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Which direction will universities take after elections?

Lively discussion during Finnish political party leaders' great discussion on Europe.
Finnish political party leaders: Paavo Arhinmäki, Carl Haglund, Ville Niinistö, Antti Rinne, Päivi Räsänen, Timo Soini, Alexander Stubb

The Finnish political party leaders' great discussion on Europe filled the Great Hall of the University of Helsinki with people. The research, education and innovation politics in Finland were among the topics that came up in the lively and at times very heated discussion.

All leaders of the main political parties were present except for Juha Sipilä of the Centre Party of Finland.  The speeches were given as a part of the panel discussion held on 18 March and were continued by the French Canadian lawyer and author André Noël Chaker in his colourful signature style.

Finnish students are concerned with their chances to experience international exchanges. Even though the Erasmus programme is one of EU's success stories, many students find it difficult to leave abroad due to restrictions related to subsidy months of the two-level study grant. The panellists shared students' concerns for free movement and considered the internationalisation of universities as an important resource. Many party leaders also told about how their studies had been boosted by a stay abroad.

90 seconds as prime minister

Each party leader got their moment as Finland's next prime minister. The moment lasted for 90 seconds and involved pitching, i.e. selling one's own, summarised idea to the audience. In this special assignment, the prime minister met with leaders of the European countries at a ceremonial reception and had to convince them of an issue significant for Finland.

Aalto University alumni Nelli Lähteenmäki gave an inspiring example of this by pitching an idea of a YOU-app application joining people globally and changing life in small steps. In their own speeches, the party leaders were concerned with youth unemployment, poverty and taxation. The themes of free movement, increasing immigration and transparency of decisions were also brought up.

Universities attracting top researchers

Competition between universities for high-quality researchers has become increasingly global. Already, as many as 30 per cent of the teaching and research staff of Aalto University have an international background. Provost Ilkka Niemelä brought up the question on how to make universities in the EU region even more attractive to the rest of the world and to European major talents and top experts.

The responses highlighted internal cooperation in Europe in order to strengthen areas of research excellence and finding areas of strength in Finnish research. Tax practices should facilitate labour migration and movement between countries. The Horizon2020 programme for research and innovation was highlighted as an example of being able to correctly prioritise research in Finland.

The party leaders' discussion on Europe was organised by European Movement in Finland, The University of Helsinki Alumni Association, Finnish representation at the European Commission, University of Helsinki and Aalto University. Helsingin Sanomat was the media partner of the event.

Photo: Linda Tammisto, University of Helsinki

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