Give for the future

Donors play an essential role in Aalto University's story

Within the past ten years, Aalto University has developed into a multidisciplinary community of bold actors solving big societal challenges. Donations have allowed a long-term development of the university and evened out unexpected fluctuations in public funding.
Students at Väre building. Photo: Unto Rautio / Aalto University.

Today, Aalto University is a unique concentration of science, art, technology and business – a global leader in its key focus areas and one of the most international universities in Europe. When Aalto University was established, significant donations from private individuals, foundations, companies and other communities, as well as the associated matching funding provided by the government, created a solid capital basis for the university. Between 2015–2017, the state also supported the fundraising activities of higher education institutions with an opportunity to receive matching funding. Donations received in this fundraising campaign and the matching funding, as well as donations received after the campaign, have further strengthened the university’s potential for top research and teaching.


Aalto-yliopiston rehtori Ilkka Niemelä. Kuva Mikko Raskinen

‘Without the donations, we would not be here now. They have allowed a long-term development of the university and evened out unexpected fluctuations in public funding. For that, we would like to express our warm thanks to all the donors’, says President Ilkka Niemelä

The key idea of Aalto University is to enable multidisciplinary and innovative cooperation; to make Aalto a place where science and art meet technology and business. This has also required significant investments in campus development.

The strong balance sheet created by the donation capital has enabled the university to make long-term investments as required and to find sustainable solutions for loan financing. This has made it possible to develop the campus in a more economically sustainable manner, while also ensuring that the university has resources for its main tasks.

The School of Arts, Design and Architecture moved to the Otaniemi campus in summer 2018 and the School of Business in early 2019, bringing the university’s main functions to the same campus. ‘We have had major development steps, renewals and challenges along the way but Aalto community has kept working passionately, in open collaboration, and with a positive attitude towards getting things done’, Niemelä adds proudly. The multidisciplinary Aalto community of game changers wants to be worthy of their promises to donors.

We want to be involved in solving big global challenges.

Ilkka Niemelä, President of Aalto University

Pioneering research with impact

Right from the beginning, the new university was given a special national mission; to strengthen Finland’s innovation capacity through first-class research, artistic activities and education. With strong and determined effort from all involved, the university has risen to the challenge. Within ten years, Aalto University has become one of the world’s top universities under the age of 50 and is a pioneer in its key areas: ICT and digitalisation, materials, art and design, business, energy solutions, living environments, and health and well-being. 

‘We want to be involved in solving big global challenges’, says Niemelä. Nearly 150 start-ups are already operating in the A Grid Centre established in the heart of the campus. The university offers leading expertise, an extensive network of partners, research infrastructure and new perspectives for the future, enabled by top research. The cooperation has been fruitful too as the networks developed around Aalto create nearly 100 start-ups annually. Work-related competence is also integrated into teaching. For example, Aalto has more than 50 professor of practice positions, for which we have received significant donations. 

Consisting of six schools, the Aalto University campus offers students multidisciplinary studies and encounters in art, technology and business. Niemelä adds, ‘The guiding light in the development of teaching is that the student and learning are placed at the heart of all activities. The Aalto Online Learning programme introduces new teaching and learning methods based on digitalisation. Significant investments have also been made in the well-being of students’.

Complex challenges ahead

During the past ten years, Aalto University has come a long way and wants to continue being a pioneer in the future. It is not easy, as the world around us is changing at an accelerating rate, and many global challenges are becoming increasingly complex. 

Finland needs more international experts. Also demand for higher education is increasing, particularly in Aalto University’s areas of education. Moreover, there is a growing interest in Aalto from potential students, and the number of applicants is increasing. ‘We are prepared to take responsibility, but if we want to maintain the quality of education and research, more investments are needed. As the situation in public finances is rather tense, I hope that in the future we will work in even closer cooperation with the donors’, Niemelä says. Niemelä concludes with this pledge, ‘We promise to be worthy of your trust and to work hard for the good of Finnish society and towards a more sustainable future.’

Text: Marjukka Puolakka

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