HEI LIFE for International Academics, Staff and Families

The University of Helsinki is delighted and proud to manage a national project to support the integration of international academics and their families living and working in Finland.

The HEI LIFE project highlights topics and development needs that are relevant to all higher education institutions in Finland wanting to attract and retain international academics, staff and their families.

HEI LIFE stands for Higher Education Institutions’ Support for International Academics and Staff – Living, Integration, Family and Employment in Finland.

The project focuses on building national models for Finnish higher education institutions to support the integration of international academics, staff and their families.

The project should produce concrete, practical and adaptable input to:

  • support the retention and integration of international talent and the family,
  • enhance collaboration with cities and regional parties,
  • and increase collaboration with working life and employers in Finland, including encouraging employers to hire international talent.

The approach should be holistic and take into consideration the diversity of both the international talent and Finnish higher education institutions.

The project is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and runs from 1.9.2020 until 31.8.2022.

The project is managed by the University of Helsinki. The activities are divided between the higher education institutions in the capital, Tampere and Turku regions. Each region is in charge of a subproject, focusing on different aspects of integration.

These main goals form the basis for the sub projects:

  • Produce information package for incoming international academics, staff and their families (dubbed national welcome package).
  • Improve the integration of international academics and staff to and in collaboration with the Finnish working life and the innovation ecosystem.
  • Improve the integration of spouses of international academics and staff together with cities, the business sector and NGOs.

The main goals of the project were chosen based on the partner universities' understanding of the current challenges HEIs, academics, staff and families face when working and living in Finland.

Although HEIs already offer a range of services together with the public and private sector, the scope, availability and quality of services differ. In addition, international talents face challenges in integration and finding employment.

The partner HEIs want to develop their integration methods and services by strengthening and creating new ways cooperation as well as enhancing and promoting existing services.

    1. National welcome package for international academics, staff and families

    Contact HEI: Tampere University, Raisa Suominen

    The national welcome package will include information and material that supports individuals arriving to work for Finnish higher education institutions and their families. The material offers support for:

    • immigration,
    • settling-in and integration,
    • as well as raising cultural awareness within the HEI community. ​

    The material supports the information needs of the other two subprojects.

    The plan includes a survey of current suitable information and material, needs assessments, development and production of further information and material, user review and feedback. Finalised information and material will available on Finland’s EURAXESS site.

    2. Integration of international researchers and staff to Finnish working life and the innovation environment

    Contact HEI: University of Turku, Irinja Paakkanen

    The subproject focuses on strengthening company collaboration for international researchers and other staff by piloting a mentoring programme and developing new collaboration models.

    One goal is to create a network model for international talent, which would allow the talent to build work-life networks and share experiences and know-how regarding career building and the Finnish working life.

    Information needs and creation will be coordinated together with subproject 1.

    3. Integration of the spouses and families of international academics and staff into the Finnish society in cooperation with cities, business and NGOs

    Contact HEI: University of Helsinki, Kirsi Korhonen

    The subproject's goal is to build a service tray with several types of services that Finnish HEIs can create and use to support the integration of spouses and families.

    The subproject focuses on creating a variety of services and support models for information, employment and networking.

    The plans include benchmarking existing services, creation and development of information and material, workshops for e.g. job search, creating work-life connections, and active spouse involvement e.g. through network building.

    Collaboration models with cities, business and third sector will be explored and tested fitting to regional and national needs.

    Information needs and creation will be coordinated together with subproject 1.

    The project brings several benefits to the Finnish higher education and research community and ecosystem. The project partners find several benefit objectives, which can be divided to general and those regarding talent attraction and retention.

    General benefit objectives

    • Bringing the Ministry of Education and Culture’s international strategy to practice
    • Strengthens the link of HEIs and international academics to the national Talent Boost initiative
    • Enhancing the image of Finnish HEIs globally
    • Creating working models for support services

    Benefit objectives for talent attraction

    • Clarify and give a realistic picture of what Higher Education Institutes and Finland can offer
    • Strengthening cooperation between HEIs
    • Facilitating access to information

    Benefit objectives for talent retention

    • Support integration to the higher education institute, community and Finland in general
    • Strengthening working life and company collaboration
    • Strengthening HEIs’ employer brand

    The steering committee includes international, academic and HR representatives from higher education institutions in Finland.

    The steering group is responsible for ensuring that the project will be able to reach its benefit objectives.

    The steering committee supports, steers and monitors the progress of the project. The steering committee also authorizes changes to the project plan and oversees the project through regular reports from the project manager.

    Member organisations include Aalto University, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Hanken School of Economics, Tampere University, University of the Arts Helsinki, University of Helsinki, University of Oulu and University of Turku. 

    The recruitment of top talent to Finnish higher education institutions (HEIs) is hindered by:

    • challenges in integration and finding employment,
    • scattered and scarce support services for spouses,
    • and the uneven quality and availability of services on the national level.

    We need more good quality, widely available services, and we would also do well to promote and use the existing services more.

    Also, larger-scale collaboration in these matters between HEIs and other key players such as business life and cities would be beneficial for the whole ecosystem. The project partners share a strong will to collaborate and share ideas openly with all project partners, national networks, related public and other services, as well as international researchers and their families.

    The universities of Helsinki, Tampere and Turku have strong experience and versatile existing services in talent attraction, retention and integration. In addition, the capital region and Tampere and Turku regions have several HEIs that have useful experience, working practices and good networks to support the success of the project plan.

    All project partners are used to collaborating with one another and also in international projects, and are active in several national and international networks such as EURAXESS, Talent Boost, LERU etc. The project partners can guarantee the wide impact of the project, direct access to benchmarking connections and easier pooling of resources, among other things.

    HEI LIFE means Higher Education Institutions’ Support for International Academics and Staff – Living, Integration, Family and Employment in Finland.

    The goal is to build service models for integration of international staff and families at Finnish higher education institutions and regions.

    The partner HEI regions are the Capital region, Tampere and Turku.

    HEI LIFE is mainly funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, University of Helsinki, and University of Turku.

    The total funding is 350 000€ (340 000€ from the Ministry). The budget is divided between the three subprojects. The funding period 1.9.2020 – 31.12.2022.

    The project manager HEI is the University of Helsinki.

    News and activities regarding HEI LIFE will be posted on this website. If you are an international academic, staff or family member, and would like to join our activities, follow our updates. We are also keen to collaborate with the public, private and NGO sector. In social media we use #HEILIFE.

    Should you wish to hear more about the HEI LIFE project or discuss possible collaboration, please do not hesitate to contact the Project Manager Kirsi Korhonen. If you are  particularly interested in a certain sub project, feel free to contact the HEI in charge.