Tag Archives: cooperation

Nordic networks support cooperation in China and Africa

The world university rankings published this summer were a pleasant read for the University of Eastern Finland.  Besides the performance of individual universities, it was interesting to look at the geographic distribution of the top 500 universities in the Shanghai ranking. It was no surprise that American and Western European universities did well, or that Chinese universities have been showing a strong performance in the past decade. The Shanghai ranking also included four universities from the Republic of South Africa but only two from Russia.

In the university world, networking has become an increasingly important tool in the growing competition for research resources and the best researchers. UEF has successful partners in all corners of the world. In China and southern Africa, we are also supported by an extensive Nordic university network. But have we fully tapped into the opportunities available through the Nordic networks? The Nordic Centre set up in conjunction with Fudan University, which was placed 151–200 in the Shanghai ranking, has served as a bridge connecting the Nordic universities and Fudan University, and businesses based in the Shanghai area. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in late October, the Nordic Centre currently comprises 25 Nordic universities.

A similar network, called SANORD (Southern African-Nordic Centre), has been established to bolster cooperation with southern African countries. This differs from its Chinese counterpart in that its membership consists of 25 leading universities from southern African countries, including the University of Cape Town, placed in the 201-300 bracket in the Shanghai ranking. Although not all African members of the network are yet able to reach the level of their Nordic partners, they are very eager to improve their higher education system, which creates demand for education export. Nordic SANORD members are by and large the same high-ranking universities that are part of the Nordic Centre.

Both the Nordic Centre and SANORD are fairly well known among researchers. However, the services offered by these networks could be utilised more efficiently. In addition to building bilateral relations with China and Africa, we should consider strengthening our cooperation with our Nordic partners. When seeking major international funding providers, or when planning extensive cooperation with the Chinese partners, a Nordic university consortium would be much more powerful and able to offer more skills and competences than any individual university. Based on my personal experience of the Nordic Centre’s operations, I would say we Finns have much to learn from the cooperation between the Swedish and the Danish in the Chinese projects. Active involvement in the Nordic Centre and SANORD allows us to forge stronger ties with our African, Chinese and Nordic partners.  Hopefully we will find ways of linking businesses to this competence network, too. Some promising developments are already under way in China.

harri_siiskonenHarri Siiskonen

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