Finnish-Chinese cooperation development – International cooperation development project


Laurea UAS began a two-year CIMO project in January 2015. The purpose of the project is to improve strategic partnership activities and, by means of an international development project, the cooperation between universities in Finland and China.

Increasing cooperation activities in the global market environment not only benefits organisations that provide higher education but also aims at sharing knowledge and education in a more active manner. The goal is to improve cooperation between Finnish and Chinese companies and organisations in the future and to eliminate barriers that prevent international cooperation and partnerships between micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

The project time line is divided into four parts over a two-year period. In Finland, Laurea’s Uusimaa units P2P in Hyvinkää and Business Lab in Lohja serve as the coordinating bodies. Thus, they are responsible for project funding and matters related to operational planning. In accordance with the partnership activities, Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK) is the project partner for cooperation schools in Finland and China.

The participation of project partner institutions operating in China – Xiamen University Software School, Jiangxi Science and Technology Normal University and Beijing Technology and Business University – adds an international dimension to the project. There has not been similar cooperation between the Finnish and Chinese schools before this project. Thus we are hoping to accomplish lasting relationships between the schools and make it easier for companies to cooperate.

The universities operating in China and universities of applied sciences in Finland each have their own contact with which project parts are implemented and divided into ”action points” for each period. Business Lab and P2P are in contact with the international coordinator responsible for Xiamen University Software School and with student, working together on actions that are specified for each period of the project and maintaining contact in weekly virtual meetings. HAMK is a project partner with Jiangxi Science and Technology Normal University and Beijing Technology and Business University, which operate in China. This paper concentrates in the cooperation between Laurea UAS and Xiamen University Software School.

Partnership activities in this project culminate in regional, inter-organisational and international differences between the educational lines and students. Thus, the students, organisations and the actual project all benefit from international cooperation and the viewpoints of experts and students from several different fields. Partnership activities and international cooperation makes it possible to utilise elements from China and Finland and their own unique market characteristics in project implementation and planning.

The beginning of the project

For Laurea, the first phase in the project, in January 2015 involved creating a foundation and strategy process for the different phases of the project. During this phase, Finnish students would travel to China and present the project targets and a description of the Finnish market situation. However, the most important aim of the trip was to establish a strong foundation for the strategy process. At the same time, the practical arrangements concerning communication and measures were agreed. The first major part of the project was then to build the cooperation process and develop the communication between students and faculty in these higher education institutions.

The P2P project team began its part of the project by creating a comprehensive analysis of the Finnish market. The purpose was to survey how factors affecting the market environment impact on market functioning, and to provide the project team operating in China with information about the operation and current state of the Finnish market.

The Business Lab project team started to develop a module that would ease international cooperation between Finnish and Chinese micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the future. This team began its work by collecting background information on the problems encountered by Finnish small and micro enterprises when cooperating with Chinese companies and organisations. The background research was completed in the form of benchmarking and qualitative interviews.

The background research made it possible to identify the biggest problem areas with regard to launching international cooperation. Many small companies cannot hire a consultant to handle or assist with starting international cooperation or trade relations. There is demand for products ordered from China, but the challenges to establishing trade relations can be huge for small and medium-sized or micro enterprises. The second challenge to launching cooperation between Chinese and Finnish companies is language and differences in virtual communications channels.

Trip to Xiamen, China

In March 2015, a project team of students and teachers from Laurea made a visit to Xiamen in China. During this trip, we learned more about our cooperation institute Xiamen University Software School and local culture. At Xiamen University, we met a group of Chinese students who will be involved in the project for the next two years. The P2P project team presented its analysis and showed the Chinese students how to produce a similar analysis for China. The analysis lays a foundation for the project by increasing understanding of the other culture and thus facilitating cooperation. The Business Lab project team presented a raw version of a module that it developed. At this stage of the project, we were aware of the challenges on the Finnish side, and during the trip we addressed the challenges that Chinese companies encounter when working with Finnish companies. The aim was to survey the challenges that Chinese companies face when initiating cooperation, and to find solutions to the challenges that Finnish companies have encountered.

Figure 1. Visit to Xiamen University Software School in March 2015 (Laurea’s students and staff together with Xiamen University students and staff)

After returning to Finland, the teams continued to work on their own, meeting weekly in virtual format. The weekly meetings ensured that everyone moved in the same direction in terms of project implementation.

Lessons learned in this project

Working on an international project differs from project work with a Finnish team. In Finland, we are accustomed to a disciplined work style and are relatively reserved in terms of body language. The Chinese body language, customs and etiquette are very different than that of Finns. Another challenge was how to communicate and hold project meetings when the project team is separated by a few time zones and no one is operating in their native language.

In addition, cultural differences and technology factors have an impact on project work. For example, women in China have a very different position in the university world than their counterparts in Finland. Behavioural etiquette in lectures and meetings also differs significantly from prevailing practices in western countries. Community spirit in China is on a completely different level than in, for example, in Finland. People in China almost always consider their own job or educational institute to be the best in the field, which means that anyone seeking neutral feedback or a recommendation should begin by interviewing people from outside the organisation.

Image and reputation have great importance in China. This affects negotiations and brainstorming sessions held with the Chinese. During the spring, we learned that critical arguments or development proposals should be presented in a roundabout manner as questions rather than direct comments. This avoids situations in which a Chinese student is embarrassed by being the target of ”criticism”. The opportunity to work in an international team also provided valuable knowledge for the world of work. If we get the chance to work in a multicultural team later in our careers, we will be better prepared to handle the potential challenges.

Project work cannot be compared to traditional campus studies, because the learning that occurs in projects is completely different from lecture-style learning. The experiences are much more beneficial than theoretical studies. Project work has become more prevalent at workplaces, which makes participation in such a large project very useful. Studying in projects has developed our skills in social interaction, the English language and project work. Applying knowledge in practice and implementing a project brings a practical aspect to learning and teaches people how to deal with problems and situations that do not come up in lectures.

The future

This article depicts only the first part of the project that set the foundation for the future actions. During this project the students in Finnish project team will change but Chinese team stays the same for the whole two-year project. This change in personnel has a lot to do with the formation of the studies in both countries. Finnish students use project management system to manage the project and share the documents. The teachers for both Hyvinkää and Lohja students stay the same for the whole project. The first teams planned the process and now new students are taking those into action.

The goal for the second part of the project is to take these proposed plans to action. We are now contacting interested businesses in both countries and building the contacts for them. The idea is that by the coming spring, we would have the first actual contacts for the international projects. It is also in the plans that in the spring 2016 the students and faculty from Xiamen University Software School will come to Finland to meet the new Finnish students and also to get acquainted with Finnish culture and businesses connected with the project.


Janika Kyttä, Coordinator, M.Ed., Laurea University of Applied Sciences,

Daniela Frisk, Bachelor Student, Business & Administration, Laurea University of Applied Sciences,

Jenna Kuusimäki, Bachelor Student, Business & Administration, Laurea University of Applied Sciences,

Networking to Bridge the European Regional Innovation Systems – The Case of METNET Knowledge-Based Innovation Network

Globalised Market Trends and Regional Innovation System

Current trends in the globalised markets of the twenty-first century include increased interdependency and inter-organisational networking between organisations from different societies. A number of researchers who are involved in the field of innovation clusters and networks have explored positive outcomes that arise from the sustainable networking of actors with complementary resources and competencies (e.g. Porter, 1998, Asheim & Isaksen, 2000; Ferreira et al., 2012).

Following these trends, non-profit sector organisations in the fields of education and academic research have also become engaged in a variety of academic partnerships, exchange programmes and industry cooperation projects.

At the heart of these developments, the completion of the European Research Area (ERA) by 2014 was at the top of the political and legislative agenda of the European Union (EU), as it would be an area of free movement and exchange of research, scientific knowledge and technology (Chou, 2014).
Regional Innovation Systems (RIS) have been raised to the position of being the most critical tools for enhancing research and innovation capacities throughout Europe and ensuring their optimal use. Lundvall (1985) initiated the term of Innovation System (IS). A few years later, the idea of the Regional Innovation System (RIS) was introduced (Cooke, 1992; Isaksen, 2001; Iammarino, 2005). There are different approaches used by scholars to define RIS. According to Cooke (1992), the concept of RIS is the prelude to an extended discussion on the importance of financial capacity, institutionalised learning and productive culture to systemic innovation.

The complete regional innovation system consists of (1) firms representing a region’s main industrial clusters, including their support industries, (2) ‘supporting’ knowledge organisations, and (3) the active interaction between these actors. Thus, it involves cooperation in innovation activities between firms and knowledge creating and diffusing organisations, such as universities, colleges, R&D institutes, business associations etc. (Isaksen, 2001) Some researchers consider RIS as an interactive, dynamic structure made up of partners in the regional production (Lambooy, 2002) or even as a kind of complex adaptive system (Cooke, 2013).

Table 1. A hierarchy of three related concepts (Isaksen, 2001)

Concepts Definitions and differences
Regional cluster A concentration of ‘independent’ firms within the same or adjacent industrial sectors in a small geographical area
Regional innovation network Increasingly organised cooperation (agreements) between firms, stimulated by trust, norms and conventions
Regional innovation system Cooperation between firms and different organisations for knowledge development and diffusion
Learning regions Increasingly organised cooperation with a broader set of civil organisations and public authorities that are embedded in social and regional structures

Isaksen (2001) emphasises that the change from a cluster to an innovation system requires strengthening the region’s institutional infrastructure through enlarging the involvement of knowledge organisations (both regional and national) in innovation cooperation. Organisations cooperate closely on an institutional level with the aim to develop and implement regional innovation strategies (Boekema et al., 2000) in order to develop the local economy.

