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Fotos: Vladimir Mayorov

Long traditions of Finno-Russian cooperation in higher education

In February, the seminar focusing on cooperation between Finnish and Russian institutes of higher education took place already for the 10th time. The first seminar was organised in Helsinki 20 years ago . Gradually, it became an established practice to organise the seminar on cooperation every two years, taking place alternately in Finland and in St Petersburg.

Igor Maximtsev, Rector of the Sankt-Petersburg State University of Economy (UNECON); Chair of the Association of Deputy Rectors in North-West Russia and Samu Seitsalo, CIMO’s Director, gave the welcome speeches at the seminar. Maximtsev looked backed at the initial steps of cooperation and had some heartfelt words of thanks for his Finnish colleagues.

”Russia is the number one country of origin of international degree students in Finnish institutes of higher education. In 2014, more than 3,000 of the little more than 20,000 international degree students were Russian,” Mr Seitsalo pointed out.

Younger generations are more interested in Russia than we used to be,” observed Raimo Valo, CEO of East Office. According to Timo Sivonen, the alumni speaker, attracting Finnish students to study in Russia does not differ from any other marketing effort, as long as the product is good.

Throughout the seminar, the speeches raised the need to increase cooperation between institutes of higher education and working life. It was noted that it would be of importance for businesses to pursue strategic cooperation with universities; on the other hand, the wish was expressed that higher education would take better note of working life needs. Keeping teachers at institutes of higher education up to date on what is going on in working life is essential, and vice versa. The Hidden Competencies report by Demos Helsinki and CIMO was presented at the event and gained wide interest among the Russian participants.

Education has been a bridge-builder between Finland and Russia for a long time,” Raimo Valo noted. ”The need for Russian expertise has not disappeared. Finnish business continue to operate in Russia. Cooperation has not ceased because of economic trends or political changes—regaining the same position would require a long-term effort.”

Igor Maximtsev, Rector of the Sankt-Petersburg State University of Economy (UNECON; Chair of the Association of Deputy Rectors in North-West Russia, and Outi Savonlahti, Head of International Affairs at the University of Eastern Finland.

Many of the participants have been involved in cooperation for nearly twenty years. Close relations were reflected in the amicable atmosphere of the evening event.

One of the highlights of the seminar was giving out recognition rewards to long-time participants in Finno-Russian cooperation in higher education. It was lovely to hear stories from those who have taken the journey, such as Head of International Affairs at the University of Eastern Finland Outi Savonlahti’s story of her horse and carriage ride in Petrozavodsk. CIMO’s long-standing Russian expert, recently retired Asta Hämäläinen, was given well-deserved attention as it was possible to say hello to her by recording a video message.

“In Russia, Finland is considered a reliable partner that can offer a high standard of cooperation. Increased mobility and project collaboration is sought after,” commented Vice Director of the Russian Erasmus+ office, Anna Muravyova, in her speech. To conclude, one cannot help but agree with the words of Tuija Koponen, Head of International Affairs of the University of Jyväskylä: ”Irrespective of political and financial challenges, cooperation in higher education between our countries is particularly important right now.”

See the presentations of the seminar (pdf)

(21/3/2016 | Jaana Mutanen, Outi Jäppinen and the rest of CIMO’s team at the Russian seminar)

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