of a controller.

Position fixed information

A central component of the PDC, and precision farming in general, is the Geographical Information System (GIS), which stores and handles the locational data that has been collected. But the real clou of the method is Position Dependent Control, which adapts all control actions to local needs. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is utilized to determine the required coordinates.

The GPS is a satellite navigation system that gives positioning information 24 hours a day all over the world. It is based on a satellite network managed by the U.S. Department of Defense. A more advanced method is the Differential Global Positioning System, which uses a correction system calculated in three basic ways. In their studies, Haapala and his team came to the conclusion that the DGPS is accurate enough for practising PDC in most applications.

The field machines recognize their location by means of the DGPS and simultaneously receive instructions from the memory card for dosing a fertilizer or for spraying.

Exact analysis as a starting-point

In traditional farming, very few samples are taken of the soil and crop, giving a very rough estimate of their qualities but no information about the variations in the different areas of a field. Also previous studies of plant production have mostly given average results for the entire field.

When applying PDC to plant production, the whole process starts with analysing the present state and qualities of a field. Numerous samples are taken of the soil using various technical equipment, such as soil penetrating radar and sensors measuring its temperature and humidity. Also the status of the plants is analysed during the growing season, and the quality, quantity and variations of the crop are measured in various spots.

In the research, various methods were used to examine the field, such as photographing it from above on normal and infra-red film, or with a radiometer or video camera. The vital point in all measurements is to fix the information received to a specific location.

All the data received is stored in the database of the Geographical Information System (GIS), where it is used to calculate optimum control values for machines, such as tractors and combined drills, that do the spraying and fertilizing. Also exact data on the yield will be collected. Old data is continuously updated when new measurements are carried out and more recent and accurate information is available.

Environmental and economical targets

"To start with, PDC currently requires investments of about FIM 30,000 to 50,000", says Haapala and admits that the system is not every farmer's cup of tea. But it certainly could give new ideas to larger agricultural enterprises.

Haapala is convinced that Position Dependent Control has great possibilities both economically and environmentally. Why use too much fertilizer in spots where much less or none is needed? It only costs a lot but does not improve the yield. The surplus is finally flushed away into lakes and rivers, often causing huge environmental problems.

The project has also interested companies that produce GPS satellite navigation systems and control systems for field machines, and many of them also participated in the project. The new control system might offer promising economic prospects also for them. Other applications deal with various areas of local control.

The European future

The PDC project of the University, which was carried out in the University fields in Viikki, has so far been financed by the Academy of Finland and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, among others. Now that the system is being tested in practice in several larger pilot farms, funds from the EU are expected to further it.

Haapala also sees new possibilities for applying the system within the EU. For instance, the EU limits for using phosphorus are now the same everywhere independent of local variations, which certainly exist in different countries, not to speak of different fields. If Position Dependent Control of the field is available, local variations may be taken into account and the limits could be set accordingly.

Generally speaking, satellite navigation is not yet very widely used for agricultural purposes. Advanced applications are to be found in Germany and the USA, and in the USA some private farms use it e.g. for plant protection.

The dissertation by Hannu E. S. Haapala called Position Dependent Control (PDC) of plant production was presented at the University of Helsinki in July 1995.

Anna-Maija Gruber

Significant donations by the British Embassy

The British Ambassador, Mr David Burns, presented two significant donations to the University of Helsinki in November. The donations, worth some FIM 125,000, are being funded by the Foreign Office in London under a Scheme which enables British Embassies to work with organisations in their host country to establish jointly funded projects in areas of mutual interest.

Ambassador Burns is keen for Finland and the UK to establish joint cooperation projects over a wide range of issues. "Relations between Britain and Finland have never been closer. Academic links are particularly strong. The British Council has played a major part in developing these. The Council's Helsinki Office was established exactly 50 years ago. The Ceremony on the 17th of November 1995 was intentionally timed to coincide with the Anniversary. The donations are designed to intensify bilateral links still further. We have intentionally chosen academic fields in which we know there is considerable demand from Finnish students". The recipients of the donations were the Renvall Institute and the Faculty of Law.

