Aalto President's Christmas letter 2017

Dear members of Aalto community,

Year 2017 has been a prosperous year for Aalto University. I am very proud of the work our personnel and students have done, thanks to which our academic results have developed strongly and our international reputation has grown significantly.

The results of this excellent work start to show clearly in the international rankings. This year QS Top 50 under 50, a list of new universities under 50 years old, ranked Aalto as the number one young university in Europe, and the seventh best in the world overall. Aalto also reached the selected Times Higher Education group of 55 technology challenger universities that are global forerunners especially in the field of novel industrial co-operation.  The Financial Times Executive Education Ranking for 2017 chose Aalto Executive Education among the world’s 50 best providers of executive education, while Aalto’s degree programme in Fashion continues from strength to strength, currently judged to be the 5th best in the world.

In autumn 2014, the Finnish government decided to provide universities with a maximum of 150 million euros in funds to match those received through private donation by the end of June 2017. Our ‘Future is Made Today’ campaign exceeded its goal of 20 million euros, and Aalto is therefore receiving another 24.3 million co-funding from the state, which expands our funding base.

Our operating environment has made positive strides recently also. We have seen economic growth, and next year’s state budget is offering interesting new opportunities in terms of flagship projects and profiling funding.

The formation of a globally unique entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem around Aalto has already led to hundreds of new companies and thousands of young game changers who dare to embrace the new and take on challenges with an entrepreneurial can-do attitude. This has produced world-class events such as Slush, and Junction, Europe’s largest hackathon event held in November in Dipoli.

Our strong research and innovation hub attracts new businesses, creative disciplines and international players. A Grid, a centre for start-ups and partners, which will open soon on the campus, will host among other things the first UN technology and innovation laboratory (UNTIL), and the European Space Agency ESA’s business incubation centre for space technologies.

Our campus is rapidly developing in other ways as well. The new metro is at last bringing a connection straight to the heart of campus, where the construction of facilities is in progress to accommodate the School of Arts, Design and Architecture next year and the School of Business the following year. We can’t wait for the schools to relocate in the middle of the campus, though a significant share of their operations already take place at Otaniemi. Next year, we will also see the addition of a new shopping centre, A Bloc, with a wide array of services.

According to the personnel survey conducted in the autumn, Aalto University is increasingly regarded as an established university with a common identity. I am pleased to see that we are going forward and doing right things. However, we are carefully listening to the concerns of our personnel. Two themes that emerged from the personnel survey data – preventing inappropriate conduct and balancing workload – were chosen as common development areas for the university.

I think that we at Aalto should have absolute zero tolerance towards inappropriate conduct. We take this matter very seriously and we need to clarify our common principles and processes for bringing up difficult issues as well as for handling and following up them.  To balance the workload, attention will be paid, for example, to the allocation of teaching responsibilities as well as to the clarification of job descriptions and target setting.  A comprehensive action plan on these themes has been prepared for the next year. We still have a lot to do, but let us learn together, develop our operations, and discuss also difficult themes constructively.

As we celebrate Finland’s centennial this year, we are above all celebrating those who have been building our society. Aalto community has played a large role in this. Our students today will over the next 100 years also contribute significantly to Finland’s future success. What is better way to mark this than the gathering of students past and present who met at Dipoli to celebrate Finland’s 100 year journey of independence. With nearly 2000 participants the gathering once again demonstrated the strength of the Aalto community.

Dear Aalto colleagues,

I would like to extend my warmest thanks for all your excellent work over the past year and wish you all a happy and relaxing holiday season.


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