Universities at the core of building competitiveness

'It's wonderful that our educational system provides universities with very high calibre, independent, and responsible students. As universities, we in turn graduate experts and professionals who are highly competent, even on an international basis. They are the key factor in Finnish competitiveness, both now and in the future.' – Hannu Seristö, Vice President

Hannu Seristö Aalto-yliopisto'Diverse, pragmatic and straightforward collaboration between companies and universities has been one of Finland's strengths for nearly a century. For example, Aalto University currently ranks 14th in the world in terms of scientific co-publications by companies and university researchers. Although we should always strive for better results, I believe that in Finland we have a good dialogue between companies and universities concerning how to develop teaching so that education serves employers' needs in the best possible way.

Renewing the university institution amidst tremendous changes in the global economy

How should universities renew themselves in order to meet the new challenges of a global economy and business and a constantly changing operating environment? Together with the experts, we should educate versatile people who can manage more extensive entities – not only because they have earned more than one degree. This does not mean having a superficial knowledge of everything, but rather the ability to see things from more than one perspective and work in multidisciplinary teams.

We should also provide students with the ability to function globally: education and training for working in different operating environments and cultures, negotiation and social skills. For example, a potential target could involve sending a new master of science in technology to work in China immediately upon graduation and being confident that he or she would be successful there without any major trauma. It would also be a good idea to link universities across the globe to a greater extent: Universities are still nowhere near as international as major businesses. Now is the time to create a truly multinational player. I'm sure that this will in the near future.

It's important to nurture the startup spirit

Aalto University is known for its activities to encourage entrepreneurship. How can a university nurture the startup spirit? By offering education of course, but also by providing space and support for entrepreneurship to co-exist with research. And, in general, by providing space for initiative, courage, renewal, risk-taking– all of this lays the foundation for a culture of getting things done, which is required to be needed in Finland right now.

Quality and productivity

Many indicators are used to measure quality and productivity today, and we compare our activities to those at other universities on an international scale. We carry on a continuous dialogue on many levels with different partners related to the added value we bring to society.

It is not easy to put a price on added value, but it is clear that without an outstanding education system and good universities, the standard of living and quality of life in Finland would not be anywhere near the current standard. Imagine Finland without the prevalence of technical universities over the past 100 years – it would certainly be a much bleaker place.+

From brain drain to brain rotation

Brain drain is a threat throughout Europe, but some countries, such as Switzerland and Denmark, have taken what seem to be sensible measures to reduce this threat. However, there should be a clear differentiation between brain drain and brain rotation. Finland benefits when students go elsewhere to learn and also when they bring back new learning. We just have to ensure that Finland is an attractive and productive place to conduct research and conduct business that requires a high level of competence. Competition for the best talent is getting tougher, and it is truly global now in comparison to the situation some 10 years ago. As a small country and nation, we have to focus our resources in a sensible manner.'