Book donation to the Renvall Institute

The British Government is working hard to promote the study of all aspects of life in the UK at universities overseas. Finland is at the forefront. The donation comprises some 400 books, worth around FIM 80,000. It will form the core of the Reference Library which will support the British and Irish Studies Programme. The books will significantly enrich the selection of literature available not only to those participating in the Programme, but also to others with an interest in this field.

The Programme is designed to acquaint students with such issues as geography, languages, societies and cultures of the British Isles. It was launced last Autumn, and is open to all students of the University of Helsinki. The level of interest has been strikingly high. 120 students have already registred, and others are expected to follow suit.

Faculty of Law - a course on European Law

European Law is an increasingly important issue. Shortly after Finland's Accession to the EU on 1 January 1995, the British Embassy invited the Faculty of Law to cooperate with them in establishing a course on European Law. As a result, the Embassy and the Faculty will jointly fund a course entitled "Internal and External Aspects of the European Legal Order" during the academic year 1996-97. The course will comprise approximately 100 hours of teaching and seminar work, which will be conducted by Finnish and British experts. It will be divided into two parts, a series of lectures considering the internal problems of the European leagal order and a symposium on external relations and security policy. Students taking part will be primarily those nearing the completion of their masters degree or those conducting post graduate research. The British contribution will be some FIM 45,000.

Pertti Salminen defends his doctorate on Finnish security policy during the Cold War

”-The military were often at odds with Urho Kekkonen, and criticized his political decisions. This annoyed the President, who repeatedly voiced his displeasure.” The words of Lieutenant-Colonel Pertti Salminen on Finland in the 1960s. Salminen recently defended his doctorate on Finnish security policy during the Cold War at the University of Helsinki. As a professional soldier, Salminen adopted the military viewpoint as his approach.

”The Soviet Union made advances to Finland almost right through the Cold War. The situation in Finland was dichotomous; the political leadership tried to fend off Soviet advances using a softly-softly approach while the military tried to build up an arms deterrent” says Lieutenant-Colonel Pertti Salminen, on Finnish-Soviet relations in the 1960s. Salminen defended his doctorate on Finnish security policy during the Cold War at the University of Helsinki.

Salminen’s doctorate focuses on the 1961-1966 period. He approached his subject from the viewpoint of the military leadership.

According to Salminen, the situation in the 1960s was a real problem for the military leadership. The defence forces felt that materiel resources were poor and needed to be improved if Finland was to avert Soviet calls for consultations under the terms of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.

To the annoyance of the military, however, the political leadership took a different view on how to solve the problem. President Urho Kekkonen wanted to invest the government’s meagre funds in social welfare rather than arms.

Kekkonen’s idea was that the best way to rebuff Soviet passes would be to keep the Communists who constantly criticized the Finnish social system quiet.

”The military were often at odds with Kekkonen, and criticized his political decisions. This annoyed the President, who repeatedly voiced his displeasure,” says Salminen.

Soviets careful in provoking the West

If the country’s political and military leaders took a different line, this was also true in the Soviet Union. For the Soviet military leadership, the Finnish-Soviet Treaty was purely military, claims Pertti Salminen. The political leadership, on the other hand, were more ready to accept Kekkonen’s evasion tactics.

”The Soviet military wanted to reinforce their agreement with every means at hand. They wanted joint military exercises and training cooperation, which was naturally unacceptable to Finland. ”

”The Finnish leadership adopted a softly-softly approach. We made concessions on less significant issues - for example, sports, cultural and educational exchanges - if it meant avoiding major concessions such as joint military exercises.”

Pertti Salminen admits that Finland could not have averted the Soviet approaches only by pursuing this policy, however expertly. Finland’s eastern neighbour was careful not to provoke the West too much, and this, too, worked to Finland’s advantage.

”The Soviet Union did not at the time have the means to respond to the West’s nuclear arms threat. If the situation had deteriorated into a nuclear war, the Soviet Union would not have fared too well. It made every effort to reinforce the Finnish-Soviet Treaty and its relations with Finland, but without provoking the West too much.”

Arms bought from the east for lack of money

The Finnish military leadership used the Soviet fear of a major war to its advantage in building up the national defences in the ‘60s. A regional defence system was approved in 1966, aimed at protecting key targets and prolonging any hostilities in such a way that they would threaten to escalate into a major war.

