Quality of education determines our success and well-being

I was just reading Kim Väisänen's blog, in which he takes a stand in the overoptimistic assessment of the level of competence of our nation. According to him, Finland is a country that overestimates its level of education and underestimates the accumulation of its debt. The level of education used to be something our nation invested in, and Väisänen did not consider the resources to be meagre. Now we have dropped somewhere between Turkey and Chile in the OECD comparison as a nation. And here the education system cites the cuts made by the previous government instead of looking in the mirror. Väisänen calls on the entire Parliament to get involved. This concern is justified and serious.

The topic could not be more relevant for us at the University of Oulu. The development of education has been increasingly highlighted in the various objectives and activities. The discussion on the development needs and challenges of education has been necessary for all 77 Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes and 22 Doctoral degree programmes. These nearly one hundred different degree programmes form a whole.

Improving the quality of teaching, streamlining studies, increasing attractiveness, developing the contents of continuous learning, accessibility and increasing the choice of learners apply to all programmes. All of these must be founded on knowledge and science generated by research. The role of the university is to promote civilisation, and it does not always only mean acting as a needs-based competence machine for society. The role of universities is to be critical and to produce information so that the offered expertise meets the needs of a changing society.

At the University of Oulu, it is the responsibility of the Rector of Education to ensure that education is doing well and that the university succeeds after we boomers retire. Taking responsibility for things that seem to be far away in the future gives a confusing feeling that there is time to get things right. There is no need to run before we can walk, but the steps to the future must be recognised now and we must be able to create the conditions for success today, without delay.

The University of Oulu is already taking significant steps to ensure that education can succeed in the 2030s. The action programme on the table – whose working title is Noste – combines these actions into a more manageable and inclusive package. Noste is not a silver bullet. Instead, it is a series of actions whose resources and scheduling for this decade are under way. The programme must place particular emphasis on better guidance, ensuring well-being and making flexibility a natural part of studies. The well-being of teachers must also be understood to be a basis from which we must be able to strive towards better quality without seeing development as an additional burden.

We must be able to make decisions, policies and actions together so that we can succeed. We must be able to lead our community by serving its hunger for information and on the basis of facts, but without spiralling into a cycle of analysis and debate. Generating facts that form the very foundations of policies is the key to success, which is why we once again also need help from our alumni in the form of answers.

Our career monitoring survey on employment for a selected group of graduates is under way. I hope that we will have valuable information at our disposal. When we start and complete education based on feedback and information, we do not need to complain about the lack of resources. Instead, we can openly communicate how we spend our meagre resources, such as using feedback data. We also get evidence of quality, such as the ASIIN accreditation of the degree programme in Industrial Engineering and Management that the Faculty of Technology has just received, as well as our results in the Times Higher ranking.

I am pleased that the quality and future of education has been highlighted. Satisfaction does not mean inaction – instead, we want our contribution to Finland's success to reach the Finnish Parliament in Arkadianmäki and even Kim Väisänen.

Tapio Koivu, Vice Rector for Education

Kim Väisänen´s blog ( in Finnish): Suomi, siinä Turkin ja Chilen välissä