“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” (President John F. Kennedy, 12 September 1962)
We choose to found a new university in Tampere. Not because it’s natural to replace two universities and one university of applied sciences in the same city with one joint university. Not to be economically more efficient. Not to be the biggest university in Finland. These would be reasons too simple to reach. What we want in Tampere is a transformation process that will accelerate the development of our society, not only in the Tampere region, but in the whole of Finland. We therefore choose to replace Tampere University (UTA), Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) and Tampere University of Technology (TUT) with an entirely new university – the best in Finland.
Challenging enough will be an attempt to change the direction of publicly funded education to an engine of economic development. In recent years we have seen a period when the state of Finland has managed to keep going by borrowing money from abroad. 50 billion euros in new loans means that an additional 1 billion euros in annual interest payments will have to be paid in the future by our children – simply because of their parents’ indecision. We have to accept that the Finnish economy will experience a whole decade of stagnation; but one decade without economic growth is more than enough.
Higher education is one of the drivers that will raise the economy out of recession. Just as it was in the 1990s, when new innovations based on research and development compensated for the loss of Finland’s traditional industrial production. We do believe in our possibility to do it once again, but not without fundamental changes. The time for fine-tuning, for making little savings here and there, and for maintaining the status quo is over. Finally it’s time to take decisive action, and that’s what we did in Tampere with regard to higher education.
Our goal in developing higher education in Tampere will be something totally unique in Finland. Educational innovations and inspiring collaboration combining the areas where the existing universities are strong. Effective education without overlapping of bachelor’s and masters’ studies. Cutting-edge scientific research in chosen focus areas, including globally attractive doctoral studies. Combined expertise with working life. Tampere will put an end to ‘not-invented-here’ thinking and concentrate on exploitable results.
It might have been easier just to continue our separate ways, observing and following the development in Finland, reducing our activities when needed, saving money and defending one’s territory. But there’s nothing motivating in that. The challenges we voluntarily are going to take on to revolutionize higher education in Tampere are those “which we intend to win” as President Kennedy said over 50 years ago. Unfortunately he never saw the undisputed leading position in technology achieved by his nation. But we who did, clearly saw the point in making a decision. Those who believe will get there.
Text: Mikko Naukkarinen, vice president