From the Land of the Ice and the Snow to the Desert Heat of the Persian Gulf
You can be a highly trained professional in the world of economics with years of experience and still feel that you need a fresh perspective. One way to get it is through educating yourself further, which is what a group of experts in the United Arab Emirates decided to do with the University of Oulu.
Oulu Business School at the University of Oulu went into negotiations with the Al Ain University of Science and Technology in the UAE. A person who had firsthand experience from Al Ain, and had since relocated to Oulu Business School, was the originator of this idea, having seen what needs there are in the Persian Gulf area, explains professor of Digital Business, Veikko Seppänen.
“What they had was a number of highly experienced people working in different fields who already had extensive knowledge, but no way to further their research or earn a doctorate. The collaboration really had a grass-roots beginning”, Seppänen says.
After listening to the needs of the eager students and researchers in the Emirates, Oulu Business School compiled a modular programme for business and economics research. More than 50 people representing many different nationalities took part in the programme in two groups. The programme consisted of 4-5 modules which lasted anywhere between 1-2 weeks and resulted in several dozen days of teaching. This served as an impetus for the participants to take their research and expertise to the next level, says Seppänen.
Several participants have since entered our doctoral programmes, and in fact we already have some ten people who earned their doctorate and were involved in this collaboration
Bringing a training programme to another culture and actually having several different cultures take part in a multinational, heterogenous setting was no mean feat, but one that the Oulu Business School was more than well-equipped to handle.
“Coming from the land of the ice and the snow to the desert heat of the UAE makes for a very different environment, absolutely. Still, business is done pretty much the same way all around the world, certain cultural differences notwithstanding. It was relatively easy to design and compile our training programme. The enthusiasm and the excitement of these trained professionals who participated in the programme also played a significant role in its success”, Seppänen muses.
Finnish education is regarded highly throughout the world and the Gulf area is no different. There already was a Finnish connection to the area and there is a very active Finnish Embassy in Dubai. There is lively cooperation in teacher training and education sciences, as many Finnish teachers representing different levels of education, also from Oulu, have worked in the Gulf area.
“The Nordic approach to learning is very egalitarian and hands-on. The participants were very appreciative of the way the programme was executed. We wanted to take care of them as much as we could and be very supportive and present in their learning, and that really paid off”, Seppänen says.
Looking back, Veikko Seppänen feels that the programme was a remarkable example of how needs were met with extremely relevant offering. The students and researchers aside, the programme was also a wonderful learning experience for the Oulu Business School and one that validated the efforts. According to Seppänen, there is no reason why taking this programme to another setting would end in anything else than success.
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