The case of the METNET knowledge-based innovation network

Recognising the strength and power of networks in creating regional innovation system and fostering economic growth, the knowledge-based innovation network (METNET) was established on the basis of the regional cluster InnoSteel, which was founded by the Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK) in cooperation with Rautaruukki Oyj (currently SSAB Ab). Establishing the METNET knowledge-based innovation network was a first step towards building a regional innovation system (RIS) in the Häme region.

The aims of the METNET network were:

  1. to consolidate the expertise and efforts of the regional steel construction and technology industries in research and development, and
  2. to share knowledge and technology services as well as new production-related solutions and operating models among the industry players.

Recognising the strength of international cooperation networks in contributing to regional innovation systems, the METNET knowledge-based network was formally founded by signing an agreement between eight foundation members in Berlin on 2 November 2006.

The METNET knowledge-based network is based on voluntary cooperation and equality of rights for its members. The purpose of the network is to bring together European educational and R&D organisations engaged in research and development in the steel construction and technology industry to support their cooperation.

The specific objectives of the METNET knowledge-based network are as follows:

  • to build and maintain a large scale international innovation environment for the network members and their regions,
  • to promote the exchange of information and best practices through the network to increase the know-how of companies and organisations operating in the European steel construction and technology industry,
  • to support innovative processes aimed at developing new products, services and business processes by sharing capabilities, expertise and resources among network members,
  • to prepare and launch joint international projects of common interest financed by companies, European Union, World Bank etc.,
  • to hold international seminars, workshops, training programmes, and consultation and to seek funding for these activities.

Currently, the METNET network has over 40 members from 17 countries all over Europe including non-member states of the European Union such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Turkey. These members are universities, higher education, as well as research institutions and enterprises who represent their regional innovation networks. Each regional innovation network has its own priorities and strengths (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. METNET knowledge-based innovation network.

HAMK has been the leading member of the METNET network acting as the main coordinator of most activities for the entire period since network’s foundation. As a leader, HAMK has been responsible for organising annual conferences, workshops and other forms of cooperation within the network. The METNET annual conferences and workshops have taken place in different countries and been organised in cooperation with the regional network members. The Tenth METNET International Conference will be hosted by the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) in Budapest in October 2015.

Network members fund their own participation in METNET activities themselves through their own financing arrangements and/or projects. Among the most active Finnish sponsors are the City of Hämeenlinna, Rautaruukki Oyj (currently SSAB Ab), HAMK and other university members. In the case of METNET international events, the regional sponsors have been local businesses, universities and city organisations.

Planning, preparing and managing joint international projects are the most important and most demanding activities of the METNET network. The network members have prepared and submitted several project applications for the EU funding. There is an international project, named Ruoste (financed by the Research Fund of Coal and Steel RFCS) currently running. Currently, another project in the same technical area is under preparation. Additionally, METNET members have participated in several Finnish national projects managed by HAMK.


The METNET network has significant implications for the development potential, research and innovation capacities of the Häme regional innovation system (RIS) and wider communities of Europe represented by the network members. METNET provides an international innovation environment for its members and the possibility to expand their regional innovation networks internationally.

International networking facilitates learning that promotes innovation. Through the channels of the METNET network, network members are able to use more of the information available in their research and development work. Importantly, enterprises are able to acquire new knowledge, new development and business opportunities and access to resources outside their regions.
Interpersonal relationships are of particular importance in the exchange of information between the network members. The achieved long-term trustful relationships stimulate interactive learning and inspire joint development work. In turn, joint projects developed by the members of the network maintain the METNET cooperation.

Finally, the cumulative effects of utilising the possibilities of an international cooperation network, instead of the regional innovation network only, will produce significant increases in the economic value added of enterprises. (Tenhunen, 2007)


Marina Weck, Development Manager, M.Sc. (Eng.), MBA, Häme University of Applied Sciences,

Lauri Tenhunen, Dr. of Science, Adjunct Professor, Häme University of Applied Sciences,

Asheim, B., & Isaksen, A. 2000. Localised knowledge, interactive learning and innovation: between regional networks and global corporations. In E. Vatne, & M. Taylor (Eds.), The Networked Firm in a Global World. Small Firms in New Environments (pp.163-198). Ashgate: Aldershot.

Boekema,F., Morgan, K., Bakkers, S. & Rutten, R. 2000. Introduction to Learning Regions: A New Issue for Analysis? In F. Boekema, K. Morgan, S. Bakkers, & R. Rutten (Eds.), Knowledge, Innovation and Economic Growth. The Theory and Practice of Learning Regions. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Chou, M.H. 2014. The evolution of the European research area as an idea in European integration. In Building the knowledge economy in Europe: New constellations in European research and higher education governance (pp. 27-50)Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Cooke, P. 1992. Regional innovation systems: competitive regulation in the new Europe. Geoforum, 23(3), 365-382.

Cooke P. 2013. Complex adaptive innovation systems: Relatedness and transversality in the evolving region. New York, NY: Routledge.

Ferreira, J., Garrido Azevedo, S., & Raposo, M.L. 2012. Specialization of regional clusters and innovative behavior: A case study. Competitiveness Review: An International Business Journal, 22(2), 147-169.

Iammarino, S. 2005. An evolutionary integrated view of regional systems of innovation: concepts, measures and historical perspectives. European Planning Studies, 13, 497-519.

Isaksen, A. 2001. Building regional innovation systems: is endogenous industrial development possible in the global economy? Canadian Journal of Regional Science, 24(1), 101-120.

Lambooy. 2002. Knowledge and urban economic development: An evolutionary perspective. Urban Studies, 39 (5–6), 1019-1035.

Lundvall, B.Å. 1985. Product innovation and user-producer interaction. Aalborg: Aalborg University Press.

Porter, M. 1998. Clusters and the new economics of competition. Harvard Business Review. November-December, 77-90.

Tenhunen, L. 2007. How international collaboration benefits companies – Evaluation of the scale effects of an expanding innovation environment. Cases InnoSteel and Metnet. In T. Similä-Lehtinen (Ed.), InnoSteel – True Stories Made Out of Steel. HAMK Publications, 10.

CARPE – The European strategic network in higher education


The agreement between the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and the higher education institutions for the period 2013–2016 contains a section of internationalisation to ensure high quality. According to the agreement, higher education institutions should create international strategic partnerships to strengthen their focal areas. In addition, the joint supply of education including joint and double degrees and the collaboration in research and development are essential elements in international collaboration.

The creation of the strategic network

Higher education institutions typically have a large number of international agreements, which create insufficient collaboration and unnecessary bureaucracy among partners. To avoid these difficulties, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht searched the best partner and found Turku University of Applied Sciences in 2008. The top management of these institutions prepared the plans to create the strategic network, defined the required features of the potential higher education institutions and began to search suitable partners for the network.

The partnership criteria included that the institutions should be universities of applied sciences, which have applied research and development that serve professional education and support regional development. The institutions should have similar fields of education to enable student and staff exchange, joint educational programmes and collaboration in research and development. The promotion of innovations also had an important role in emphasising the external impact of the institutions.

International trade was an important motivation for the geographical coverage of the network. Europe is an important market for the export companies of the countries where the institutions of the strategic network are located. For example, the share of the export of the Finnish gross domestic product is nearly 40% and the share of Europe of the export is about 55%. The universities of applied sciences want to support international trade and other international activities. Another motivation for the European partnership was the funding from European Union for student and staff exchange and research and development projects. Based on these factors, the strategic network supports the European economic and social cohesion in the common market.

The strategic network provides a trustworthy learning environment for students who want to strengthen their international competences (Kettunen, 2015a). Trust was considered an important factor in the strategic network because it lowers the unnecessary transaction costs (Kettunen, 2015b). It was agreed in the first discussions that the network should not be too large to support trustworthy collaboration and create benefits for the members of the network. Trust is important when the members prepare the bids of research and development projects, carry out projects and disseminate results. Institutional trust was promoted by the general agreement between members. The formal association was established according to the Dutch legislation.

The European strategic network

The general agreement of CARPE was signed by four European universities of applied sciences at the first CARPE Conference in November 2011. Manchester Metropolitan University joined the network next year, soon after the Conference. The CARPE network includes the following members:

  • HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht
  • Turku University of Applied Sciences
  • Polytechnic University of Valencia
  • Hamburg University of Applied Sciences
  • Manchester Metropolitan University.

CARPE is not a closed network restricted only to activities between members. It is not reasonable to limit the collaboration between the predetermined partners, because the development needs of customers may require partners outside the network. Therefore the network welcomes other partners for research and development projects whenever it is reasonable for the aims of the projects. Similarly, the member institutions of CARPE have student and staff exchange with other institutions outside the strategic network whenever it is considered valuable.

Figure 1 describes the geographical coverage of the CARPE network on the European map. The network has spread over Western Europe and it is biased in this respect. There are plans to extend the coverage to Eastern Europe. The Steering Committee of CARPE accepted the University of Debrecen as an associate member in November 2014 and it has a good possibility to become a full member if it can maintain the high activity level in the network.

Figure 1. The geographical coverage of the CARPE network.

