President Ilkka Niemelä of Aalto University expressed concern over a disequilibrium in Finland’s education system: ’Unfortunately, the situation is out of balance at this time. Young people in Uusimaa have the poorest access to higher education in all of Finland’.
Niemelä backed up his claim statistically. Uusimaa has the fewest student places available in proportion to its number of new high-school graduates. It is also the site of the fiercest competition for places as it attracts an exceptionally high number of first-time applicants compared to the rest of Finland. The number of applicants originating from Uusimaa is also the greatest of nearly every region.
According to Niemelä, increasing the number of available student places in Uusimaa would correct the disparity for young people there and be a step in the right direction for Finland as a whole.
Niemelä says, that promoting digitalisation in research and higher education calls for a nationwide solution that caters to today’s needs for flexible and continuous learning. He stressed that investing in research, development and innovation is necessary in order to safeguard Finland’s future wellbeing and competitiveness.
President Niemelä also warmly welcomed the new students to Aalto community.
Minister of Science and Culture Hanna Kosonen greeted participants at the opening ceremony on behalf of the Finnish Government: ’I want to support higher education institutions in the work they do to develop their activities, and I believe that a better outcome can be achieved when development ideas and views arise from the higher education itself and its own activities. So financing will be improved, specifically targeting core financing.’
Chair of Aalto University Student Union (AYY) Tapio Hautamäki, stated in his own address: ’Aalto's most important gift to its community is not facilities, a study programme, or impressive degree certificates. The key issue is to serve as a platform and enabler for members of the Aalto community. The wildest innovations arise from just the kinds of unconventional subject combinations, voluntary activities and range of collaboration that Aalto provides.’
Olli Varis appointed Aalto Distinguished Professor
President Niemelä appointed Professor Olli Varis from the Department of Built Environment at the School of Engineering as an Aalto Distinguished Professor, in recognition of his significant scientific merits and societal impact.
He is an internationally distinguished and recognised researcher in water and environmental issues, with a specialisation in water resources as well as the interactions between development, environment and sustainable use of natural resources. Professor Varis, who is especially renowned for his research in the area of growth economies in Asia, has been actively involved in solving global water challenges and he has several advisory and expert positions in frontline Asian universities.
Professor Varis has published 117 scientific articles and his publications have been quoted around 3 000 times. He has been leading Aalto University’s Sustainable Global Technologies Programme since 2007.
Other achievements by members of the Aalto University community were also recognised at the opening ceremony. The Aalto Act of the Year went to the relocation of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture and the relocation of the School of Business to Otaniemi. The award was granted to Aalto University Campus and Real Estate, and the relocation teams of the School of Business and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture for their excellent work in integrating these two schools to Aalto University’s main campus. Since the founding of Aalto University, the vision of a joint campus has been one of the driving forces of the university community.
Photos: Aalto University / Mikko Raskinen