Pauliine Koskelo is the University of Helsinki Alumna of the Year

Pauliine Koskelo believes that alumni can help keep public debate analytical, open-minded and civilised.

The Alumni Association of the University of Helsinki has named Pauliine Koskelo as Alumna of the Year 2017. Koskelo is a judge at the European Court of Human Rights and previously served as president of the Finnish Supreme Court.

The alumnus or alumna of the year serves as a goodwill ambassador for the University of Helsinki. The title is awarded annually to an individual who has supported the mission and vision of the University of Helsinki, advocated esteem for academic education and promoted the academic spirit of Helsinki.

“It’s great that Finnish universities have established more alumni activities. They provide a means to strengthen interaction between universities and those who have left the academic world to serve in other positions in the wider community and the world of work,” says Pauliine Koskelo from her office in Strasbourg.

Koskelo has previously served on the Board of the Alumni Association. During her term as the Association’s chair, in 2009, internationally renowned economist Bengt Holmström was named as Alumnus of the Year.

According to Koskelo, one of the duties of universities in a democratic society is to ensure that public debate remains informed and diverse:

“Interaction between the academic community and those outside it is important. The significance of education has only increased, and we have repeatedly seen what happens when people are well-versed in a narrow field of expertise, but have no wider understanding of what is going on in society. General education is extremely important, and dialogue can promote it."

Koskelo believes that alumni can help foster a culture that strives towards open-minded, analytical and civilised public debate.

Engineering or law?

After graduating from upper secondary school, Pauliine Koskelo could not decide whether to strive for a career in engineering or law. Having excelled in the entrance examination, she decided to begin her studies at the Faculty of Law.

“I thought that a law degree would provide a wide range of opportunities. People sometimes say that a law degree is a way to delay having to decide on one’s career because it is such an extensive degree. And it’s true that it is useful for a wide variety of jobs.”

Koskelo remembers her studies as a “hugely important period”.

“The University of Helsinki is a large university and allows its students to educate themselves in fields beyond their own discipline. Students should not only specialise in their own field, but also seek as broad an education as possible through various discussions, contacts and meetings.”

At the final stage of her legal studies, Koskelo completed a civil service traineeship at the Ministry of Justice and was later employed there. She considered legislative drafting interesting and found it natural to combine studies with work in her field.

“Legal literature ensures that those of us working outside universities retain a close connection to the academic world, at least on an intellectual level. It is also extremely important that universities foster interaction between researchers and those working outside academia. Alumni activities provide one way to maintain that contact and dialogue.”

More information:

University of Helsinki Alumni Association, Pia Österman, Executive Manager,, phone 050 581 7517

Established in 1990, the University of Helsinki Alumni Association is a community of more than 6,500 members. The purpose of alumni activities is to maintain connections between the University’s former students, support the University’s objectives and corporate and community relations, and to promote the value of academic education. The University considers all current and former students and employees as its alumni.

Pauliine Koskelo

Judge at the European Court of Human Rights

Born 1956 in Salo, Finland

Master of Laws 1979, trained on the bench 1985. Employment at the Ministry of Justice as of 1980, director of legislative affairs 1985–1995

Employment at the Legal Department of the European Investment Bank as of 1995, director 1999–2000

Justice of the Supreme Court 2000 and President of the Supreme Court 2006–2015

Honorary doctorate in economics 2009 (Hanken School of Economics), in law 2010 (University of Helsinki) and 2015 (University of Turku)