However, building up Finland’s defences was problematic for the military leadership. They needed more materiel, particularly from the West, but as there was no money, arms had to be bought on credit from the Soviet Union.

Arms purchases were necessary to convince the Soviet Union that Finland would be able to repel a military advance through Finland from the West.

Naturally, the USSR capitalized on arms deals for propaganda purposes and liked to give the West the idea that Finnish-Soviet cooperation went much deeper than was actually the case. The Soviet Union let it be understood that Finland was within its sphere of influence.

Note crisis discredits Finland in the West

Pertti Salminen argues that the Soviet Union’s attempts to woo Finland varied, depending on the international situation. When the atmosphere became strained, the Soviet Union intensified its proposals. Soviet military leaders and various other delegations visited Finland constantly.

The credibility of Finnish defence policy suffered its worst knock in the West during the 1961 note crisis. Western interpretation of Kekkonen’s visit to Novosibirsk was that Finland had agreed on closer cooperation with the Soviet Union.

”The defence forces were in a strange situation. The West wanted to support them, but its trust in the President and the country’s foreign policy had been shaken,” says Pertti Salminen.

Salminen does not believe that Urho Kekkonen ”ordered” the note to bolster his own position. What Finland’s eastern neighbour wanted was to ensure through the note that Finnish foreign policy - with Kekkonen as its best guarantor - would remain unchanged.

Diaries of military personnel used as a source

Pertti Salminen used diaries of Finnish soldiers and related documents from the ‘60s as source material for his doctoral thesis.

”Originally, the thesis should have covered the period up to 1981, but this was not possible because a lot of the relevant material was secret and could not be published. And I didn’t want to go into operational matters, as they were still in effect.”

Salminen says that his thesis seeks to discover the roots of Finnish foreign policy, the foundation on which the future can be planned. The writer has already had requests for a sequel to his dissertation.

”Yes, there are such expectations. Proposals have been made to the leadership of the defence forces that the whole Cold War period should be studied, but this is problematical. If it were possible to find sources on later periods, they couldn’t be used yet.”

Although professional soldiers need to consider all the possible alternatives for the future, Pertti Salminen is careful when he lists the threats that may face Finland.

”We should, for instance, be prepared to face the fact that the encouraging developments now going on in Russia may not continue, however much we hope they will.”

Military life took Salminen round Finland and the world

Pertti Salminen, aged 41, who has lived in Lammi in Southern Finland for six years with his family, got into the army ”through the normal vocational guidance channels”. After doing his national service, Salminen stayed on in the Häme cavalry battalion and, after a year as a junior commissioned officer, entered the Cadet College.

During his college years, Salminen also began to study social science at the University of Helsinki.

Salminen’s military career took off after he completed his officer’s training and started work as an instructor in the light infantry battalion’s non-commissioned reserve officers’ school. After five years, he took up a post at the Cadet College as a platoon and course leader.

Ten years ago, Salminen moved on to the War College on a staff officers’ course. After completing this course, he chose to be stationed at the Rauma military district headquarters in Oulainen.

In 1989, Pertti Salminen became involved in the Namibian independence process. Having only just moved to Lammi from Ostrobothnia, the now Major Salminen worked as a planning officer at the international staff headquarters, compiling, for instance, troop grouping plans and operational orders.

”For instance, I was in charge of providing military protection for refugees. There were no major hassles, though life in the tribal areas was rather wild at times,” reminisces Salminen about his assignment.

Salminen was stationed in Namibia for 15 months. His family stayed with him for four months and his eldest daughter started school in Africa.

On returning to Finland, Pertti Salminen became an instructor at the War College up to three years ago, when he was appointed a research officer.

At the time of his appointment, the War College launched a project under which four officers were trained to meet the needs of the new National Defence College.

These officers, of whom Salminen is one, will complete doctorates in different faculties and then return to the College. Salminen’s present and perhaps also future posting is the strategy unit.

”I’ve been studying in the Department of Political History of the University of Helsinki, trying to seek the roots of Finnish security policy in an attempt to foresee the future. ”

”One of the four of us is doing his doctorate on the history of tactics and will probably eventually work at the school of tactical studies. The remaining two are at Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration and will eventually be in charge of administration and management.”

At the beginning of October Pertti Salminen was promoted to lieutenant-colonel.

