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Varsities offer knowledge to thwart global challenges

Published : 03 Sep 2019, 01:21

Updated : 03 Sep 2019, 10:29

  DF Report

Rector of the University of Helsinki Jari Niemelä. Press Release Photo University of Helsinki by Photo Pekka Lähteenmäki.

University of Helsinki Rector Jari Niemelä on Monday said solving global problems that humanity is currently facing, including extreme weather phenomena, technological advances, health, and income inequality as well as struggling political systems, requires cooperation.

“The University of Helsinki is capable of providing research-based knowledge to mitigate climate change, to engender sustainable urban development and to utilise artificial intelligence. Indeed, I wish to challenge society – and its decision-makers in particular – to cooperate with universities in solving these global challenges,” said Niemelä.

He was addressing an opening ceremony of the academic year, said a university press release.

He went on to say that amidst upheavals, the importance of the university’s mission is further highlighted. Niemelä urged universities to remain vigilant in reiterating the importance of the university and its educational mission. Especially in European discourse, universities are considered significant integrators of society as well as maintainers of togetherness and solidarity.

“You could say that universities serve as beacons of scientific thinking, reflecting the light of education and defending the shared European value base, which comprises respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law,” Niemelä said.

The educational mission of universities is rapidly changing, and the transformation of studying and knowledge acquisition is challenging them. Students acquire their knowledge and skills also in ways other than traditional studying: information is sought online, from peers and through practical work.

“In an era of knowledge fragmentation, the educational attraction of universities is based on research of a high standard. Reliance on research separates university instruction from knowledge acquired from the internet or peers, or that based on personal experience,” said the rector.

Niemelä noted that as younger age groups become smaller and skilled workers age, universities must also attract students and skilled workers from abroad.

“Universities are generators of skills-based immigration. I hope the transition to professional life will be made as attractive and smooth as possible for international students,” he suggested.