The year 2020 has demonstrated how drastically the world can change in an instant. An unforeseeable event rapidly turned the functioning of society upside down.
In her speech delivered at the opening of the new academic year, Rector Sari Lindblom of the University of Helsinki pointed out how the significance of research and universities in solving global crises was brought to the fore by the exceptional circumstances of last spring.
“We are building the future with the power of knowledge and educating students to be forces for change. Our goal is to provide our graduates with both the skills and courage to tackle global issues and solve them together with experts representing a range of fields.”
According to Lindblom, maintaining wellbeing and inclusivity among the University community also receive increasing emphasis, as the exceptional circumstances continue.
“Even though working and studying remotely has gone well for many, the circumstances have not been easy for everyone. In the autumn, the University must pay special attention also to new students being integrated into the University community.”
A multidisciplinary sustainability course for all students
In addition to academic expertise, Lindblom believes studying must boost the basic skills required in the new millennium: curiosity, social skills, grit and resilience. These skills are key to engendering sustainable wellbeing.
“Sustainability is a necessity in terms of both individual wellbeing and the environment, which is why we have decided at the University of Helsinki to offer all students the opportunity to take a multidisciplinary course in sustainability from this academic year onward. The course provides tools for making responsible decisions and maintaining wellbeing.”
The overarching theme of the course will be students’ personal role as solvers of sustainability problems. Furthermore, the aim is to provide students with more opportunities to participate in research during their studies.
“To promote the accumulation of in-depth specialist skills among our students, our University in its role as a stronghold of edification has adopted the ambitious goal of providing an opportunity for all degree students to contribute to research during their studies,” Lindblom added.
Supporting international students in finding work
International students are in need of special support from business life and civil society for integrating into the labour market. At the moment, international master’s and doctoral graduates from Finnish universities have difficulty finding work in Finland.
“In the spring, the University of Helsinki encouraged Finnish employers to offer traineeship positions to international students in order for them to establish valuable professional networks in Finland. In this, our wish remains unchanged,” Lindblom reminded.
Rector Lindblom also stressed that the University serves as a platform for interaction between members of the University community and parties active in society.
“Knowledge and learning benefit not only individuals but also political decision-making and the various sectors of our society. Their significance to our wellbeing and the future of the world is invaluable.”
Speech by Edward Hæggström, chair of the University of Helsinki chapter of the Finnish Union of University Professors, at the opening ceremony of the academic year on 31 August 2020 (the speech will be updated later)