He is now stationed with the Pori brigade in Säkylä, where he took over the duties of Turku battalion commander in early March. The move to Säkylä also inevitably meant a move for the six-member Salminen family. A soldier goes where he is ordered to go.

Vesa Käiväräinen The article was earlier published in Keski-Häme newspaper.

Aging - win some, lose some

The aging process starts as soon as adolescence is over. The many biological and psychological clocks of our body and mind keep ticking away. Gerontologists like to point out that advancing years bring many benefits, too.

The evolution of the species required Homo sapiens to survive only until the young ones left the nest. According to current thinking, the best age is 35-36, from then on it's downhill at gathering speed. Those who have retired at sixty-five are classified as elderly although many of the recently retired don't feel old at all. Age discrimination is hitting younger and younger people, particularly in the labour market, where even forty-year-olds are now being ousted and replaced by those in their twenties and thirties. Some firms openly advertise jobs for applicants under thirty-five only. However, there are no scientific grounds for such discrimination, say the gerontologists, or researchers of aging.

"Intelligence consists of many different, both innate and acquired talents, motor skills and speed. The various aspects of intelligence age at different rates. Generally speaking, skills requiring sensory accuracy and speed age sooner than acquired abilities, accumulation of wisdom and special expertise," explains Liisa Hakamies-Blomqvist, a gerapsychologist.

"The type of intelligence that we need to get by from day to day ages very late. It is actually questionable if it ages at all in a normal aging process.

Strengths and weaknesses of aging

Gerontology is the multidisciplinary study of aging and associated phenomena, while geriatrics is the branch of medical science concerned with the treatment of diseases affecting elderly people. A unit of geriatrics was founded at the Helsinki University Central Hospital in 1986.

In the demographically aging western industrialized countries, including Finland, gerontology is a rapidly expanding area of scientific study. As a science, gerontology is a product of the 20th century, although aging has always interested people.

According to Liisa Hakamies-Blomqvist cognitive gero-psychology focuses on the effect of aging on people's powers of thought, memory and language. A normal process of aging shows what are the typical changes. The performance of many concrete, forced-rate cognitive functions declines, as does the performance of more than one function at the same time.

"Presenting such results may sound discriminatory, but there is another side to the story. As gerontologists, we don't only look for weaknesses but also for strengths that remain unaffected by old age. These include overall knowledge and linguistic ability, the so-called crystallized abilities. We can build different functional environments and ideas around our areas of strength and use them to compensate for our declining skills.

Compensation studies show that when the typing speed of aging typists declines, they can adopt a new strategy to read and follow the text and thus maintain their performance level.

Studies of elderly people sometimes reveal rather shocking truths. In continental Europe a considerable number of old people never leave their homes because it is too difficult. There are no lifts, the staircases are too steep, and pavements, if they exist, bumpy. Unexpected events may have tragic consequences for the lives of the elderly. The strict housing standards and other regulations in Finnish community planning help eliminate such problems.

"Attitudes towards the elderly in environmental planning leave much to be desired. In hard times, decisions favour the majority population, even though our awareness of the problems have improved. Today, the elderly form a large and still growing group of decision makers, voters and consumers, so there's a good chance that further progress will be made," Hakamies-Blomqvist believes.

The business world has also woken up to the opportunities in the field of products catering to the elderly. Product labels, for instance, are often printed in such small print as to be almost illegible. In England, for instance, the 'silver panel' consisting of thousands of elderly consumers tests products and awards age-friendly products a special label. Studies have also been conducted in America on how to display the instructions on medicine packaging to help elderly people take the correct medication at the right time.

Better behind a wheel than on a moped

At its best, gerontological research may quite promptly influence society on a practical level. According to studies by Liisa Hakamies-Blomqvist, the risk presented by aging drivers is not as serious as had been feared. The procedure for renewing one's driving licence would be unnecessarily expensive and awkward for the elderly, and no justification could be found for the stringent control proposed. The bill, which had been scheduled for debate in Parliament, was returned for more detailed analysis.

