Quality first

The calendar year has just begun, but members of the University community are already mid-way through the academic year. At this time of year, the length of the day increases by approximately two hours per month, and the intensity of the sun’s rays more than doubles. This knowledge lifts my spirits after the long period of darkness.

From my office window I can see the brand new Think Corner, which opened to the public in late September 2017. The old administration building was completely renovated – apparently only the supporting structures remain intact. The former courtyard and its parking spots now serve as Think Corner’s main venue, a magnificent space that mixes wooden structures with rough concrete surfaces.

Think Corner is one of the University’s key channels bringing its research and teaching to Helsinki residents and the wider public. Think Corner is the perfect venue for seminars, lectures, exhibitions, discussions, celebrations and much more – the sky is the limit. It is important to bring the University’s attractive and high-value activities to the public’s attention in a modern and engaging manner to foster interaction.

Think Corner is an open meeting place where visitors can also stop by for a coffee or to work.

Last autumn, the University launched new, comprehensive Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes. The purpose is to adopt a model compatible with European universities so that students can more easily transfer to other universities for their subsequent studies. For students, the reform should be reflected in clear, comprehensive “packages” and smoother paths with reasonable objectives that can be reached with a realistic amount of time and effort. Now that the first term in the new programmes is over, we can learn from our experiences. The reform requires that we consider the feedback from the programmes, students and teachers. Teaching and structures must be developed to support the special features of each field and ensure that teaching is closely connected to research.

The duties of the chancellor include contacts with various sectors of society. Alumni play a key role in the chancellor’s cooperative network. Through them, the University can be seen, and make a difference, in all sectors in Finland and beyond. I will continue to enjoy my activities in the Alumni Association as a member of its Board as well as my regular meetings with the alumni community.

Fundraising is a concrete form of public engagement and has become a regular and important part of the University’s operations. On two occasions, the Finnish government has supported fundraising by offering matched funding, which has considerably increased the significance of donations. The University’s previous fundraising campaign concluded last summer to great success. I wish to thank the many alumni who made donations to support the University’s work. The University of Helsinki achieved considerable success in its fundraising, receiving some €39 million in government funding to match the €34 million it had accumulated in donations. The majority of these sums will be added to the University’s core capital, and only the return on capital will be used to fund University operations. But the signal is clear: in the future the University must be ready to fund its operations flexibly rather than relying solely on funding from the government budget.

The competition inherent in academia has always been reflected in the way our researchers and teachers pursue their careers. To me, it is also clearly reflected in the competition for results, funders, partners and attention in the international academic arena. We wish to be an attractive, high-quality and high-impact university where people want to work and study and which offers the best possible setting for them to do so. We must focus on quality to stand out and succeed.

Kaarle Hämeri
Chancellor of the University of Helsinki