Rector Kola: Role of universities increasingly important in a post-truth world

Bengt Holmström was invited to be the first honorary member of the Teachers’ Academy at the University of Helsinki’s annual celebration.

Rector Jukka Kola (@JukkaKola) from the University of Helsinki spoke about the significance of research-based information in our contemporary world. It is the duty of researchers and teachers to mitigate the detrimental effects of “post-truth” politics, alternative facts and barefaced populism.

– Now, more than ever, we need reliable information for decision-making both in Finland and abroad. The significance of science, research and academic education will be heightened, stated Kola.

Kola also pointed out that the quality of teaching and learning must be a priority in society on all levels, from early education to doctoral education.

– Becoming the most competent nation in the world is a great goal, the cornerstones of Finnish prosperity and success must not be demolished. In these times, we should remind our decision-makers of the slogan: the cost of education is nothing compared to the cost of ignorance.

The cost of education is nothing compared to the cost of ignorance.

The rector also reminded universities that they will have to rise to the challenges of the future, calling on universities to actively participate in the planning process for the Ministry of Education and Culture’s vision for Finnish higher education and research in 2030. The purpose of the process is to create a vision of the future that will enable the development of a top-quality, internationally competitive Finnish system of higher education with significant impact by 2030.

International work to improve universities’ performance

Kola emphasised that internationalisation is a method for improving the performance of Finnish universities, not an end in itself. As long as the evaluation of universities is not conducted on a national level by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the universities must evaluate themselves, and they must estimate their status in relation to international developments and standards, not just in the national context. This means that each university should focus on its strengths.

 – We must fare better in international competition and comparisons. It’s no use for us to compete against each other for the dwindling resources allocated to the Finnish higher education sector. We must seek new research funding from abroad.

Kola also called attention to the ways companies and society absorb research and employ doctoral degree holders. Universities have a great deal to offer, if there is interest to take advantage of their state-of-the-art expertise. In particular, the private sector should be encouraged to employ doctoral degree holders from all fields through cooperation between universities and companies. International models for such cooperation exist.

Researcher mobility ensures that knowledge and expertise find their way outside the academic community.

 – There are no easy solutions for major national and global problems, but we must continue to look for them. We must safeguard and bolster the significance and freedom of high-quality basic research. It is the only path that will lead to the genuine innovations Finland needs to succeed.

Bengt Holmström made honorary member of Teachers’ Academy

MIT professor and Nobel laureate Bengt Holmström spoke at the annual celebration, and was invited to become the first honorary member of the University of Helsinki’s Teachers’ Academy.

Holmström was singled out for this recognition as his example has had a significant impact on the esteem of university teaching, and he has highlighted the significance of the personal engagement of professors in teaching and supervision. Bengt Holmström is a popular lecturer and teacher, known for considering the students’ wishes and needs in his teaching and for propelling his teaching through discussion and student questions. Holmström has repeatedly emphasised that investments in the development of teaching and learning are equally important as those in research.  In addition, Holmström has consistently been involved in cooperation with the University of Helsinki. As recognition for his merits in teaching, Holmström was offered the golden acorn of the Teachers’ Academy and a diploma. The honorary membership was granted by Rector Jukka Kola.

The University of Helsinki’s Teachers' Academy is a multidisciplinary network which shares its expertise and works to actively develop teaching and learning at the University. The Academy’s goal is to promote teaching and improve its standing in the academic community as well as enable teaching to be used as a basis for professional merit and reward. The Teachers’ Academy was established in 2012.