Complicated junctions are particularly difficult for elderly drivers, because they require a number of actions to be performed fast and simultaneously. Despite this fact, the elderly are underrepresented in many types of accident. In fact, aging seems to improve traffic safety. The elderly take no risks, an octogenarian gentleman rarely accelerates in a bend to impress his girlfriend, a typical cause of fatal accidents among young male drivers. In addition to having learnt to avoid difficult driving conditions, the elderly have also learnt how to act appropriately in them.

The renewal of driving licences for the elderly is exceptionally tightly controlled in Finland. Many old people give up their licences because they think the renewal process is too awkward and expensive. In Sweden, there are no medical examinations or restrictions attached to renewal. Demographically, the Finnish group of elderly drivers are not involved in any fewer accidents than the Swedes, so the strict Finnish system seems to offer no advantages. On the other hand, twice as many elderly people die in bicycle and pedestrian traffic accidents in Finland than in Sweden.

"If our strict system forces our elderly population from behind the wheel and to the streets as pedestrians and cyclists, we are in fact making traffic less safe. We must understand that the elderly are a large and heterogeneous group. A normal elderly person may be the world's safest driver, and the statistical risks are perhaps caused by the few who suffer from dementia," says Hakamies-Blomqvist.

Time to act

'Old age' is often associated with illness. Many old people do in fact have several serious concurrent illnesses, which makes planning the treatment difficult.

"We should consider whether the minor symptoms of aging people require treatment, whether they will benefit from such treatment and how well they will tolerate it. At times, the results are surprising. The elderly may tolerate treatment well and, in absolute terms, even benefit more from it than the young. Even a small improvement in the situation may be significant," says Reijo Tilvis, Professor of geriatrics at the Helsinki University Central Hospital.

A key element in research today consists of determining the benefits of various treatments and the optimal results of care.

"The care philosophy of the elderly should be based on establishing as early as possible, and with sufficiently thoroughness, whether there is a treatable illness behind the symptoms. Today we often wait too long, passing up the opportunity to treat the patient before it's too late," Tilvis criticizes.

In Tilvis's view it is vital for society to study to what extent old-age decrepitude can be prevented by other methods besides treating the illnesses behind it.

Doctors are often accused of treating old age as an illness. The problems in studying changes caused by aging is that normal and pathological aging are difficult to separate from each other. If we compare people from different age groups, the older groups always include people whose illnesses are masked as old age and whose functionality has been impaired by illness.

"The aging process can be studied only by the long-term monitoring of people who are well," says Tilvis.

How to live to a ripe old age

The average age of the population is primarily affected by birth and child mortality rates, while the general improvement in life expectancy is affected by some quite unexpected chains of cause and effect. When refrigerators became common, the need to preserve food with salt became unnecessary, which clearly lengthened life expectancy.

"Surprisingly enough, all the toxic substances put in the fields, the hormones fed to animals, and the additives used in foods have merely served to prolong our life expectancy. The preservatives in foodstuffs may 'preserve' people, too, by preventing tissues from going rancid. The life expectancy of Finns will rise still further if salt consumption continues to decline. It will take time before environmental toxins start cutting down life expectancy in Finland," says Tilvis.

Why do people age? The answer is in the genes. The capacity of cells to use energy and convert it into oxygen lessens with age. The harder our life, the faster the damage to the mitochondria, the 'powerhouse' of the cells. There is hardly anything we can do to slow down the aging process; what we can do is speed it up. For example, radioactive radiation and many illnesses, such as diabetes, increase or damage the functioning of the mitochondria and speed up aging.

The annual change in normal primary aging is one per cent. After people have lost a certain percentage of their functions and immune system, they may fall ill, which accelerates secondary aging by impairing functions.

How could one live to a ripe old age and stay healthy? The doctor's advice is cold comfort.

"First of all, you need good genes. Secondly, you need to be very lucky. These with good genes and luck can live to be eighty or ninety if they have decided to live long, that is, are suitably active and eat healthy food, and not too much of it. One should always go a little hungry. Only those who are exceptionally lucky can live to be more than a hundred: the probability is 1/15,000.

According to Tilvis aging is affected by a very large number of genes. Hundred-year-olds have 'good' Apo E2 genes three times as often, and 'bad' Apo E4 genes twice less often than the younger age groups. The Apo E4 gene carries an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

"We must, however, be realistic about the effect of genes. Although the E4 gene reduces our chances to live to be a hundred by half, in practice this means a chance of 1/30,000 compared with 1/15,000," says Tilvis.


