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Welcome to Session 7.14
The 2013 Institutional Award
winner: best practice
Provide feedback on this session by filling in the online survey (a link to the survey will be e-mailed to you)
B3-013, B3 | 09:15, Friday, 13 September 2013
UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI
INNOVATION IN INTERNATIONALISATION AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI
THE EAIE INSTITUTIONAL
AWARD FOR INNOVATION IN
UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI 2013
HUOM. Mikä tulee otsikoksi. Tähän lyhyt infoteksti
EAIE:n logon kokoa voi miettiä.
Cover photo: AriAalto
How many people do you have in your international
What is your international strategy like?
These are questions to which the University of Helsinki
no longer really has straightforward answers as a result of embedding internationalisation into all activities and also in its strategy. Yet, as has been described
above, internationalisation is thriving at UH. It is no
longer in the hands of a few but rather institutionalised
everywhere from university leadership to faculty and
staff at academic units. Today, internationalisation can
no longer be marginalised to be the responsibility of
the select few. It is the cornerstone in the University’s
strategy and everyday life but not only in word but also
Photo: Linda Tammisto
The University of Helsinki is the most versatile institution for science, education, and intellectual renewal in
Finland, a pioneering builder of the future.
VISION UNTIL 2020 - TO THE TOP AND OUT TO SOCIETY
The University of Helsinki will consolidate its position
among the best multidisciplinary research universities
in the world. It will operate actively for the well-being
of humanity and a just society.e.
INTERNATIONALISATION STRATEGY AND IMPACT
The University of Helsinki is a pioneer in the approach
of ”Embedded Internationalisation”. The underlying
idea of this approach is that internationalisation is a
key component in all University core activities and
their support measures.
Over the course of the past eight years, the University of Helsinki has dissolved
the central international office, while maintaining, strengthening and spreading its
functions and expertise. The University no longer has a separate ”internationalisation
strategy”, but rather has internationalisation omnipresent in its strategic planning.
Moreover, the former central Internationalisation Committee was discontinued and
the responsibility for different aspects of internationalisation was assigned to other
committees. These seemingly counterintuitive actions have not led to the disappearance or relegation of internationalisation but rather strengthened it and provided new
resources for its advancement. UH still retains central co-ordination for its internationalisation activities and ensures the cohesiveness of various individual actions
through regular meetings, by effective internal communication and by having numerous joint activities. For UH partners and other external stakeholders, a dedicated
section of the website explaining the setup has been created at http://www.helsinki.
While embedded internationalisation is not without challenges and far from
straightforward, it is quite clear that the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Today
the University of Helsinki is much more international than it was eight years ago no
matter which one looks at it. Exchange student numbers are up (and balanced), the
University has more international degree seeking students than ever before as a result of the establishment of English-taught Master’s and Doctoral programmes. Participation in European Union funded programs for research and education is at an
all-time high level and continues to grow.
But not only this, the University of Helsinki has also adopted various key performance indicators and its faculties have a clear understanding of quantitative and
qualitative goals for internationalisation for the coming years as well as the duty to
report these on a regular basis.
The impact of the University’s strategy on European Higher Education is significant. The University aims to recruit the best available students, faculty and staff in
order to solidify its position among the 50 best universities in the world. This will naturally require the broadening of the recruitment pool to Europe and beyond. If and
when successful, this will certainly strengthen the European Higher Education Area.
And since international student and staff mobility are considered core activities and
Erasmus and other European programmes play a central role for their implementation, it is clear that collaboration with other European universities will remain a key
component of UH activities in the coming years. Exchange of people and ideas within
EHEA will definitely continue to flourish. Additionally the University’s membership
in the League of Research Universities (see below) has given it access to influencing
the European decision making regarding higher education and research.
INNOVATIVE ACADEMIC AND/OR SUPPORT PROGRAMMES
The University of Helsinki was one of the first European Universities to establish
a dedicated specialist service for supporting the recruitment of international academic staff members. The International Staff Services (http://www.helsinki.fi/intstaff/ )
first came to be in 2007 and has proven to be a valuable asset in helping non-Finns to
arrive and settle in Helsinki. As part of the Service the University has lately dedicated
to apartment buildings in the city for entry-type housing (http://www.unihome.fi/)
Another innovative support measure for UH internationalisation is the ”University Admissions Finland” concept, which was originally established as an internal expert service for improving the assessment of authenticity and validity of documents
by international applicants. After initial success within UH, the service has now expanded to be a service on a national scale, while still being part of the University.
