Weighing quality

This week, two years of preparatory work will come to a culmination, as UEF is being audited by an international team of auditors from the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre, FINEEC. Finnish universities are required by law to undergo auditing every six years, and this takes plenty of effort from staff members and students alike, with everything led and coordinated by the university’s Quality Manager.

A positive thing about the current audit method is self-evaluation, forcing us to critically evaluate our own activities. Combined with benchmarking, this constitutes an efficient way to make changes to processes where change is needed. Another good thing about the audit is the university’s opportunity to select an optional audit target, which is our case is international student mobility. This provides us with an external evaluation of the current state of our activities, as well as novel ideas for development, which we might not come up with on our own.

Having said that, not everything about the audit is positive. The entire preparation process and the background materials required by FINEEC are disproportionate to the objective – whose value as such of course isn’t being denied by anyone. For instance, having to deliver all materials to FINEEC in ten printed copies is not a modern way of doing things. Moreover, as I mentioned in the beginning, the audit preparations tie down a significant amount of the university’s resources for a long time. It almost feels like quality management thinking has been forgotten in the actual audit process. Luckily, the delivery of materials will become easier in the future, as materials can be submitted electronically.

Quality work is not something that can be separated from the university’s other activities. It can be justifiably said that here at UEF, quality is directly and elegantly integrated into our everyday operational processes. We are also confident about our performance in the audit – we’ve done everything that can be done, and we feel that our activities stand any scrutiny, any time. This is not to say that we are indifferent to the audit, as we definitely want to pass it. The audit results will be published in spring 2017, and we’ll be wiser then.

meriläinen tuomo-100x130Tuomo Meriläinen
Director of Administration

Do you know your ethical responsibility?

Europe is currently dealing with refugee numbers unseen since World War II. At the same time, the media gets bombarded with anti-refugee hate speech. To me, this reaction is incomprehensible, as it is obvious that people are in real danger. You can test yourself by asking whether you would voluntarily leave your home, take your near and dear ones with you and venture out to sea on a rubber boat merely in the hope of better social benefits? The fact is that refugees are driven by something completely different, that is, a real danger threatening their lives.

During World War II, Finland sent 70,000 children to Sweden, out of war’s way and into safety. The first larger influx of refugees to Finland was experienced in the 1970s from Chile, and later in the 1990s from Somalia. For many of us Finns, Somali refugees were the first ones to cause a culture shock due to their different colour of skin and their different religion. Over the years, however, they have become integrated into Finnish society, they are a natural part of Finnish society, and they are as Finnish as the next fellow.

Irrespective of today’s economic situation, Finland nevertheless remains an affluent western nation and we can afford to do our part in this problem facing the whole of Europe. This is something anyone with a moral compass will think. Large refugee numbers will of course also cause pressure to Finnish society when it comes to integration training, social services, health care and education, but these can be managed after the acute situation has been dealt with, hopefully sooner than later. It’s also good to keep in mind that refugees constitute an immense source of new capacity for Finland. Multiculturalism is a richness and, when managed properly, a key to success. I think this is proven, for example, by the existence of the USA and by the country’s strength, which is rooted in it being a melting pot of different cultures.

meriläinen tuomo-100x130Tuomo Meriläinen
Director of Administration

Je suis Charlie

What gives anyone the right to define what others can and cannot say? This is a question one inevitably has to think about when looking at the tragedy that took place at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. The entire Western concept of justice is based on the rights of the individual, while not forgetting our democratic decision-making and social systems. I’ve been baffled by some of the recent comments looking at the terrorist attack in Paris from the viewpoint that it was “self-inflicted”, a result of publishing provocative pictures. Under no circumstances is the killing of defenceless people justified, not even if their writings or drawings might leave some room for stylistic critique.

It’s a short way from limiting the freedom of speech to limiting the freedom of science. All one has to do is to look back on the early days of the scholars advocating the heliocentric model in the Middle Ages, for example, and what happened to them.  However, it’s the very freedom of science that has given birth to the society we live in today. Unlimited thinking, unlimited research and unlimited publishing of research findings are the only way to create new things that, at best, can benefit the entire mankind. We can’t let anything or anyone stop us from doing what we think is best in the fields of science and communication, just as long as we remember our own ethical obligations.

meriläinen tuomo-100x130 Tuomo Meriläinen

Historical perspective

Today, as I’m writing this post, it’s been exactly 70 years since the Invasion of Normandy.  Reflections from that day are still present in the society we live in today. The Invasion of Normandy led to the collapse of Nazi Germany, and various courses development and different reasons also led to the collapse of one the era’s other dictatorships, Soviet Union, at the turn of the 1990s.

The end of World War II laid the foundations for a new Europe, which is based on mutual trust and peaceful coexistence. Later on, the principle of free movement became an integral part of the new Europe. This has also been significant to universities. Today, we take the free movement of researchers – and the highest level of knowledge they represent – for  granted. This might not be the case, had the development of democracy in the West followed another course. The great scientific breakthroughs witnessed over the past few decades and the emergence of the information society are consequences of this democratic development.

In my opinion, it is extremely important that tolerance towards different cultures and ethnic groups has gained permanent footing. International cooperation is an asset everywhere, including here in Finland. As part of this idea, the University of Eastern Finland wants to be, as defined in its strategy, an international, multidisciplinary and student-centered university. By opening our doors to everyone, we’ll achieve the best results.

meriläinen tuomo-100x130Tuomo Meriläinen