The university of the future is built through international collaboration

In a global world, few things are solved without international collaboration. No government is able to mitigate climate change by itself, and the coronavirus will be causing pain for as long as even a single country is suffering from the epidemic.

International collaboration is important to the University of Helsinki. In accordance with its new strategic plan for 2021–2030, the University will further intensify such collaboration, for example, with the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and the UNA Europa alliance.  

In October 2019 the University of Helsinki joined the UNA Europa alliance, a network of eight European universities from Bologna to Edinburgh and from Krakow to Madrid. A total of nearly half a million individuals work and study at the UNA Europa universities, with the number of students alone at 400,000. In the beginning of June, a new UNA Europa brand and manifesto were published.

An increasingly international learning environment for all  

In line with its manifesto, the universities of the UNA Europa alliance believe that the ability of societies to solve global problems depends on their citizens’ level of education. In the future, education must be increasingly international in nature.  

Hanna Snellman, the vice-rector in charge of international affairs at the University of Helsinki, tells how UNA Europa collaboration advances the international aspect of university education in practice. 

- UNA Europa offers a great deal to students of the University of Helsinki. For instance, the alliance promotes virtual internationalization. We’re not aiming to replace physical mobility, such as student exchange, but we wish to ensure that those for whom physical mobility is not suitable, for one reason or another, also have international contacts, Snellman says.  

Heidi Rättyä, a specialist in education policy at the Student Union of the University of Helsinki, concurs with the vice-rector.  

- Virtual internationalization, such as short mobility periods, can provide experiences of internationalization to students of the University in an increasingly comprehensive manner. Internationalization during studies is priceless: skills needed in a globalizing world and professional life can only be learned by practicing working in international contexts. And internationalization is lots of fun, too!, Rättyä says.  

Transformative multidisciplinary research  

Snellman and Rättyä both think that international collaboration among universities is enormously important for both education and research. According to them, collaboration is the key to solving global challenges.  

In fact, cooperation between the UNA Europa alliance universities is focused on areas needed to improve the resilience and sustainability of societies. The latest addition to these focus areas, now numbering five, is 'One Health', which unites scientific fields in increasingly close collaboration in the detection, prevention, and treatment of diseases.  

-As demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, health-related challenges originating in the complex interaction between humans and the environment require a review of current concepts and methods. One Health draws from the strengths, expertise, and perspectives of scientists representing a number of countries and disciplines to promote the concept of one health, says Snellman.  

The other research focus areas of UNA Europa are sustainability, data science and artificial intelligence, cultural heritage and European studies. Under all of these areas, solid multidisciplinary collaboration is being conducted.  

UNA Europa was founded on the notion that scientific disciplines and universities, as well as countries across the world, need each other. No one has the capacity to tackle current and future challenges by going it alone. Fortunately, together we are strong.