The governance of the network

The governance of the CARPE network is stipulated in the CARPE Statutes so that there are full members and associate members. The first five institutions are full members. The new members can be considered for associate members if they have enough activities including staff and student exchange and research and development projects. If the activity level remains high or increases, the associate members can be considered for full members. The convergence criteria have been planned to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and maintain the high level of trust between the partners.

Figure 2 describes the Steering Committee of CARPE in 2014. It is the highest decision making body of the network. It is represented by the heads of the institutions and supported by the support group which prepares the agenda of the meetings. The steering committee meets twice a year. The spring meeting is held in Brussels and autumn meeting in one of the member institutions. The Steering Committee evaluates the progress made and takes new steps for improvement of activities. It has also set various groups to prepare further development.

Figure 2. The Steering Committee meeting of CARPE in Brussels in April 2014. From left Dr Jacqueline Otten, Dr Juha Kettunen, Mr Ralf Behrens, Ms Geri Bonhof, Dr Sharon Handley, Ms Kirsti Virtanen, Dr Juan-Miguel Martinez Rubio, Dr Christopher Fox and Ms Marlies Ngouateu-Bussemaker.

Objectives and results of the network

The objectives of the CARPE network were aligned with the motivation to establish the network. Higher education institutions support the economic and social development in Europe. The objectives of the network are the following:

  • Exchange and collaboration in European research programmes
  • Development of joint study programmes
  • Exchange of students and staff
  • Establishment of a strong European reputation.

The CARPE network has increased the activity of the partner institutions in the European research programmes. The web site of the CARPE network ( includes a large number of research and educational projects. The general principle is that the CARPE partners first contact the other CARPE partners when they prepare new project bids. That is not always possible, because the workloads of the teachers and other staff at the partner institutions are full. Then other partners outside CARPE can be sought for the projects.

The development of joint study programmes has taken its first steps. The objectives of the degree programmes at the home and host institutions have to be evaluated before the agreement of joint degrees. Additional challenges are the pedagogical regulations and structures of education, which are different in the countries of CARPE partners. Networking emphasises the need of the flexible structures of curricula.

The exchange of students and staff has been active. The Turku University of Applied Sciences arranged the third biennale CARPE Conference in Turku in May 2015. The theme of the conference was Towards Successful European Societies: The Social and Economic Significance of Universities of Applied Sciences. Altogether 225 members from the partner institutions participated in the conference.

CARPE has achieved the strong European reputation, because it is the first strategic network of its kind among the universities of applied sciences. The activities and results of CARPE network have been presented in international conferences. The reputation has reached Brussels, because CARPE Steering Committee has its spring meeting is in Brussels, where its meets the experts of European Commission.

CARPE has connected education and research and provided services to small and medium-sized enterprises and other organisations. The strategic network has promoted economic and social progress through the strengthening of economic and social cohesion of Europe. The institutions of the network strengthen the capabilities that are needed in the European common market.


Juha Kettunen, Chancellor, DSc(Econ), PhD, DSc(Tech), Turku University of Applied Sciences,

Kettunen, J. 2015a. Learning and teaching in the European strategic network, The Online Journal of Quality in Higher Education, 2(2), 57-64.

Kettunen, J. 2015b. The strategic network of higher education institutions, Business Education & Accreditation, 7(1), 87-95.

Training of Trainers -project in Nepal


The Ministry of Education (MoE) in Nepal has taken the initiative to improve existing services by introducing the School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP) for the years 2009–2015 in response to educational development challenges of the country. Finland is committed to support Nepal within the SSRP as one of the Finland’s long-term partner countries in development cooperation.

The aim of the SSRP is to improve the quality and relevance of education. The Training of Trainers (ToT) project started in spring 2013 as a two-year project coordinated by JAMK University of Applied Sciences and HAMK University of Applied Sciences working as a partner. Although the upgrading programme is a long-term process, this article describes one part of it, the ToT project. Firstly, the goals of the project are presented shortly. Secondly, the outcomes of the project are described based on the feedback of the participating teacher educators. At the end we assess the development cooperation between the higher education institutes.

The objectives of the ToT project

The goals of the project were closely linked with national ongoing reforms. The developmental objective of the project was to support Tribhuvan University in the implementation of the School Sector Reform Plan of 2009–2015 thus improving the quality of education. Taking into account the national political, economic and geographical facts, the educational reform has to be implemented in new ways.

Thus the purpose of the ToT project was to support Tribhuvan University in the implementation of the Teacher Qualification Upgrading programme by training 75 teacher trainers and ICT experts from different campuses of Tribhuvan University in open and distance learning methodology.

Table 1. The objectives of the ToT project.

Development Objective


Effective implementation of the national School Sector Reform Plan 20092015 (SSRP) leading to equality and education for all
  • Through new open and distance learning training models (ODL), increased accessibility to higher education for learners from remote and poor regions of Nepal (incl. women and minorities)
  • Teacher Trainers of TU-FoE and Regional Campuses have adopted new Open and Distance Learning (ODL) methods.
  • TU-FoE and Regional Campuses administrators are oriented towards effective implementation and management of ODL-based Bachelor and Master programs.

Project Purpose

Increased competence of Tribhuvan University – Faculty of Education (TU-FoE) to implement the Teacher Qualification Upgrading Program for 13,000 working teachers across Nepal

The framework for the project was divided into three themes:

  • ICT and Open and Distance Learning (ODL) as a training model and pedagogical approach
  • Development work, evaluation
  • Pedagogy, adult learning and teacher`s profession.

Outcomes of the ToT project

Major organisational changes simultaneously provide the possibility for a new way of thinking. They may act like cornerstones, which help workers to look to the future (Kajamaa 2015). Heikkilä & Seppänen (2015) speak of transformative agency, where the agency is regarded as the subject`s capacity to take purposeful actions to change their work.

At the end phase of the ToT project feedback was gathered from the participants on two levels: quantitative and qualitative data using an online questionnaire and collaborative method (Learning café). The online questionnaire was answered by 56 teacher trainers from all six campuses of Tribhuvan University representing different subjects. The teacher trainers were well qualified: their teaching experience ranged from four up to more than 20 years.
The teacher trainers expressed the changes in their work during the ToT project:

  • Increased ICT skills
  • Pedagogical methods (student-centeredness, varied increased distance teaching methods, applying new pedagogical tools)
  • Tutoring ways (student-centeredness, new ways of communication)
  • Adopting developing work approach; systematic planning.

The teacher trainers had to evaluate their upgrading programmes on the campuses on a scale of 1 to 4 (figure 1).

Figure 1. The rating of the 56 teacher trainers in the online questionnaire concerning the upgrading programme of the campuses.

The biggest changes seemed to be in the formulation of learning assignments, the pedagogical grounds for the new ODL model, the shift in the implementation of assessment and the importance of face-to-face teaching. The three most important personal achievements of the teacher trainers were the new, innovative pedagogical methodology combined with increased ICT-skills and a possibility for professional growth.

The three key challenges in the future work seemed to be the technological problems (e.g. learning environment, ICT hub, Moodle platform, E-library, lacking the ICT skills of participating teachers, electricity supply), motivational factors (e.g. the need to increase the number of participants, enrollment, awareness raising and motivation, need for smaller fees) and a clear status for the ODL programme on the campuses.

The collaborative feedback method (Learning café) produced many overlapping comments. Therefore the feedback was divided into three themes: competence development, open and distance learning development and contextual changes.

Competence development 

Competence development was regarded as very personal. However, the project seemed to increase empowerment and awareness as a teacher. The respondents referred to “an alternative approach in teaching”, which was new for them. The dialogue increased the participants’ possibilities to adopt new knowledge and build networks. The self-evaluation technique enhanced new learning, like systematic planning, too.

Open and distance learning development

According to teacher educators, development in ODL has been twofold: the development of the whole education model, from campus-based education to open learning environments on the whole university level and the development of ICT facilities, equipment and the skills. The ToT project was an updating process for the new era of education. Although the improvement of ICT skills was appreciated in the project, the teacher trainers stressed the combination of ICT technology with pedagogy.

Cooperation and contextual changes

At university level, all six campuses had started to work together organising intra-university seminars. The coordination of the collaboration has been one important factor. At the end of the project, the teacher educators also emphasised that the ODL mode was a pathway towards a new university model, the Open University. The university used to be centralised in its activities, but the ODL development has promoted a decentralised model, which empowers the campuses.

Reflection on the outcomes of the project

The social context is a foundation for every project. Global, cultural and political situations had a strong effect on the project. On one hand the feedback produced a lot of information on the reality of the campuses: the impact of political and the economic situation, the administrative policy of the university and many other factors that are out of reach of the teacher trainers. However, on the other hand they expressed enthusiasm and great willingness to implement a new, ODL-based pedagogical model.

Generally, in a situation where work changes, transformative agency (the capacity of the subjects to take purposeful actions) in their work activity differs greatly (Heikkilä & Seppänen 2015). Transformative agency manifests itself in different work orientations.

