Co-operational education

In the nautical port city of Pori, there has been a long-held belief that cooperation holds the key to the success of the city and the Satakunta region. With roots going back to 1983, the University Consortium of Pori is a mighty testament that through smart and efficient utilization of the different fortes of various actors, even the smaller ones can have the world as their oyster.

The University Consortium of Pori is a firm believer in the power of interdisciplinary approach and it can back up that faith with concrete proof. Through the cooperation of four different universities, Pori has been able to create a fluid and vigorous study and research environment. The consortium consists of Tampere University of Technology, University of Turku, University of Tampere, and Aalto University.

Nowadays, the students can choose from four graduate schools, and from eleven different majors, but the story of the consortium has been multifaceted from the very beginning. The operations began in the first part of the 1980’s with training programmes organized by the University of Tampere and the School of Economics of the University of Turku. Soon they were joined by the Tampere University of Technology, which offered the students the opportunity to attain a master’s degree in ICT engineering. These created the basis in 2001 for the establishment of the University Consortium of Pori.

The consortium and its activities have been developed dynamically over the years, with funding from various sources. The ERDF has been involved as a co-financier in a multitude of projects. The educational services have been enhanced and the attractiveness of the consortium have been increased.

Pori is a firm believer in the power of interdisciplinary approach. Photo credit: the Unversity Consortium of Pori.

As an example of a project-based development, the KASKU-project, which was operated by the Tampere University of Technology, is worth mentioning. In the project, new operational methods were conceived that would support the educational processes. The project includes the piloting of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and their modelling from the perspective of companies, training programmes, and municipalities. The aim is also to increase the utilization of web-based teaching and web-enabled cooperation between various schools. The first inter-campus (Hervanta-Pori) course organized via the web was well received, and so the operations are continued and expanded on.

The consortium has been able to create an enticing teaching and learning environment. It boasts over 2 800 students, and employs 170 experts. One of the reasons for the attractiveness of the environment can be found in the fluidity and flexibility of the teaching activities, as the other degree-programme students can also make use of the expertise found in Pori. The consortium offers courses through the Open University, which range from languages and museology to mathematics and industrial engineering. One can even find courses and other activities aimed at the various companies, which make sure that their personnel can maintain their skills and knowledge.

Pori has managed in bringing together those walks of life that are too often put at ends with each other, that is to say, science and art. The latter in the consortium is represented by the Faculty of Arts from the Aalto University. Pori Urban Platform of Aalto University (PUPA) brings science and art to Pori and the Satakunta region in new and interesting ways.

One the side of the more traditional science, the Tampere University of Technology offers the students a chance at attaining master’s degrees in ICT engineering and management. At heart of the research activities are, among other things, intelligent and smart systems, data-analysis and optimization, and the security solutions for varied networks.

At the crossroads of art and science, there stands cultural production and landscaping, offered by the University of Turku. The field’s research has faith in the methods offered by multidisciplinary approaches, as the field, which has been perhaps traditionally to be setting up camp in the humanist side, focuses on for example technology, games and gamification, and the Baltic region.

True to its legacy, the University of Tampere offers razor-sharp understanding of all things pertaining to social sciences. The focus of the research here are the welfare of individuals and societies, and welfare in the work place, among others.

The business side of things has a strong representation through the University of Turku, which offers an expansive and up-to-date environment for teaching and research. The School of Economics is focused on the opportunities offered and problems faced by the region, industry, and the business sector, according to Kimmo Laakso who is the development manager for the Pori unit of Turku School of Economics.

Laakso emphasises that one of the main objectives of the consortium is regional welfare and its development. A broad-spectrum cooperation between the public and private sectors is key in order for the teaching and research to achieve the best possible position. Only then can they answer the needs arising from the surrounding society.

In order to achieve this, considerable effort has been put into the cooperation with national, regional, and international companies and corporations.

“We are engaged in research and developmental activities with dozens of different companies. Of these, around half are regional SMEs, and half are export companies and the subsidiary companies of larger concerns.

According to Laakso, the cooperation activities are not limited to only those companies who have a firm standing in the business sector or the universities engaged in the straightforward running of the consortium. Rather, there are numerous co-operational networks and activities between the various national universities of applied sciences, and international universities, Laakso clarifies.

“We are engaged in a strong cooperation with the four universities involved. The largest share of this is with the Tampere University of Technology”, Laakso explains.

One of the concrete examples of this is the TEUVO-project that is run jointly by the Pori unit of University of Turku’s School of Economics, and the Pori unit of the Tampere University of Technology. The aim of the project is, among other things, the development of the business methods and operations of business networks, and the development of a statistical information system for Satakunta’s strategy for smart specialization.

Laakso praises the ERDF-funding, as its role has become ever more important for the activities conducted by not just the School of Economics but by the consortium as a whole. The role of the funding from the EU is ever more critical, according to Laakso, in a time when the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (TEKES) is cutting back on its share of funding projects in Finland.