In early March, Kari Raivio, the former Chancellor of the University of Helsinki, wrote in Helsingin Sanomat that the only way for Finland to do well in the international competition is to invest in the quality of research and teaching. I agree with Raivio. If we want to be successful in the increasingly tough international competition, we and the Finnish higher education institutions (HEIs) must continue to produce high-quality education and research.
A high-quality higher education can be seen as the crown jewel of Finnish education and the core of our competence. Finland is where people from all over Europe come to learn about high-quality education and its quality assessment.
Finnish higher education institutions are legally obligated to take part in audits, i.e. external assessments of their activities and quality. This is topical right now, as the third audit model of the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) has been updated and an audit cycle has been piloted. The new audit model particularly emphasises the higher education institutions’ influence in society and student-centred education. The audit’s spearheads emphasise the Finnish HEIs’ mission to influence society and successfully solve societal challenges. The HEIs should also develop more flexible ways to study and promote students’ motivation and comprehensive well-being.
We are already doing many things well. The mission of the Finnish universities is to create more learning, understanding and welfare. The universities produce top experts and top research, but I think that we can always pay more attention to the quality of education. The quality of education is a matter for the entire higher education community, and it is a bit absurd to have to talk about why paying attention to quality is important for the entire community. Quality should not only be seen as a measurement of the work being done; in fact, it is all the fundamental work being carried out at universities.
Even though quality audits are important, we should not only be improving our activities for the sake of an audit. The universities should not only chase good quality assessment results in the run up to audits; instead, the communities should consider how this pursuit of quality can be included in the overall activities of the university. The quality and quality development of education and research should absolutely be kept at the core of the universities’ activities.
The starting point for improving activities should be including each member of the university community. Inclusion strengthens the sense of community: when members of the community have opportunities to have an influence, it strengthens their attachment to the community. That’s why it is important that even small bits of feedback are taken seriously and acknowledged in the development work.
The quality perspective should be present in all the university’s activities: in the planning, implementing, monitoring and assessment of activities. When this is combined with including the entire community, each higher education institution has the keys to success in its hand.