It is relevant to analyse what kind of pedagogical approaches during the ToT programme seemed to enhance transformative agency in the teacher trainers` work. The feedback showed that a huge amount of positive feedback emerged. The teacher trainers seemed to have taken many purposeful, goal-oriented actions. Obstacles that were interpreted as insurmountable at the beginning of the project were regarded as merely challenging at the end and no clear resistance to the development was visible. There was a lot of envisioning of the future: great hope that challenges in the development of the ODL models would be tackled on the campuses through collaboration.
To enhance the transformative agency of the teacher trainers, they need to have a feeling of mutual understanding. The cultural sensitivity approach was set as one of the project`s goals. For the Finnish team the project offered a huge possibility to reflect and evaluate own working methods. For this purpose the participants were asked about the “critical incidents”, which are grouped here in seven themes:

  • Cultural relevance: some teacher trainers seemed to find a gap between the reality and the practices implemented by the Finnish team. Linguistic barriers existed to some extent but also differences between pedagogical methodologies.
  • Social context: political instability, economic situation, infrastructure and geographical challenges.
  • Factors related to the conditions of the working teachers (upgrading programme participants).
  • Globalisation – “To apply global knowledge on a local level”
  • New learning possibility for all
  • Networking, co-operation
  • Professional development.

Ideas for the future ODL-development

Cooperation ideas for future are based on the outcomes of the Tot project:

  • The development of inter-campuses networking using benchmarking and sharing best practices.
  • The development of the ICT infrastructure further: More ICT facilities, computers, software and sufficiently internet connections, centralised and decentralised ICT services.
  • Different kind of virtual environments as a toolbox for learning.
  • The continuation of ICT skills and ODL-based pedagogical training and the development of Self Learning Materials.
  • The updating of strategic plans including awareness of common goals and development priorities.
  • The main campus of Tribhuvan University as a leading role in organising the development work.
  • Increasing the number of campuses and specialisation subjects to the ODL programme.
  • In order to sustain this programme, the government of Nepal should give special emphasis to it as to the strategies made by SSRP (2009–15).

The original plan was to complete the ToT Nepal project by the end of July 2015, but a massive earthquake hit Nepal on 25 April 2015. This was noted as a risk in the Logical Framework Matrix of the ToT project. Therefore an extension of the project until the end of 2015 was applied in order to fulfill all project activities.


Maija Hirvonen, Principal lecturer, PhD, JAMK University of Applied Sciences,

Tuovi Leppänen, Senior lecturer, M.Soc.Sc, JAMK University of Applied Sciences,

Shyam Krishna Maharian, Professor, PhD, Tribhuvan University,

Tauno Tertsunen, Senior lecturer, M.Ed, Häme University of Applied Sciences,

Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument. Centre for International mobility (CIMO). Accessed 8.6.2015.

Heikkilä, H. & Seppänen, L. 2015. Examining Developmental Dialogue: the Emergence of Transformative Agency. Outlines – Critical practice Studies 15, 2, 5–29. Accessed June 8.

Kajamaa, H. 2015. Collaborative work development as a resource for innovation and quality improvement in health care: an example from a hospital surgery. In S. Gurtner & K. Sovez (Eds.) 2015. Challenges and Opportunities in Health Care Management. Accessed June 8.

School Sector Reform Plan 2009–2015. Preparing for Effective Implementation of School Sector Reform Plan 2009–2015. Teacher Development Policy Guideline. Ministry of Education, National Center for Education Development. Government of Nepal.

Internationalisation Opportunities for Non-teaching Staff – Case Study: Metropolia Staff Week

Connecting 200 professionals

Every summer a group of 30 colleagues from abroad come to Helsinki Metropolia UAS to join a so-called “International Non-Teaching Staff Training Week”. This “Staff Week” (for short) is an intensive five-day training programme designed for administrative staff from partner institutions from all over the world. The programme was launched in June 2010, building on the strategy and the values of Metropolia: high quality, community spirit, transparency and expertise. The purpose of the Staff Week is to network and share experiences and best practices regarding one’s own work among the international colleagues and the hosts at Metropolia.

The annual Staff Week is a joint effort of the administration of Metropolia, and it brings together different service units. The hosting units vary from year to year, but there are approximately 30 people involved in the organisation of each Week. In June 2015, the programme was prepared with the administrative units in communication and marketing, IT, HR, strategy, alumni relations and student affairs, with the international office in charge of the general preparations. When counting all of the participants and Metropolia hosts, the five Weeks hosted so far have connected over 200 professionals from a hundred higher education institutions (in 28 different countries on four continents), making an important impact on the internationalisation of the administrative staff.

Programme structure

Metropolia invites international participants with several administrative backgrounds to join each Staff Week. The whole group is together for three days, attending lectures and workshops relevant to all types of administrative participants, and for two days the group is divided into parallel, unit-specific modules with their Metropolia counterparts. The common programme has three main components: a general introduction to Metropolia and its support services, strategically highlighting the strengths and special features of the host institution. Furthermore, the programme includes an introduction to Helsinki and the Finnish culture to help the visitors adjust to the local surroundings and to get an idea of the Finnish values and way of living. The introductory parts have been well received, and contribute to the image of the institution and the host city as an exchange destination. Each Metropolia Staff Week carries an overall theme, which guides the selection of topics, presenters and case studies included in the common programme. To conclude the Week, a guest speaker is invited to address the overall theme and to challenge the participants to reflect on the topic.

The core of the programme, however, is the two unit-specific days, where the participants benchmark each other and one of the service units of Metropolia administration. The participants in the same administrative function gather in a smaller group to share and compare their everyday work: e.g. the challenges they face in their job and the different approaches and solutions they’ve used to tackle those challenges. These customized workshops provide the opportunity to gain field-specific knowledge of multiple higher education institutions’ everyday practices that are not usually visible on the public forums.


Discussions with the international colleagues on the trends of the field are regarded as a unique opportunity by the Metropolia hosts, and therefore as highly motivating. Gaining perspective and new approaches to common problems are mentioned as one of the benefits of the discussions. Equally important for the hosts is to gain a sense of affirmation that they are on the right track with developing their functions, as the guests find many of their current practices interesting. The encouragement gained through the hosting experience has increased the motivation for internationalisation, and the majority of the Metropolia hosts have shown interest in also going out on a staff exchange.

Meeting partners face-to-face can strengthen ties and intensify current cooperation. In some cases the discussion started on a Staff Week has generated an additional visit, in order to benchmark some practices or functionalities in further detail. Although the immediate benefits of hosting a Staff Week are often harder to measure, the network created on the Week serves as a foundation for further development projects.

Both the international participants and the Metropolia hosts have provided encouraging feedback about the training programme:

A participant in 2014: It was an amazing week, full of useful information that will help to my personal development at work. It gave me new ideas!

A participant in 2013: The daily contents were very useful to increase and develop new practices at home institutions.

A host in 2014: The most giving part of the week was the feeling that I can communicate in a foreign language with people who have different cultural backgrounds. On the other hand, the institutions struggle with same challenges, which united us.

A host in 2013: It was surprising how much there was to discuss together. It felt good to notice that we have good practices to – show and share with others as well!

There is a growing interest in participating in the Metropolia Staff Week programme, and in fact for the past two years quite a few applicants have needed to be rejected in order to keep the group size small enough (in comparison with the current concept and working methods) as well as to assure the best possible job match among the participants and hosts.

Growing popularity

As the increasing number of applications suggests, the awareness of the training weeks of non-teaching staff is growing and there is more of both the supply and the demand. The European Commission has provided European higher education institutions (HEIs) with Erasmus funding for non-teaching staff training periods abroad since 2007, and the popularity has been rising steadily during all these eight years. The latest statistics by the European Commission state that during the academic year 2012–2013 over 16 500 staff training periods took place, with an increase of approximately 25% over the previous academic year. 59% of all these Erasmus-funded periods were undertaken by the non-teaching staff, but the statistics do not distinguish how many of these periods took place on a Staff Week. (European Commission, 2014, p.12).

The Finnish HEIs are active with staff mobility. At the Finnish International Educators’ Days in Tampere in May 2014 the workshop D8 focused on sharing experiences on hosting Staff Weeks, and only among the participants of this workshop 19 different HEIs announced that they already have organized Staff Weeks. Hosting Staff Weeks programmes allows the number of mobility periods to grow in a cost-efficient way, and in many Finnish UASs the concept has an established role in expanding internationalisation to all of the institution.


Jenni Leinonen, Bachelor of Hospitality Management, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences,

European Commission. 2014. “Erasmus – Facts, Figures & Trends. The European Union support for student and staff exchanges and university cooperation in 2012–2013,” Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, (accessed Sep 13, 2015), available at

Strengthening the quality management by international cooperation – Cooperation of FUAS and KU Leuven Association


The Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences, FUAS, is an alliance of three independent universities of applied sciences; Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), Lahti University of Applied Sciences (Lahti UAS), and Laurea University of Applied Sciences (Laurea). This agreement-based alliance operates in the Greater Helsinki Metropolitan Area. FUAS, the largest strategic federation of universities of applied sciences in Finland, comprises altogether around 19 500 students and 1 400 staff members.

The KU Leuven Association consists of KU Leuven University and five merged universities of applied sciences. KU Leuven Association is a multicampus network situated in 23 different cities and towns across Flanders and Brussels with more than 103 000 students and 17 000 staff members.

FUAS and KU Leuven Association signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2012. The agreement contains stipulations on the cooperation in the following areas:

  • comparison of national development trends
  • benchmarking on federation-level administration, management and strategy work
  • sharing of views in different areas, such as innovation systems and regional development work.

This article concentrates on the cooperation in the field of quality management which the writers of the article have been deeply involved. In this article three development projects of the quality management are present by which the quality work of the federation/association as well as their member universities has been promoted.