After a long and hard life at work, previous generations just wanted to relax and enjoy retirement. Changes in working life and attitudes have replaced this ideal by one of an active old age. Hakamies-Blomqvist warns us against making worn-out old people feel guilty.

"We should not go too far in our idealization of the active type of old age. People must be allowed to go for the rocking chair if that is their preference. What I think is important to the elderly are mobility and access to all the services they need," says Hakamies-Blomqvist.

When a person falls ill he asks "why me?"

"In everyday nursing nothing is as bad as making the patient feel guilty, which nobody of course does on purpose," says Tilvis.

There has been much talk about self-inflicted illnesses. Even those who have suffered cardiac arrest are sometimes blamed for having failed in their choice of lifestyle.

"I have the distinct feeling that at the back of the recent heavy retrenchment in our health care system is the idea of illnesses in general being self-inflicted, although no-one has said so aloud," says Tilvis.

Life can have a purpose for the old, too

Is there any point in dreaming about living to a very old age; what about the quality of life?

"What is the purpose of life? We asked all those who took part in our studies how they saw their own life. Of those over a hundred one in three felt that life had a purpose, one third believed that God had forsaken them. Up to the age of eighty, all who were healthy felt their life definitely had a purpose. Often, too, old people saw their lives in a much more positive light than outsiders. The number of symptoms felt by people does not increase with age," says Reijo Tilvis.

The varied responses obtained by Tilvis's research team when they asked the centenarians about the secret of long life had one common denominator, the respondents' trust in their own attitude to life.

"Everywhere in the world those who live to be a hundred include people who are 'self-made' in one way or another. They may have lived in one and the same apartment all their lives, or travelled round the world. What they all share is that they have lived rather self-centred lives and retained their peace of mind".

What is the gerontologists' attitude to their own aging then?

"Cool, calm and collected," claims Reijo Tilvis and hopes he'll have the luck it takes.

"I'm not worried about getting old, in fact, I find the idea rather appealing. I have many charming old relatives and I am fascinated by their wise disregard for other people's opinions," says Liisa Hakamies-Blomqvist.

Pauliina Susi

Third-age universities - where science and experience meet

Social transition has created a new group of older people: they are healthier and economically independent, and they want to keep up with the times. After childhood and adulthood comes the 'third age', an active period before people become dependent on others. For these senior citizens, the university of the third age offers up-to-date research findings with academic methods. In their feedback, students always praise the high standard of teaching.

The idea for a university of the third age was first conceived at the University of Toulouse in France in the 1970s. From there, it spread all over the world in varying forms. In Finland, the idea was first applied by the universities of Jyväskylä and Helsinki, in 1985. Ten years later, it has spread all over the country.

At the University of Helsinki, the Lahti Research and Education Centre arranges third-age university instruction in cooperation with adult education centres and care institutes.

Third-age universities give concrete meaning to the right to lifelong learning. The ability to learn is preserved all through life, though the forms of learning may change. The listeners at third-age lectures are not there for credits. They come there for their own pleasure, to find information, and to learn. The mission of the university of the third age is not only to offer opportunities for study but also to give new meaning to old age and to change people's lifestyles. The university of the third age can help older people to remain intellectually alert and physically fit for as long as possible, and enable them to live their lives to the fullest.

Staying intellectually active and enhancing the quality of life is one motivation for third-age studies; another is the desire to understand the surrounding world. Students are especially interested in topical international events. The most popular form of study is a discursive multidisciplinary lecture. Students attend lectures to get background information in order to understand the changes taking place in the world. Lectures may also deal with the prerequisites for life, future studies and spiritual matters. 'Environmental issues' and 'natural wonders' have proved to be really popular subjects. A series of lectures may be designed around a single word, such as light, the sea or dance.

Group work, especially, has shown that old people want to pass on their experience and knowledge to benefit the whole community. The university of the third age can act as one channel for putting this resource to good use.

Third-age universities run a diverse and multidisciplinary research seminar during which all students draw up a personal study plan. The aims vary from collecting material for another study project to students' own publications. The students' highly motivated approach has surprised all the instructors.

