Universities of applied sciences have had a long journey towards internationalisation. I have participated in this process from the very beginning, and have acquired many fun memories on the way. In the beginning, our motivation was strong, but our language skills still needed improving. Our internationalisation efforts were not exactly well-structured, either. But we had to start somewhere.
Now, 30 years later, looking at the universities of applied sciences as a whole, I’m amazed by our tremendous leap in development. Universities of applied sciences are involved with European Universities and other strong networks. They are building their research and degree programmes and aiming for competitiveness internationally. We have reached a level where universities of applied sciences must also consider themselves from an international perspective in order to succeed – that is, they have to compare themselves to international actors.
Export of expertise has become a part of the basic activities for all Finnish universities of applied sciences. The number of international students has risen to a good level, and an increasing number of students are paying for their own studies in the form of tuition fees. In other words, universities of applied sciences are now truly entering the competition for acquiring new students. There is certainly plenty left to learn, but the beginning has been quite successful. I am also pleased to note that the tuition fees for foreign degree students in universities of applied sciences have mostly been built on a healthy foundation; the students pay for their own studies in accordance with international practices.
The introduction of degree programmes delivered in English has comprehensively changed the operational environment of universities of applied sciences. Internationality is an increasingly large part of our daily lives. Almost everyone has opportunities to communicate in a foreign language. The amount of international personnel is steadily increasing, and the nature of higher education institutions is experiencing a shift from local to international.
For some universities of applied sciences, international continuing education and development activities are key tools for development. They challenge us to ask whether our products have sufficiently high quality for the world market, and whether we can successfully compete and make our operations profitable. What we know for certain is that the right strategic choices can increase the quality of a higher education institution’s operations.
Have we completed our journey of internationalisation and development? In my opinion, we have not. This does not mean that we haven’t succeeded. On the contrary. We have succeeded most excellently. At the same time, we still have a long way to go.
This theme issue of the UAS Journal/AMK-lehti is the last one under the editorial responsibility of Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK). Starting next year, Turku University of Applied Sciences will have editorial responsibility for the journal. The UAS Journal will continue to be a part of the story of our determined development, the story of how we work to strengthen and develop our operations. Therefore, on behalf of HAMK, I would like to express my gratitude to all who have given their strong contribution to the journal and its operations.
Pertti Puusaari, President/CEO, Häme University of Applied Sciences