Benchmarking Exercise on Quality and Education

FUAS and KU Leuven Association implemented International Benchmarking Exercise on Quality and Education in 2013. The main objectives of this benchmarking project were to: 1) Discover and disseminate good practices of quality management, 2) Find the areas that need further development and to assist the further development of the quality systems and 3) To bring out the benefits and added value of the association/federation operation models. The benchmarking project was divided into two parts; general part of Quality management and systems and more specific case level part of Intended learning outcomes in the field of social services. The benchmarking project was formed around two benchmarking visits, the first one on May 2013 at Hämeenlinna, Finland and the later on August 2013 in Leuven, Belgium. About 30 staff members from both partners participated in the project.

In KU Leuven Association five pillars: 1) Vision and policy, 2) Preconditioned basic facilities, 3) Implementation of education, 4) Systematic evaluation and 5) The follow-up of the evaluation and accreditation, form the frames of quality assurance. KU Leuven Association has a Working Group for Quality assurance whose task is to support the quality work and give tools for achieving higher quality. The operation itself is done at the institutional level. In FUAS, reaching for the strategic intent and aims of strategic policies is acted out through shared development groups. FUAS Quality and Data production team is the group dealing with improving the quality and measurement and the development of this operation. The FUAS institutions have their own quality systems on base on the circle of continuous development (elements: Plan-Do-Check-Act), although the content of the elements vary on base of the organisational culture. Having the expertise-based teams (e.g. “quality team”) consisting of colleagues from different institutions of the association or federation is a good way of stimulating the partners personnel to work together and spread the knowledge and good practices. This kind of team work forms a good base for creating and developing the quality culture.

The concepts learning outcomes and competence are understood differently within FUAS as well as within KU Leuven Association. In Finland, regional competence profiles are more apparent and in Flanders they have been developed at more general level. The concept of constructive alignment proved to be an interesting concept to investigate the relation between learning outcomes and implementation of pedagogical practices. Regarding the pedagogical practices with the chosen competences there was a lot in common and good practices to share, e.g. student centeredness, three party involvements (student, future employer, teacher), multiple assessment methods and the use of authentic learning environments. Some specific differences were noted with regard to practical training placements (resources, the connection to the world of work, tutoring) as well as operations and agreements with the work place representatives. International benchmarking was experienced as an effective tool for improving the quality of learning and to enhance the use of authentic learning environments in the future. Besides this, it was found that international learning environments between the two partners can be created in the future and utilised for both; students to learn new competences and teachers for their professional development.

Strategic partner event – the Quality Management Reflection

The representatives of FUAS participated in the Strategic partner event in Hasselt September 2014 where three institutions KHLim, KHLeuven and Groep T officially merged together to form the University Colleges Leuven-Limburg. All the three institutions were already part of the KU Leuven Association. The Strategic partner event brought together partner institutions Zuyd UAS from the Netherlands and Belgian Campus from South Africa.

The new institution have developed a pyramid model, which identifies the major components of their international cooperation, encompassing all levels and activities in the realisation of the development in their institution.

Figure 1. Pyramid model of the merger of KHLim, KHLeuven and Groep T.

In the Strategic partner event, the international partners gave guidance and peer support to the strategic development, quality management and international cooperation of the new merger. FUAS representatives participated in strategic discussions as well as organized a workshop on quality management. The international partners share e.g. the following ideas on quality management: “Don’t make a quality bible, focus on the core: keep it simple” and “Peer review and collaboration with partners helps you to define your quality”.

The preliminary audit of FUAS quality management

The FUAS member institutions prepared themselves for their international audits of the quality systems (executed by FINEEC in 2016) by doing preliminary audit together with auditors form KU Leuven Association in 2015.

The preliminary audit of FUAS quality management and FUAS member institution’s quality systems was carried out by four staff members of KU Leuven Association and one Finnish auditor. The main aim of the preliminary audit was to improve the quality management of FUAS and the member institutions, especially in the areas of:

  1. Quality policy
  2. Quality system’s link with strategic management
  3. Quality management of the higher education institution’s core duties.

The preliminary audit based on a self-assessment report by the FUAS Quality and Data production team. The evaluation visit was organised in March 2015. During the visit, the auditors became acquainted with the quality management of FUAS as well as each member institution and they interviewed altogether more than 130 representatives of the staff and students.

The preliminary audit based on the means of enhancement led evaluation, which according to FINEEC is defined as evaluation through which the participant will identify the strengths, good practices and areas of development. It helps the participant to achieve their strategic objectives and to steer future development activities in order to create a framework of the institutions continuous development (Audit manual for the quality systems of higher education institutions 2015–2018. Finnish Education Evaluation Centre. Publications 2015:2).

As a result of the preliminary audit, the following key strengths of the quality policy of FUAS were defined:

  • Open communication and transparency
  • Availability of data
  • The key people responsible for developing the quality system are highly committed to their work.

The following main recommendations were given on the FUAS level:

  • Clarify how the quality work done on the FUAS level supports the quality work done in the member institutions
  • Less is more, only focus on what you really want to use and benchmark
  • Enforce the student engagement.

In addition to the results on FUAS level, each FUAS member institution received their own suggestions for the development of their own quality system. For example, in HAMK it was difficult for the auditors to catch the key message, the core structure of the quality system and the role of the actors at first, but those were clarified in the interviews. In Lahti UAS the audit team recommended that they could establish a consistent approach for assessing the societal impact of Lahti UAS’s actions and suggested improving the evaluation of the projects.

All in all FUAS member institutions the staff members and students were very pleased on the possibility to participate in the interviews of the pre-audit. They got the feeling that the auditors were prepared well and made relevant questions. The interviewees thought that the atmosphere was very supportive and relaxed. This helped them to speak English, yet some staff members felt it bit challenging.


Overall the three international benchmarking and evaluating projects revealed similarities and differences in the way of thinking and in the operating methods concerning quality management. The projects deepened the participants’ knowledge on the quality management in the association/federation level and on the good practices of both partners. Moreover, it promoted the critical self-evaluation of activities and peer learning. In the future, the aim is to continue this fruitful co-operation between FUAS and KU Leuven Association.


Jaana Ignatius, The executive director, M.Sc, FUAS – Federation of universities of applied Sciences,

Mervi Friman, Head of Strategy Activities, PhD (Educ), Häme University of Applied Sciences,

Marjo-Riitta Järvinen, Vice president, PhD (Educ), Lahti University of Applied Sciences,

Audit manual for the quality systems of higher education institutions 2015–2018. Finnish Education Evaluation Centre. Publications 2015:2.

Descheemaeker, A., Foyen, D., Verbrugge, M., Waeytens, K. & Keränen, H. 2015. Preliminary audit of the FUAS federation of Universities of Applied Sciences.

Foqué, A., Garré, P., Heikkilä, S. Ignatius J. & Kunnari, I. 2013. Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences – KU Leuven Association Benchmarking project 2013. International Benchmarking Exercise on Quality and Education.

Ignatius, J., Järvinen, M-R., Friman, M. & Heikkilä, S. 2014. FUAS-liittouman laadunhallinnan kehittyminen step by step, Step-by-step: Development of FUAS quality management. HAMKin e-julkaisuja 14/2014.

Strategic partner event 08–09 September 2014, introduction.

International strategic partnerships – The human factor: It is after all individuals who work together, not institutions

Motives behind strategic partnerships

The notion of a more strategic approach to international partnerships means that there is more effort put into developing alliances with clear purposes and outcomes. In the words of Kai Kiiv of Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre: “A successful international partnership requires common ideas and aims the partners work for”. Gerard O’Donovan of Cork Institute of Technology School of Business defines international collaboration as strategy based when the strategic goal of his institute and the partnership are the same.

Partnerships are often induced through the provision of funds, for example through EU-project funding, and collaboration collapses as soon as funds dry up. Perhaps the idea of more strategic partnerships also means that the institutions are more poised to invest more themselves as investment of time, money and trained personnel by the institutions forming the strategic partnership is vital. According to Gerard O’Donovan: “Creating a strategy-based partnership needs buy-in and financial support from top management and be a shared vision by your faculty team.”

Bob Burke of Southampton Solent University defines a successful international partnership in higher education context as “one which has longevity and a ripple effect where the content, process and relationships not only have an impact on the participants but also beyond that”. It is unrealistic to think that a strategic partnership would involve the entire institution, but it cannot just be a responsibility of one or two individuals. It is therefore vital to keep everyone informed and sufficiently interested.

Human motives (and why partnerships sometimes don’t work out)

At the individual level the motives for working on internationalization probably relate to healthy curiosity and desire to learn. Working with foreign colleagues stimulates personal professional growth. Bob Burke describes his involvement as “an important project for my development. The cross-disciplinary thinking and the focus on cultural difference has given me a range of experiences that I would certainly never have had within my day-to-day role at my home institution”. The variety and diversity of cultural differences, which become apparent in international human cooperation may even reorganize personal understanding about the variety of cultural imperatives.

Peer to peer learning in international context may make one question “tried and true” professional actions, if one truly appreciates the knowledge overseas partners possess and is ready to offer something in return. According to Gerard O’Donovan, it has been positive to meet academics and students with common interests, but with diverse backgrounds. This has enriched his own personal life as well as resulting in development of a number of new programmes in his Faculty.