The University has also engaged with other higher education institutions in the
greater Helsinki region, and among other things, increased the visibility of Helsinki
as a vibrant city for students (http://www.studyhelsinki.fi/en/home).
English-taught Master’s programmes have been rapidly increased since 2007
when university started offering seed—funding for the establishment of such programmes. At its peak this funding exceeded 1 million euro per year. Currently the
number English-taught programmes exceeds 30. One of the UH cornerstones for the
establishment of such programs has been inclusiveness in the sense that most programmes enrol both domestic and international students.
Töölö Towers, the
The University of Helsinki is a founding member of the League of European
Research Universities (LERU, www.leru.
org ) since 2002. In addition to advocating the views of the research-intensive
universities towards the European
Union and national decision-makers, the
network also engages in various collaborative efforts ranging from E-learning
to the advancement of research-based
teaching. The University of Helsinki is
an active LERU member and contributes to the collaboration both as initiator
and participant. Lately, LERU members
have been engaged in a joint discussions
for the development of ”structured mobility”, with the aim to drive forward
new kinds of operational models for student mobility.
Additionally the University’s membership in the UNICA network (http://
www.unica-network.eu/ ), among other
capital city universities, has led to numerous initiatives and projects both
among the membership but also reaching out to neighbouring areas of the Europe. Among the internal activities has
been the benchmarking and dissemination of information related to the Bologna process.
THE WAYS HU HAS INTEGRATED INTERNATIONALISATION
Issues related to integrating internationalisation within strategic planning have already been referred to above. Internationalisation well and truly is at the core of institutional strategic planning.
Currently all strategic documents of the University of Helsinki
feature issues related to internationalisation, including the main
strategy for 2013-2016 (attached). Moreover, all of these documents are always published in English in addition to the two national languages (Finnish and Swedish).
According to a decision by the Rector of the University, all staff
accommodation owned and operated by the University shall be
gradually dedicated to be used for the support of incoming international faculty members. This will make it easier for non-Finnish
scholars to settle in the country as accommodation is often one of
the most crucial aspects in arriving in a new country. Most of the
student accommodation in Helsinki is operated by external providers and the University is actively engaging with key providers to
ensure sufficient supply for international students. The University
also assist the external providers in their future planning for future
UH has adopted an exceptional approach to Erasmus outbound
and inbound staff mobility by prioritising staff not normally involved in international work. The thinking behind this decision is
based on the realisation that people dealing with international admissions and exchanges have other opportunities for international
contacts while people in various other offices do not normally have
these possibilities. Even with these types of prioritisations, the UH
International Staff Exchange Week draws dozens of applications
The University of Helsinki also offers extensive possibilities
for its staff to upgrade their foreign language proficiency. The Language Centre caters for the needs of students, faculty and staff on
campus by offering for-credit courses in 17 different languages, including Finnish and Swedish for international students.
UH set up a service for assisting the University’s academic staff
to apply for EU and other international funding already in 1995.
The idea behind the service was simply to let the researchers focus
on the scientific or academic content of their applications leaving
the various technical details to the Service. The results have been
exemplary and UH enjoys currently a high application to funding
ratio, including being rated among the top recipients of ERC grants.
Already in the Programme for the Development of Teaching and Studies of 2007 , the University of Helsinki considered
cultural knowledge and internationalism as key components of a
high-quality academic degree and since then, this ideal has been
steadily implemented but the its faculties.
The University of Helsinki started developing courses taught
in English in early 1990’s. Since then the number of courses has
grown exponentially and currently there are hundreds of individual courses and even full programmes offered in English. Initially
these courses were designed to cater the needs of incoming exchange students and were not very much attended by Finnish students. Since then, however, the situation has changed drastically
and currently both fully English taught programmes and individual courses are taken by Finnish and international students alike.
The University of Helsinki has also started pilot projects in bilingual degree programmes, initially through offering programs
containing elements in Finnish and in Swedish. However, further
pilots are being added to also include English-taught components.