Telework and information technology

The education supplied by third-age universities has also been extended to those who are not able to take part in regular lectures for reasons of health or long distances. Recorded lectures by experts in their own field on related themes form the basis. The information acquired from such recordings is given added depth by discussions in small groups led by stimulating tutors, and lecture-related additional study material. This material is also suitable for use by ex-patriate Finns, e.g. in Toronto, where third-age university students have established their own study circles.

The new technology offers elderly people new challenges and interests. Third-age universities arrange computer courses in word processing and the use of E-mail and the Internet. As not all participants have a personal computer of their own, there is a need for work stations available to the public. The first 'IkiNetti' has now been opened for the elderly. The students can try out and practise what they have learnt during the courses. All the computer courses are filled in no time at all. One text-processing course will take place at an old people's home in Lohja.

The teaching will be planned jointly with the students so that the elderly can themselves influence the content and running of their courses. Encouragement of personal initiative and the quality of its different modes of operation is a continuous challenge to the third-age university.

Helky Ahokas

Medical education in top shape

The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Helsinki is among the ten centres of excellence in teaching nominated by the Council for Higher Education of the Finnish Ministry of Education for the year 1997-98. The Council chose the top teaching units from a list of proposals drawn up by the students unions and rectors of Finnish universities.

The main reason for the nomination is that the Faculty has recently carried out a successful reform of the study system. During the past one and a half years, the reform has produced new effective methods of study and teaching.

The reform focusses on the integration of teaching in the basic sciences, patient contacts in the early phases of study and on improving teaching methods in medical skills and doctor-patient relationships. Last autumn a group of students began their studies in a parallel track with problem-based learning as a starting point. The reform also includes an efficient system of collecting student feed-back and pedagogical training for teachers. A similar reform has just been launched for the degree programme in Dentistry.

In the University newsletter Yliopisto (4/95), the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Kari Raivio, described the state of medical education before the reform in the following manner:" Compared to other basic degrees in other faculties, the basic degree in medicine has been the most rigorously and narrowly structured. The students have been given a detailed schedule for the whole of 240 credit units, and they have been pushed through the study system with almost 100% efficiency. The volume of the subjects taught has grown uncontrollably, knowledge has been offered to the students in fragments, and not everybody has been able to put the pieces together. Teaching has been based on state-of-the-art research, but the forms and methods used have been a far cry from academic instruction."

Cooperation between disciplines

The whole intake of students in the autumn of 1994 began their studies according to the new system. For the first two years of study, students of Medicine and Dentistry follow a joint study programme based on an integrated curriculum instead of the previous department-specific study programmes. This means that there has been a significant increase in cooperation between disciplines. Also, activating teaching methods are gaining ground while the number of ordinary lectures have been cut down.

The new system of study places special emphasis on courses dealing with the physician's attitude towards the patient and the patient's point of view; the aim is to develop the students' interactive skills.

Ms. Rita Wickholm, Student Affairs Secretary of the Faculty of Medicine, explains that the human factor occupies a central role in the new medical education, for students have to take these courses for several years.

A year ago the Faculty undertook plans to revise the degree programme in Medicine from the third year onwards. The starting point is to create larger course entities and alleviate unnecessary overlapping.

Crucial importance of staff development

The reform set a priority on the contents, methods and planning of teaching. In the filling of teaching posts, greater emphasis continues to be placed on teaching merits; three vacancies have already been filled on the basis of teaching experience and the planning of teaching.

A staff development course has been especially designed for the Faculty of Medicine. In this course teachers make a committment to the interactive planning and development of teaching.

"The demand for training has so far been greater than what we have been able to offer. The Faculty of Medicine staff development course is organized once a year. Some of our teachers have also taken the course on staff development designed for all teaching personnel at the University of Helsinki. At the moment about ten per cent of our teachers have taken some kind of a course in staff development," Ms. Wickholm tells.

A number of teachers have also participated in international training courses in medical pedagogics. The success of the parallel track of problem-based learning demands further training of the teachers. So far, twenty academic advisors have received training in the methods of problem-based learning. Last spring, the Faculty organized its first own training course in problem-based learning in cooperation with Linköping University in Sweden. Sixteen teachers from the Faculty of Medicine in Helsinki and two teachers from the Faculty of Medicine in Tampere took part in this course. This winter the Faculty has organized one course in problem-based learning with instructors from McMaster University in Canada and ??? of Maastricht. (Maastrictissa ei tarkistamieni lähteiden mukaan ole muuta opinahjoa kuin Maastricht School of Management, joka ei ole yliopisto?)