Bob Burke describes a strategic partnership as a team, which is responsive and adaptable within the strategies of each institution involved. A team consists of different people, which means that all the basic rules that define teamwork apply to strategic partnerships as well. When the roles in a team are not recognized and coordinated, when there has not been enough delegation of responsibilities or the decision making is unclear, there will be problems. Kai Kiiv adds that “trust between the partners is based on the knowledge and experience that you can rely on your partners – when the assignments have been divided and you can see that each partner is committed to them and fulfils them.”

Especially with academic collaboration there can be basic philosophical differences in methodologies, teaching and learning, which will cause inability to work together and the partners might find themselves working in parallel to each other instead of cooperating. The participants’ professional foci can be very personal and thus a sensitive subject, which may diminish one’s readiness to accept different approaches and change. Also there are personality differences in sense of personal power and what is understood as efficient. The connection a participant perceives between one’s educational efforts and intended outcomes is also very personal and culture dependent.

All these personal dimensions can cause mistrust and suspicion, which are not values that push the partnership further. If these cultural and other differences between partners are acknowledged and talked about, it helps to overcome some of the difficulties relating to mutual understanding. Kai Kiiv adds that “as far as international collaboration is concerned it often also means acknowledging and respecting cultural differences – working habits and attitudes in different countries can be rather different”. Reasons for misunderstandings due to different work cultures can be simply the work tempo and the different understanding of the nature of professional time.

Lasting strategic partnerships

According to a study by Vozzo and Bober (2001) there are four important factors that allow personal characteristics to contribute to successful long-lasting partnerships.

  1. There is time for practitioners to plan their activities and to know and to reflect on the professional and personal expectations of the participants.
  2. There is abilities within the partnership to make an analysis of the chosen methods to ensure effectiveness of the action.
  3. There are resources available to develop the participant commitment.
  4. There are funds available to sustain the planned and emerging activities.

Kai Kiiv explains that “in order it to be successful, the partners must acknowledge each other’s strengths and weaknesses to use the maximum capacity of each.” When the best individual qualities are linked with collaborative teams’ mutual actions it will give best results.

Complementarity is also important because cooperation makes sense only when in addition to similarities, differences in expertise are used and the partners gain professional expertise from the collaboration. Partnerships should have equal benefits and advantageous returns to all the members. Gerard O’Donovan compares international partnership to a marriage: “Give and take on both sides and always compromise for the greater good or shared goal.” Also Kai Kiiv mentions that actually like in any partnership flexibility and respect towards each other are the key factors.

The importance of the individuals maintaining informal contacts as well as formal contribute immensely to the success of long-lasting partnerships. Disagreements and misunderstandings inevitably occur, but they can be turned into fruitful situations for providing evidence for new patterns of action and abilities for conflict resolution. Trusting and respectful dialogue is what is needed. According to Bob Burke: “We all disagree on things frequently, but respect each other’s opinions and everyone is given a chance to contribute”. So there may be different approaches, but they are valued and people are willing to compromise.

Food for thought

The reasons for internationalization are also often only described at a macro level without reaching down to explore the individual motivations which may support or constrain internationalization at a particular institution. It is the people and their personal motives who shape the internationalization of each university. It could even be said that institutional partnerships easily fail, because they function through individuals and are therefore more vulnerable to personal instability and failure. And however high-grade ideas there might have been about the purposes of the partnership association, one quickly contends with some basic human interaction.

The complexity involved in working in the field of internationalization in my mind requires an additional set of knowledge, attitudes, skills and understandings about the international/intercultural/global dimension of higher education. These competences are however often taken for granted and not even recognized, nor developed actively.

When I asked the three interviewees what was the most important thing they had learned regarding international collaboration, all concluded that one always has to keep in mind the respect for cultural differences even if it can be difficult sometimes. There should be more importance attached to the promotion of intercultural understanding within the higher education context as well, especially in the light of the pressing challenges stemming from culturally based clashes within and between countries and peoples that we face today.


Minna Liski, Coordinator, BSc in Music, Lahti University of Applied Sciences,

The three people interviewed for this article were:

Mr Gerard O’Donovan, the Head of School of Business and Humanities at Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland

Mr Bob Burke, Senior Lecturer in Popular Music at Southampton Solent University, UK and

Ms Kai Kiiv, Project Manager of International Relations at Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.

Internationalisation of UASes needs an up-to-date approach


This review has its background in a joint development process of the authors during the UAS R&D Expert coaching program started early 2014 (funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland). These five experts from five different UASes brainstormed together and found different practices to share with others to implement internationalisation of education and RDI in their home organisations.

Strategic background

For Higher educational institutions (HEIs), international cooperation is a way to increase the quality of education and RDI work (Research, Development and Innovation). Through networking the students and staff members strengthen their personal knowhow, but also the organisational and regional intellectual capital, and create the knowledge basis to act in international working life. In Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences, the international activities have different focus points in all 24 organisations, but certain common activities can be listed:

  • Internationalisation of the education and the home internationalisation
  • International cooperation and networks
  • International exchange
  • Internationalisation of the region and working life through international RDI-projects.

Promotion of internationalisation requires cross-sectoral co-operation. Mobility of scientists, researchers, teachers and students, international networks and common scientific publications, as well as exploitation of the knowledge produced abroad are correlated strongly with the level of innovation and a new way of working.

Home internationalisation as a baseline

Different ways to internationalise studies do exist, but they are not used systematically. International activities can be carried out many ways, e.g. as student or personnel exchanges, teaching in foreign languages, involving students and teachers in international projects or arranging international seminars and international weeks. In addition to conventional ways of home internationalisation, digital tools bring new possibilities. For example, many shared e-learning study- and RDI-platforms exist and creation of MOOCs is a rising trend e.g. among EU project funding. One example of widely used special study platform is the Learning Management system LMS of the European Police Academy (CEPOL).

International joint and double degrees and joint curriculum development offer also tools for home internationalisation for both students and teachers. One example of this is Erasmus-funded ERDI module (Empowering Regional development and Innovation) launched already 10 years ago in four EU-member states and coordinated by Karelia UAS. A joint curriculum has been developed and the modules are carried out annually in one of the universities involved. Both teachers and students are participating from each university, and the cooperation is deepened also into common RDI actions. As another example of curriculum development, JAMK UAS has recently coordinated the launch of a 100% virtual coaching program (Soulbus-e-Coach) to improve the multicultural guidance skills of teachers and mentors as a part of EU funded Life Long Learning Programme (LLP) project.

Improving language competences and cultural knowhow plays the most significant role in internationalisation. In connection with student’s Individual Study Plan, the student could discover the most suitable path for internationalisation during studies. As a means in the exchange and identification of competences, the Europass system is used. Europass stationary directs the mapping and recording of the student’s competences and student can use the filled forms during the entire study time. The Europass documents are also beneficial documents to show the competences when seeking a job or applying for international internships.

Another example of home internationalisation is a strategic leadership program Executive MBA in Policing. The 80 ECTS programme is directed for middle- and upper-level managers of police units and is organised by three HEIs in Tampere: the Police University College (Polamk), the University of Tampere, and the Edutech (Centre for Professional Development at Tampere University of Technology) as coordinator.

International RDI and networks

To succeed in European level RDI funding competition, it is important to develop the UAS project culture systematically and in a persevering manner. In order to complete high quality proposals, organisations’ management level must be committed to allocate reasonable resources for the preparation process. Key issue is also to integrate multidisciplinary knowledge and skills of personnel, students and working life partners into the preparation process.

Further, the participation in European networks before any project calls in an effective way to enhance the deeper understanding of the thematics and learn to know the key players of the field. It is crucial for an UAS to gain recognition as a trustful partner and thus facilitate the invitations to high quality project consortiums. Existing networks may also offer opportunities to take part on preparation process of EU programmes and give a possibility to propose topics and ideas for the future calls. As an example, JAMK has participated to the European Innovation Program’s Active and Healthy Aging (EIP AHA) network. The network aims to bring together all actors in the innovation cycle, from research to adoption along with those engaged in standardisation and regulation. The partnership provides these actors with a forum in which they can cooperate, identify and overcome potential innovations barriers and mobilise instruments.

The Police University College has strong European networks. It participates in international cooperation with the European Police College (CEPOL), European Security and Defence College (ESDC), the European Police Research Institute Collaboration (EPIC) network and a Nordic police research network. Also, CEPOL has the European Police Exchange Programme (EPEP) exchange program running since 2007, and NORDCOP police training program offers mobility in Nordic Countries. Polamk also sends annually experts to crisis management courses of several institutions like EU, UN and OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe). Active presence in international networks has been a successful strategy and lead into wide range of international RDI funding.

Another way to improve the know-how of specialists to create successful project proposals is to work as an evaluator for EU programmes. Regardless of the high workload, this position offers an authentic insight to the project proposals; both strengths and weaknesses of the applications are reviewed in a detailed way. Evaluators learn to distinguish characteristics of a good proposal in terms of content, impact and technical excellence. Until recently, these kinds of possibilities have not been actively supported by UAS organisations.

On the other hand, if UAS is not yet strategically closely connected to any European RDI-network or consortium, one way to show up its competence is the international accreditation. Kymenlaakso UAS (Kyamk) has an internationally known emission measurement laboratory that has accreditation from FINAS (Finnish state authority) and Sjöfartsverket (Swedish maritime administration). Also, some activities are registered in EU level as Designated Organisation (licence to issue CE-certificates). That makes Kyamk more interesting and reliable partner in that sector e.g. for Horizon 2020 programme calls.