Currently, the transcripts issued by the University feature information as to how many credits have been completed in which
The Centre for Research and Development
of Higher Education of the University of Helsinki provides courses on university pedagogy to
teachers and researchers of the University. These
research-based courses are available also in
The Language Centre of the University of Helsinki has supported teachers providing education
in English through a special programme.
In an effort to improve the new international
students’ and to give them a flying start to their
studies, the University has re-designed the former orientation course to “Welcome Fair”. This
event combines information, peer-tutoring and
extracurricular aspects into a package, which has
received very good feedback from participating international students.
Today the Student Services at UH serve all students regardless of their nationality or language
background. Another aspect of integration of internationalisation is the “First Year Experience”
–project which is culminating in an international
conference in Helsinki in May 2013 . The University has also engaged extensively with other Finnish universities, municipalities and public + private
sector employers in order to improve international
students’ employment prospects.
For a research-led institution, UH puts significant emphasis in developing its teaching. Instead
of just showing rhetoric support to teaching, a significant investment has been made towards the establishment of a “Teachers’ Academy”. Again, this
is an integrated approach to enhance learning processes and outcomes of all students, international
and domestic alike.
Alumni relations and activities are a fairly
new thing for Finnish universities, UH included.
However, the University realises the importance
of retaining contacts with all graduates, including
international students. To this end the current online-service for alumni has also been made available in English.
ENCOURAGING THE INTERNATIONAL OR CROSS-CULTURAL ORIENTATION OF STUDENTS
As Finnish is a relatively small language in the world scale, the use of books and
other teaching materials in English and in other languages is very commonplace. This
not only improves students understanding of written academic English but also exposes them to the international academic community and latest research findings.
All undergraduate degree programmes offered by the University of Helsinki have a
mandatory foreign language requirement and in order to graduate, students need to
demonstrate proficiency in a minimum of one foreign language.
The number of incoming international exchange and degree seeking students has
developed very positively and one of the key motivations for UH to build capacity in
this direction is the realisation that international students contribute significantly to
the “Internationalisation at Home”, both inside and outside the classrooms. Today
local students have excellent opportunities to engage with students from over 100
different countries. In order to offer the widest possible opportunities for outgoing
student mobility, the University tops up funding from Erasmus and other externally
funded programmes by offering travel grants to its students. The total amount exceeds 200.000EUR every year.
SUPPORTING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
As part of the embedded approach to internationalisation, the University’s Student Services support all students regardless of nationality of mother tongue. Intranet pages informing the students of various services available are fully translated
into English. Student Services staff has received additional language and intercultural competencies training in order to be prepared to also serve international students.
In order to facilitate the early phase of the international students’ studies, special orientation programs are run at the start of both academic terms. These sessions, today
known as the Welcome Fair, include information on various internal services (health
care, computing, libraries etc) and lectures on the system and culture of studying
at the University. As part of the orientation, each new student is assigned to a tutor
group, the tutor being a fellow student, who has received formal training as a prerequisite.
For more than twenty years the international degree-seeking students have been
supported financially by the UH self-funded International Student Grants totalling
80000EUR every year. These grants are awarded to students in Master’s programmes. Moreover, many of the UH international doctoral students enjoy a salary
from the university.
ENCOURAGING INTEGRATION AND INTERACTION BETWEEN DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
As stated earlier the development of English-taught courses and programmes has
been very rapid, and in just two decades the opportunities for international students
for taking courses have improved significantly both in terms of quantity and quality. From very early on, the strategic objective was to have both international and
domestic students attending the same classes in order to contribute towards internationalisation at home for Finnish students but also facilitating the integration of
international students into the student body at large. Having students from different
backgrounds in the same classrooms provides a great opportunity for interaction.
The University has also been actively involved in projects with other stakeholders in
its region to increase the interaction between domestic and international students.
An example of a project in this area is the “Helsinki Region Welcome Weeks” (www.
welcomeweeks.fi), which includes events such as the Hidden City Race, particularly
aimed at bringing together domestic and international students and to provide further opportunities for integration.
One of the most significant contributing factor for international students’ integration
are the numerous activities organised and provided for by the Student Union of the
University of Helsinki (http://hyy.helsinki.fi/en). The various cultural, sports and
other sub-organisations incorporate international students in their activities.