As a university community, we have experienced some unusual times – a large group of students who started their studies during the coronavirus restrictions have returned to the campus this autumn. The same applies to the more senior students and our personnel – we have not been able to meet each other the way we used to. Therefore today is particularly special: we can celebrate that we are again able to work, study and conduct research on campus.
The coronavirus situation has put a strain on the coping and well-being of many in our community and we might not have yet seen all the effects of the pandemic. The well-being of the community is essential to the University and versatile support services for maintaining it will be available also in the future.
We know that we have to pay particular attention to students’ well-being, which we intend to do in close collaboration with the student union. To be successful, we need to ask questions and we need to listen – and we also need to understand.
Our students will shape the future and reform our society. At the universities and on a national level, we have to be able to offer the current and future generations of students the best possible starting points so that they can fulfil these high expectations.
Investment in research and education is an investment in the future. In order to achieve the goal that over 50 percent of younger generations complete a higher education degree and to secure the quality of education, we need a concrete funding programme. In addition, continuous learning will need separate resources.
Finland will succeed if we have the ability to evolve. We have to be able to perceive and create futures that do not yet exist. This is why we need high-quality education based on research. It should be recognised that the close connection between research and education which is needed for the success of our country takes place at the universities.
We need top research and the solutions it provides to change the world. We have to look beyond the horizon and take bold action towards a better future. Continuous RDI policy that highlights quality is the single most important factor in securing Finland’s growth. In addition to top research, internationally attractive expertise clusters and ecosystems that form around universities draw significant national and international RDI investments. We should invest in high scientific quality and impact in all our activities.
Leading universities could be a new action and funding model to complement and partly even replace Business Finland’s funding scheme for leading companies. Leading universities could be a platform that partly resembles the flagship programme, but would be thematically more extensive and more open for participation.
Even though we can now meet on campus, we are starting the new academic year again in a new global situation. In addition to solutions, we need learning. Learning and education create stability and resilience to crises – and universities uphold and generate learning.
The universities’ significance in the development of society is great: research in science and arts secures our level of expertise and strengthens Finland’s resilience in crises. Education is the most important way to decrease inequality.
Stable universities and research and education activities need a consistent science and education policy as well as sufficient resources.
So that we can provide the best possible research and education and uphold learning, we need partners in collaboration. The University of Turku has established strategic partnerships with the most significant players in the region’s business cluster. Together, we are pioneers and trailblazers and create conditions for success. I want to thank our first strategic partners: pharmaceutical company Bayer, Meyer Turku shipyard, and the City of Turku.
Furthermore, with our strategic partner in international education, the EC2U Alliance, we are heading towards a joint European future in higher education as we create new forms of collaboration and mobility between seven European universities and cities.
We also need collaboration to solve shared crises. In Turku and Southwest Finland, we have done a great deal to help the people of Ukraine. When the time comes to start the reconstruction in Ukraine, which will hopefully be soon, we will need new forms of collaboration and aid.
The University of Turku is open for different kinds of partnerships and collaboration on all organisation levels. I hope that we will meet you, our friends – and maybe some new partners as well – on campus and in collaborative projects during the upcoming academic year. I also want to thank all the donors who participated in our fund-raising campaign – your support is significant and we value it greatly.
I wish all the members of the University community and our friends and partners joy and inspiration for the new academic year.
Rector of the University of Turku