Internationalisation from strategies into practice

In many Finnish UASes the paths for internationalisation are embedded in organisational strategies. Also, several ways of classifying and grading international partner organisations exist. In many cases the international mobility partners differ from partners for international RDI work, which means double work and loss of resources. A more strategic approach of managing international partners would be ideal, with more emphasis put on mobility and RDI cooperation with same organisations. For example, many of the long-term mobility partnerships could be expanded to cover also other joint activities, like RDI projects. Each student or teacher going abroad should be asked to fill out a form indicating the possible ways of (project) cooperation with the target university. Needs for cooperation could be mapped during the exchange, and response to the needs could be discussed within the home university after the exchange.

Anyway, for multi-sectorial organisations like UASes it is not always reasonable to select only a few strategic international partners, but each sector should maintain their own. In addition, multidisciplinary networks as ERRIN (European Regions Research and Innovation Network) exist. Kyamk staff participated last year to ERRIN seminar where it was possible to present ideas for the H2020 project proposals or show the interest for others’ ideas. As a result, Kyamk decided to join in a consortium aiming to support energy efficiency actions at schools. The coordinator had a good touch for preparing the proposal and advised also partners to do their parts during the preparation work. In six months the proposal was submitted to the EU. Only a few of the partners knew each other beforehand, so the cooperation does not always require deep strategic background to work together.

Strategies should neither hinder to take a chance when seeing one. Sometimes a good project proposal comes to you when you are least expecting it, and not necessarily from a strategic partner organisation. An example of taking a chance comes from Karelia UAS’s recently announced cooperation with NASA Epic Challenge, which gives students a possibility to co-generate ideas with world-lead experts for sustaining humans on Mars. Certainly, this cooperation was not written in any strategy, but it gives students an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for global networking.

Deepening the strategic cooperation

It seems that every UAS has a long list of international partners available. The main question is: Do we know our partners? Where can we find the names and contact information of key persons? A long list of partners is not valid if strategical purposes do not match. To ensure and improve active international contacts, some UASes strategically choose the most important partners and focus on the cooperation with those. Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK) carried out an evaluation for international partners during 2009-2010. Criteria for strategic partnership were built up together with the future partners: Feevale University, Brazil and VIA University College, Denmark. In this case, the most important keynotes were research and virtual teaching. Four research units started in 2014 in HAMK. Collaboration with strategic partners is carried though these units on a fast, flexible and natural way, joint projects and student work as a result. Thus, communications and mobility of teachers and students are coordinated, and also the strategically shared research topics and personal contacts are enhanced.

HAMK will hold a strategic meeting with the partners in November 2015 to clarify the research subjects and to ensure maximum four common research areas. For example, a common eLearning activity will be piloted in spring 2016 in the shape of Successful aging and digitalisation research project by organising joint courses between Feevale University and HAMK. A long term goal is to have a common 5+5+5-ECTS credit module available for students, including 5 ECTS credits per partner university per year. Students already participate in common research projects and work closely with local enterprises which are familiar with the strategic partner. This is one example of cross-fertilization of innovations and students will have skills to work as bridge-builders between different cultures, business areas and SMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises). In HAMK, internationalisation strategy includes also that second-year students need to have contact to strategic partners and to integrate with them during studies. In practice, common modules with strategic partners are a long lasting solution for cooperation and an opportunity for students to gain international competence.


Tero Ahvenharju, Lecturer, PhD, Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK),

Olavi Kujanpää, Superintendent, Project Manager, Lic.Sc.Admin., Police University College (Polamk),

Helena Puhakka-Tarvainen, Senior Project Manager, M.Sc.(Biol.), Karelia University of Applied Sciences,

Sanna Sihvonen, Principal Lecturer, PhD, JAMK University of Applied Sciences,

Kirsi Tallinen, Research Manager, M.Sc. (Eng.), Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences (Kyamk),

Strategy-based international partnership of higher education institutions – Partnership practices and results

The mission of the Journal of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (the UAS Journal) is to report on the research and development activities at universities of applied sciences in order to facilitate cooperation, promote actions, advance transparency, and further regional vitality. The UAS Journal focuses on education, research and development activities in the fields of practice-oriented higher education in Finland. Since 2014 annually one number has been published totally in English.

This International Issue (no 3/2015) of the UAS Journal is focused on practices and results of strategy-based international partnerships of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences. Higher education institutions (HEIs) are seen as key players to the internationalisation of the economy and society. To success in this demanding task, HEIs have increased cooperation with foreign HEIs by deepening existing partnerships and creating new partnerships. In addition to the volume on international cooperation, HEIs are increasingly paying attention to the quality and added value of cooperation. In order to get more benefit from international cooperation, HEIs have created strategy-based international partnerships. These partnerships are no longer just about signed memorandums of understanding and student/staff mobility but increasingly international curriculum development, double and joint degrees, as well as research, development and innovation (RDI) cooperation. International strategic partnerships can improve the quality of different dimensions of higher education, not only in education and RDI but also management, campus life etc. As an example of this kind of strategic international cooperation, FUAS Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences and KU Leuven Association (Belgium) has signed the strategic partnership agreement in 2012. The partnership is focused on benchmarking different cooperation models in higher education, compare national developments in higher education, and share insights on the development of innovation systems, the role of regional development in higher education, and the development of working-life oriented educational programmes and the integration of research in education. In practice the cooperation is implemented via strategy workshops, strategic staff and researcher exchanges, benchmarking seminars, and study visits.

In this issue, we were interested in empirical case examples, best practices and lessons learned from the following topics:

  • resent development of international strategy-based partnerships
  • collaboration process and activities for creating international strategic partnership
  • risks and challenges facing international strategic partnerships
  • success factors for international strategic partnerships
  • key characteristics of effective international strategic partnership management
  • concreate results and experiences from international strategic partnerships.

As a result we got manuscripts which describe five types of articles: 1) general discussions about internationalisation of HEIs, 2) strategic partnership agreement based development of HEIs, 3) international networks, 4) international project cooperation, and 5) international education cooperation.

The first two articles talk about different forms of international cooperation and motives behind international cooperation. The first article by Tero Ahvenharju et al. defines four types of international activities at universities of applied sciences. Authors talk for example the role of student/staff mobility and participation to the networks in creation of strategic partnerships. They ask important questions such as “do we know our partners?” The second article by Minna Liski emphasises motives behind strategic partnerships and talks about individual level aspect and the role of personal characteristics in successful international partnerships. The basic idea in this discussion is the fact that even if strategic partnership agreements are done between higher education organisations the real cooperation is done between individuals.

The strategic partnership agreement based development examples consist of three articles. The article by Jaana Ignatius et al. describes the strategic partnership between the Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences (FUAS Federation) and the KU Leuven association in the field of quality management. The next article by Jenni Leinonen opens Metropolia International Non-Teaching Staff Training Week as a method to support international networking, benchmarking and sharing best practices among international partner HEIs. The third article by Maija Hirvonen et al. reports about the cooperation between JAMK Univeristy of Applied Sciences, and Häme University of Applied Sciences and Tribhuvan University (Nepal) in the field of teacher education.

The international network focused articles document experiences from two different types of networks. The first article by Juha Kettunen is a description of establishment, activities and results of the CARPE network – the Consortium on Applied Research and Professional Education.The second article by Marina Weck and Lauri Tenhunen reports experiences from the knowledge-based innovation network METNET which aims to support regional innovation systems by consolidating the expertise and efforts of the reginal steel construction and technology industries in research and development and by sharing knowledge and technology services, new production-related solutions and operating models among the steel industry.

The international project examples consist of four project descriptions. The article by Janika Kyttä et al. describes experiences from Finnish-Chinese project which aims to improve strategic partnership activities between the partner universities and to promote future cooperation between Finnish and Chinese companies. The second article by Hanna Hopia et al. is an example of the international project cooperation focused on multicultural competencies. The third article by Minna Keinänen-Toivola et al. describes a research project cooperation between Satakunta University of Applied Sciences and Polytechnic of Namibia. The last project example by Marja Silén-Lipponen and Annikki Jauniainen describes experiences from international project cooperation related to the recognition of prior learning with German and Estonian partners.

The last two articles describes educational cooperation practices. The first article by Seija Mahlamäki-Kultanen et al. focuses on a pilot teacher education designed for vocational and higher education teachers in Brazil. The second article by Ville Lehto et al. is a description of a joint business simulation course carried out in cooperation with Kalsruhe Hochschule, Laurea University of Applied Sciences and Saimia University of Applied Sciences.

As seen from the short article descriptions above, there is only a few articles that documents and analyses strategy-based partnerships, and none about success factors of international partnerships or characteristics of effective partnership management. This indicates that although there is a growing number of international strategic partnerships in Europe, the strategy-based international cooperation takes only the first steps in Finnish universities of applied sciences. The individual international projects described in this volume are good examples of current international activities in a way to strategic partnerships.


