Wilhelmsson: The university must bear its social responsibility

In the opening speech of the academic year, Rector Thomas Wilhelmsson addressed the linkages between the university and the business sector, and encouraged students to graduate faster than they now do.

Wilhelmsson: The university must bear its social responsibility

The university strategy, condensed into the phrase reaching out to the top and society highlighted the university’s social responsibility as the leading theme in the opening speech.

- It is clear that a high-profile university must bear its social responsibility, says Wilhelmsson.

According to Wilhelmsson, the university can bear its responsibility only if it maintains active relations and dialogue with the surrounding society.

- Also in this regard, the university aims to develop further, says Wilhelmsson.

Wilhelmsson admits that experiences have shown that the university’s interaction and connections with business sector management need to be improved. It is a difficult situation since there is only a small number of university alumni in leading positions in the business sector.

- As such, this is no surprise: the group of leaders mainly consists of those with degrees in engineering or economics, says Wilhelmsson.

- In other countries, the education background of corporate executives is considerably more diverse than in Finland. Is this only caused by business sector traditions or should the university take a critical look in the mirror? asks Wilhelmsson.

The aim is to promote dialogue with the business sector by initiating discussion between alumni groups and faculties. Through the critical friends experiment, launched as a cooperative effort by the university and the alumni association, faculties can obtain information for their curriculum planning about the skills employers expect recent graduates to possess.

- It is important to establish a connection between working life and studies. This connection should encourage students to study and graduate. The rather slow pace of study completion and poor graduation rate of students are a major cause for concern for the university, both in regard to social responsibility and the sufficiency of the university’s basic funding, which is bound to the number of degrees obtained.

The concern is topical, since the number of graduates has decreased after the peak in the number of degrees obtained as a result of the Bologna reform. Wilhelmsson hopes that students who are near graduation would finish their studies during the autumn.

- The university and faculties are providing a variety of special offers in order to support a successful effort.

The opening ceremony for the academic year was celebrated yesterday in the traditional way. Videos from the opening festivities can also be viewed later on the YouTube channel of the University of Helsinki.

Text: Terttu Nurro & Tuomo-Pekka Arhi
Photo: Ari Aalto
7.9.2010
Translation: AAC Global
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