According to the University Act, Finnish universities shall regularly participate in the evaluation of their activities and quality systems. Aalto University's quality system was last audited in January 2016, and the next system audit will be in January 2023.
Quality together – Learning about equality, diversity and inclusion
Aalto University has chosen equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) as a special theme for the quality system audit the university is participating in during this academic year. Part of the auditing process was a benchlearning visit to Lausanne – a group of Aalto’s EDI experts travelled to the renowned EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The idea was to discuss and exchange best practices and gather insights on equality, diversion and inclusion.
‘Switzerland puts a lot of effort into advancing equality in universities, after a somewhat slower start in social equality issues compared to Finland,’ shares Iina Ekholm, project manager for Aalto’s quality audit.
‘During our visit, we communicated with many EDI experts and academics, and we found it very useful to share what strengths, challenges and enhancement areas we have in our respective countries. Both universities are working hard to improve gender balance and to foster an inclusive culture.’
Students are active
Students at EPFL have taken on a very active role in the work for equality, diversity and inclusion. Aalto’s Ida Salin, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, and student Veera Ollikainen, a representative of the student union AYY, were impressed by how enthusiastically students work together with the university administration.
‘They collaborate in wide culture development projects, like awareness building, culture survey, and collaboration networks. Perhaps we could implement low-threshold support groups at Aalto as well,’ they say.
‘The EPFL student association follows up statistics on inappropriate conduct and they are actively working towards a culture of respect. They also offer movie nights on this theme with a guided discussion after the movie. Maybe we could have those as well,’ Ollikainen adds.
Discovering unconscious biases
Provost Kristiina Mäkelä and Professor Rizlan Bernier-Latmani at EPFL discussed how to work in different organisational levels. ‘Professor Bernier-Latmani’s school has a group of 35 voluntary academics and students from diverse backgrounds working together to advance EDI. For example, a professor member of this group participates in departmental tenure track committees and help to spot unconscious biases and to tackle them.’
We will hopefully see many new EDI-related activities at Aalto as a takeaway of this visit. As a quick example, Ida Salin has already created content about inclusive language use on Aalto’s website.
The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC, Karvi) will audit Aalto University's quality system in January 2023. The audit will assess the appropriateness, functionality and effectiveness of the university's quality system. The audit focuses on the university's operating methods, i.e., the processes by which it pursues its goals.
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