International conference for bi- and multilingual universities

University staff and researchers will gather in Helsinki from the first to the third of September.

The University of Helsinki is organizing a conference for bi- and multilingual universities. “The purpose of the conference is to discuss the unique problems of multilingual universities, but also the advantages and opportunities of having two or more languages," says Vice Rector Thomas Wilhelmsson from the University of Helsinki.

A similar conference was organised in Friburg, Switzerland, two years ago, and it was there that the idea of Helsinki hosting the next conference came up. “The participants will mainly be from university management, researchers in multilingualism and those involved in curriculum planning,” says Wilhelmsson.

Registrations have already arrived, from both Europe and countries further afield such as South Africa and South Korea. The invited speakers include many well-known names, such as EU Commissioner Jan Figel.

The list of participants is, in other words, full of diversity. People’s experiences of multilingualism are also greatly diverse. In some countries, the system works well, and in others, it does not. “But we all share the great challenge that rapid globalisation has introduced, to maintain linguistic diversity at home, while simultaneously setting up English-language study programmes,” says Wilhelmsson.

One topic to be discussed at the conference is the ‘Bologna Process’, which aims at increasing the international mobility of students. “It can have a negative effect by favouring English over other languages, but it also provides new opportunities,” Wilhelmsson says. ”One example is the new, multidisciplinary Master’s programme in Swedish Culture and Communication to be launched at the University of Helsinki.”

More information about the conference programme and instructions for registration are available on the conference web site.

Text: Johanna Blomqvist
Photo: Esko Roine
7.3.2004
www.helsinki.fi/verkkotoimitus

Translation: Valtasana Oy

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