The evaluation of teaching has also been under systematic development. Part of the financial resources in the Faculty have been distributed on the basis of the results of student feed- back and the development of teaching. In addition, every year the students choose the recipients of the distinguished teaching award, worth FIM 10,000 (granted by the Faculty). Last year the award was given to Senior Lecturer Paula Maasilta from the Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Associate Professor Kimmo Kontula from the Unit for Internal Medicine. In Dentistry, the distinguished teaching award went to Dr. Markus Haapasalo from the Division of Cariology.

The Faculty Student Affairs Office systematically collects and analyses the student feed-back data from the departments. Last year ten courses each received a bonus of FIM 40,000. According to Rita Wickholm the system of rewarding courses and departments on the basis of student feed-back has clearly raised the level and status of teaching during the last two years.

The parallel track an independent entity

The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Helsinki is the first European faculty to have created a parallel track of studies to complement the traditional medical education. The planning of the problem-based teaching programme involved intense international cooperation: the Faculty received valuable information from Harvard, McMaster and Linköping Universities and from Maastricht.

The emphasis has shifted from teaching to supporting learning. The teaching programme includes various activating methods that emphasize two things: the development of the ability to gather information independently and the student's responsibility for his or her own studies.

The primary method of teaching is tutorials held by academic advisors. The fourteen students on the parallel track meet their advisor two or three times a week. Acting senior lecturer of medical chemistry, Ms. Johanna Kaartinen, explains the duties of an academic advisor: "The advisor should steer the student in the right direction and take a genuine interest in the opinions and problems of the student. As the name applies, the duties rather entail giving advice than teaching."

According to Johanna Kaartinen there is a world of difference between teaching the parallel track and the traditional courses. On the parallel track the students themselves carry the responsibility for their studies and do a great deal of independent research. In practice this means that in class, it is not the academic advisor who does all the talking.

Ms. Kaartinen finds that one of the many positive aspects of problem-based teaching is that in a group of fourteen students even the teacher can learn to know everyone. She continues: "I would have liked to study in a group like this. Students really do learn in this way. Of course it is difficult to say how well the system would work if the whole intake, 120 students, would study according to the same methods."

Despite the many prejudices that the parallel track seems to be raising, the students sing the praises of their programme of study which they find motivating, and allthough it involves a great amount of independent work, not too heavy. They are also very happy with the two classrooms assigned especially for their group. In addition to the inviting aroma of coffee, one is taken in by the home-like atmosphere of the classrooms.

Pia Koivisto

What is Apaja?

The Lahti Research and Training Centre at the University of Helsinki has developed a new kind of service for university graduates and academic jobseekers to help them gain access to the labour market.

The basic idea is to provide individualized programmes, where the learners can themselves choose suitable combinations according to their own needs and interests. The idea of an 'open learning environment' lies behind this 'Apaja' service centre, ie. the basic idea is to create a flexible and open learning environment which will help academic jobseekers to create individualized study plans, where the students themselves choose the courses that support their career plans. There is tutoring and career counselling available, if needed. The basic modules and services in 'Apaja' are

Apaja provides individual tutoring and counselling. After career counselling the learners can choose the modules they need from a selection of courses and services, and follow their individual study programme. Apaja is funded by the Ministry of Education, and the services are free of charge for those who are unemployed academic jobseekers or in threatened job positions.

Information (in Finnish) is also available at http://frodo.lpt.fi/apaja

The Recruitment Service of the University of Helsinki

The University of Helsinki has established a Recruitment Service, which is creating new networks between the University, its students, and employers.

The purpose of the Recruitment Service is, above all, to help the transition of graduating and full-time post-graduate students from university to work and to improve the students' chances of finding satisfactory employment. So the main target of the Service is the students who are about to finish their studies.

In order to achieve its goals, the Recruitment Service has created a student database, organized various courses for students and events where they can meet employers, as well as developed cooperation and increased discussion inside the University.