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Aalto University spreads its wings

By Jemina Juuti, October 2008

Doctorates are conferred in a ceremony at the Helsinki University of Technology, one of three institutes that will merge to form Aalto University.

The new Aalto University brings together three institutes of higher learning, forming a new entity that begins operations on August 1, 2009. The goal is to create an innovative scientific community and achieve a place among the world's top universities by 2020.

Aalto University will combine the Helsinki School of Economics (HSE), the University of Art and Design Helsinki (TaiK) and the Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) to provide opportunities for cross-disciplinary education and research. With support from the state and outside financiers, the new university will have significantly more resources to strengthen its teaching and research. Within Aalto University, the three institutes of higher learning will be able to pool their resources, build close ties to the business community and join the top rank of universities worldwide.

Aiming high

Aalto University has an ambitious national mandate: to help build Finnish society through top-notch education, scientific research and societal interaction. The aim is to boost Finland's success internationally, expanding economic, technological and cultural opportunities as well as raising international attention in general. The university reform will focus on minimising bureaucracy, taking an open-minded approach between various disciplines and collaborating with the business community.

Interdisciplinary expertise

HSE is the nation's largest and predominant business school. TaiK is an international centre for design and arts, audiovisual communications and art education. TKK is Finland's leading university of technology, and includes the nation's architecture school.

The chairman of the board of Aalto University is Matti Alahuhta, CEO of elevator and escalator manufacturer Kone Ltd. The vice-chairman is professor Marja Makarow, CEO of the European Science Foundation. The other board members include Boston University president Robert A. Brown, Forest Industries Federation president Anne Brunila, professor Bengt Holmström, professor Saku Mantere and Nokia's senior design manager, Anna Valtonen. As Alahuhta sees it, the strength of this board lies in its variety, but similarities do exist between its members as well.

More internationalism, more choices

The key motivations for the university reform are improving conditions for students, researchers and instructors and stepping up cooperation with domestic and international networks. The student-driven approach will encourage learning and the search for new solutions. For students, the new combined institution means a wider choice of elective courses and more English-language degree programmes. The number of foreign degree students and exchange students will also grow.

HSE, TaiK and TKK already have many shared educational programmes and projects. Interdisciplinary programmes bring together the three institutions' expertise in the fields of research, learning and preparation for working life.

One of these is the Decode cross-disciplinary research group, which has strong international ties to corporations and research bodies. Decode works in the areas of industrial design, usability, new technology and business studies. The International Design Business Management (IDBM) programme is aimed at HSE, TaiK and TKK students. The programme concentrates on synergies between marketing, design and technology, focusing on the significance of design as a competitive edge in international business.

Joint-venture learning

Among the new university's first joint ventures are its Design Factory, Media Factory and Service Factory. These academic teams collaborate with companies and public-sector bodies to create environments for learning, research and cooperation. The results of their open innovation will transfer seamlessly into the education of future product designers.

For example, theory meets practical reality at the TKK-led Design Factory, with shared proto-workshops, exhibition spaces, library facilities and social spaces forming a multifaceted meeting place. The space is designed for flexible 24/7 use, allowing all participants the chance of make the most of it.

The Media Factory's target is to meet the new needs of the changing media world by bringing together expertise from all three sectors. The Service Factory, meanwhile, concentrates on improving services and user-driven development. Examples of the development areas are communications, banking and insurance services.

There are high expectations in store for the future: new innovations, unlimited cooperation and a broader range of choice for students.


Aalto University


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