Rector Kola seeks to strengthen the international character of universities

Jukka Kola, Rector of the University of Helsinki, believes that increasing international engagement would improve quality at Finnish universities.

“An international approach is not an end in itself, but rather a means to boost the University’s teaching and research,” said Rector Jukka Kola at the University’s 375th anniversary celebration today.

He estimates that external influences may prove crucial to the University’s success.

“We must welcome researchers and students who bring with them new ideas, for Finland is not home to all wisdom.The new arrivals may come from any province, country or university; all that counts is their competence,” Kola affirms.

He admits that boosting the University’s international character requires hard work in both recruitment and teaching.

“It is not enough to turn courses that were previously given Finnish into courses in English. The content of teaching must also reflect the University’s international dimension,” he says.

Kola believes that to promote education export, we must improve the quality, attractiveness and visibility of teaching offerings.

At the University of Helsinki, one in five teaching and research staff members comes from abroad; among professors, this figure is only one in ten.

 Integration and employment are challenging

Thanks to its ranking among the 100 leading universities in the world, the University of Helsinki is able to attract top researchers and international partners.

However, even if the University is in an attractive place, settling in Finland can otherwise prove challenging. Kola pleads with employers in particular to assume their responsibility: “Employers speak warmly about international experts,but in practice, new graduates or researchers with an international background – let alone their spouses – are having difficulty finding work in Finland.”

Kola wishes to remind us that international activities are a means to improve Finland’s wellbeing and competiveness.

“We need new ideas and international perspectives.Immigration pays off, even from a selfish viewpoint,” Kola argues.

“Finland has many positive aspects that we may be unable to market well enough on the international arena. Finnish society enjoys stability, safety and equality,” he points out.

The University of Helsinki celebrates its 375th Anniversary today on the 26th March. The date goes back to the reign of Queen Kristina of Sweden when the guardian council signed the foundation letter in 1640. The university functioned as the Royal Academy in Turku until 1808.

After the war against Russia in 1808-1809 the university moved to Helsinki in 1828 and received the name the Imperial Alexander University. The name University of Helsinki has been in use since 1919.

The University of Helsinki is today the academic home to a contingent of 35,000 students. The University of Helsinki is internationally ranked among the 100 best universities.

Rector Kola’s speech in full
Online stream from the Anniversary available from 5 o'clock onwards