Niinimäki at the opening ceremony of the academic year: The University of Oulu must continue to be attractive

The opening ceremony of the academic year took place at the University of Oulu on 7 September 2020, for the first time through a stream due to the coronavirus situation. At least 700 viewers tuned in to the stream, and it could also be viewed by means of the Facebook Live feature.

Rector Jouko Niinimäki addressed the latest achievements of the university in his speech, such as receiving a right to launch a psychologist degree programme in Oulu and the university’s access to the UNIC university network funded by the European Commission. He also encouraged the university to make sustainable plans for the future while we still live in good times.

“The aims of the Finnish higher education vision also mean that we will have to compete even harder to get students to Oulu. As the number of study places increases everywhere, an increasing proportion of young people in large cities will be able to study in their home city if they so wish. Demographic projections for Northern Finland, on the other hand, show beyond doubt that the size of the young age groups in our region will start to decline sharply in the early 2030s. Historically, our students have come from Northern Finland, but soon we will no longer have as many comers as before”, Niinimäki said in his speech.

”We have to do everything we can to ensure that the success of the university and the well-being of the region are not hindered by an attractiveness deficit as the operating environment changes. Internationality is important to the university nowadays, but in the future, getting international students and their employment here will become a lifeline. Attracting international students requires a great deal from us because those who go to study in a foreign country have a huge number of options. Oulu must be an attractive place for them, both as a university and as a city.”

According to Niinimäki, the city centre campus is a way for the University of Oulu to prepare for the future.

“We want students and staff to also have easily accessible facilities in an urban environment, which will enable students to grow into active citizens together with the other residents of the city.”

The university promotes cooperation

A government greeting was provided by the Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko, who was elected Chair of the Finnish Centre Party at the party conference last weekend. She also addressed the topic of growing global competition for talent and mobile students.

“Cross-border competition for expertise and professionals as well as scientific and technological progress also require a reassessment of the activities and practices of universities. I believe that the best result will be achieved when views emerge from within the university communities and from the activities of universities. We must continue to seek strength and growth through cooperation”, Saarikko said.

“In order to respond to the changes in society, the University of Oulu has, in my opinion very successfully, responded to sectoral educational needs and also promoted opportunities for continuous learning alone and together with other higher education institutions.”

Saarikko also highlighted the increased number of study places in various fields and areas enabled by her Ministry and the Government. 

“This will help respond to the labour shortage of professionals in Northern Finland and support the opportunities for young people in the region to gain wider access to higher education in their own or in a neighbouring region.”

Students need guidance

Chair of the Board of the Student Union, Eetu Leinonen, emphasised the need for student counselling in his speech.

“Adequate resources must be allocated for guidance and counselling so that everyone needing support has access to such services. Usually, university studies take place on the eve of adulthood, and these years play a decisive role in shaping the future of students.”

Leinonen also emphasised students’ mutual solidarity in the stressful pandemic situation.

“Get creative so that all students get to enjoy student life. Create new ways and modify the old ones to enjoy events safely. Leave no one behind. Keep in touch with your friends. Many are at risk of social exclusion.”

Watch the ceremony recording on YouTube

Opening addresses

Picture of Minister Saarikko: Lauri Heikkinen, Prime Minister's Office

Last updated: 7.9.2020