Theme editor Ulla Kotonen
Development Manager, Lahti University of Applied Sciences,

Continuous self-evaluation of intensive projects


Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (Metropolia), Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Frankfurt UAS), Coventry University, and Vilnius Gediminas Technical University have jointly organized several short-term Intensive Projects (IP) to enhance their co-operation. The main idea was to gather approximately 40 students and 15 teachers together for three weeks to conceive, design, implement, and operate embedded systems. Self-evaluation was an integrated part of all the events. The first evaluation was completed during the first week of each event and was promptly analyzed, enabling the possibility of making changes to the IP curriculum and practical arrangements. The second evaluation was a systematic interview of the students either individually or in small groups and interviews of all teachers. The third evaluation was an electronic questionnaire at the end of the IP, which also fulfilled the EU report minimum student evaluation criteria. The results of the evaluations were used to improve the concept, content, and practical arrangements for the next IP.

This paper describes how we organized the Intensive Projects, how we performed an internal evaluation, and our results. We have recognized issues which can make the IP successful and that are common to the intensive project concept, independent of the topic. Based on the evaluation material, we provide some recommendations that can help organize similar intensive projects in the future.

Intensive project objectives and learning outcomes

One of the main objectives of all IPs was to increase co-operation between the partners. All partners have bilateral Erasmus agreements for students and staff exchange. During the project, we were able to create new learning platforms and engineering workspace concepts which were partly adopted by all partner universities and increase the bilateral teacher exchange between the partners.

Our second primary non-technical objective was teaching students how to work in multicultural engineering teams, which improves their interpersonal skills. Similar observations have been made by Kitsnik et al. (2004) in a study related to peer tutoring. The language and the cultural barriers were completely broken; all students were equal regardless of their origins or language skills and teams used the differences of the team members as strengths. For the 2013 Active Games IP (Metropolia 2013), we introduced a third, non-technical objective: how to find an engineering solution to a non-engineering problem.

Our anticipated learning outcomes were met for all of our IPs during the period from 2010–2014 (Metropolia 2012, 2013, 2014). The student feedback showed that more than 90% of students felt they learned new things during the IP and gained more professional skills. Students and teachers felt that the IP was a great success. The most valued tool in making the the IPs a success was our continuous self-evaluation methods.

Evaluation and evaluation methods

Internal quality assurance

We collected student feedback during all IPs at the end of the last day of each week (Metropolia 2012). The methods used included a paper questionnaire and an online form. The IPs utilized continuous assessment principles and student progress was monitored not only during the weekly competitions but also during the group work in real time (Metropolia 2013). Additionally, there was a peer evaluation process in which the students evaluated each other.

In brief, the results of the student feedback are as follows:

  • 2010 EDSP IP: Students were very satisfied with the IP. The only two items where students did have some concerns were both time-related; as the IP was in conducted in only three weeks the amount of time for each planned topic was very limited with strict deadlines.
  • 2011 EDSP IP: Students were very satisfied with the IP, and showed an improvement compared to the previous IP. There were no items for which the students had serious concerns. We had used the internal evaluation results to clearly improve the most critical parts of the IP. In addition, students gave good ideas on how to further improve the IP.
  • 2012 EDSP IP: We received similar results compared to the two previous years, with excellent ratings. The organizers obtained excellent marks from the students.
  • 2013 Active Games IP: The results of evaluations were excellent. There was only a little room for improvement except regarding matters related to the facilities, equipment and tools available.

The project organizers have reflected on the recommendations of the internal evaluation report of the previous stage. The results indicate that paying some extra attention to internal evaluation substantially help make both short-time and long-time improvements.

Other improvements from the IPs

The academic staff have expressed strong beliefs that participation in the project will greatly impact the employability of the participants because: “it gives the foreign students 3 weeks of intensive English language training, and the work in the international groups is always a benefit”; “it is very important for graduates to have international experience”; “students get a lot more out of the practical hands-on experience especially with modern experience”.

The IP offers an excellent framework to simulate a real project work environment. In addition to new professional and soft skills, the students obtained a unique opportunity to learn realistic working processes. Students had to use their prior technical knowledge, adapt new theoretical concepts, learn to use new tools and equipment, work with new people from different cultures in an environment of strict time constraints, with limited availability of equipment and parts, and a constantly changing situation.


All participated teachers have outlined that the preparation for and the implementation of the intensive project has become smoother every year, this is particularly true due to the continuous evidence-based improvement. The project team was able to use the expertise gained over the years of the project. To quote the participants: “we know exactly what is needed, …, there is more documentation and information available”; “we have had the experience with how the groups work and we can anticipate problems and conflicts and can solve this better”.

In addition, teacher interviews show that the teachers gained experience and knowledge on different cultures and practiced language skills as well as further developed their skills in regards to teaching in an international environment. Also students have reported on gained better language skills on multiple occasions. The impact on teacher also covers extending personal relations, sharing ideas. The organizational arrangements should be divided to as many teacher as possible to avoid the burden on single individuals.

The same partner network strengthened with new partners will continue – if funded – the co-operation within the Erasmus+ program. On the new project the goal is taken even further. We aim to develop new and innovative practices to international ICT engineering education and test them applying the approach to the development of a practical student projects. This includes including the new teaching methods directly to the curricula, new teaching methods, and revolutionary methods for carrying out students’ learning projects.


Self-evaluation methods were effectively employed to improve the quality of annually organized intensive projects. Our recommendations for organizing similar intensive projects on multidisciplinary topics are as follows:

  • Plan the self-evaluation as an integrated part of the IP.
  • Use multiple evaluation methods, such as individual and group interviews, electronic questionnaires, and also paper questionnaires.
  • Use a multi-phase evaluation to maintain a feedback loop that allows making changes to the current IP rapidly.
  • Analyze the evaluation results systematically and use them to improve the current IP and the following IP.
  • Arrange informal gatherings such as meals together, group accommodations, and group visits. If possible, arrange housing for teachers students in the same location.
  • Spend some extra effort balancing the workload and budget between the partners.

We are planning to extend the co-operation by asking more institutes to join the coalition and add industrial connections. In addition to joint IPs, we hope to extend the partner network to other forms of co-operation such as jointly developed courses, double degree programs, and long-term teacher exchange. In all these, the internal self-evaluation will play an ever-increasing role.


Juho Vesanen, Lecturer, B.Eng., Metropolia University of Applied Sciences,

Antti K. Piironen, Director, Ph.D., Metropolia University of Applied Sciences,

Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (2012). Embedded Digital Signal Processing Intensive Project 2010–2012 Final Reports, URL:, Accessed January 31, 2014.

Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (2013). Active Games Intensive Project 2013 Final Report, URL: Accessed January 31, 2014.

Kitsnik P., Nurminen T., Piironen  A.K., and Saurén K. (2003). Facing Cultural Differences in Multicultural Learning Environment; Development Project for Teacher Pedagogical Education,  Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, School of Business, Finland.

Piironen A.K. (2012). Embedded DSP Intensive Project 2012, Proceedings of AmiEs-2012 – 11th International Symposium on Ambient Intelligence and Embedded System, Espoo, Finland, URL:, Accessed January 24, 2014.

Piironen A.K., Vesanen J., Blake M.,  Evans J.,  Abatis P., Jungke M., Stief W., Usinskas A., Matiukas V., Omelcenko V. (2011). Embedded DSP Intensive Project 2010, Proceedings of 7th International CDIO Conference, DTU, Denmark.

An online international learning project around global health promotion


As stressed by Ernest, Heiser & Murphy (2011, 37) “the arrival of new Web 2.0 environments greatly enhances opportunities for fostering increased peer interaction, collaboration and learner autonomy.” Randall (2012, 7) describes telecollaboration as “pedagogical processes and outcomes of engaging learners in different geographical locations in virtual contact together, mediated through the application of online communication tools such as e-mail, synchronous chat and threaded discussion as well as the tools of Web 2.0 such as wikis, blogs, social networking and 3D virtual worlds.” The overall aims of the online international learning project (OIL) involving nursing students and staff at Coventry University and Laurea University of Applied Sciences were to support the students’ learning on their modules, including assignment work, develop cultural awareness and competence, improve communication, learn about and from each other as well as to have fun and make friends. Furthermore, an objective for Finnish students was to improve their English language skills through discussions with native speakers. Intended learning outcomes also included demonstrating an ability to use ICT effectively to support collaboration with international colleagues, using English to communicate effectively between native and non-native speakers, and working as a team to explore a selected health promotion issue.

Initially the Coventry and Laurea UAS students chose global health and wellbeing topics to discuss during meetings via Web 2.0 tools. Also, the Finnish students read an article around their chosen global health promotion topic, wrote a summary of it and posted this on a common Moodle site to inspire online discussions. Students were able to compare the Finnish and UK approaches to the selected issue. This enhanced their cultural competence skills, as they could draw conclusions about how culture influences health and health promotion, reflect on experiences and learn from discussions with international colleagues. According to Dooly (2008, 22) “in the cooperative model of learning, the teacher still controls most of what is going on in the class, even if the students are working in groups. Collaborative learning, on the other hand, is aimed at getting the students to take almost full responsibility for working together, building knowledge together, changing and evolving together and of course, improving together.”
Lawrence (2013, 312) suggests that “ICT-mediated intercultural language learning collaborations offer language learners rich opportunities to build language acquisition, intercultural knowledge and to develop meaningful relationships with people of other languages and cultures.” Students’ feedback shows that the online projects have indeed been enjoyable, engaging and advantageous, considerably increasing students’ motivation to study as well as their knowledge of the topics. Additionally, the students have had the opportunity to follow up this OIL project with a field trip. Three Coventry University students visited Laurea after their online discussions to meet their Finnish peers and see the country.

How did it work in practice?

During the project the students at Laurea UAS and Coventry University were studying very similar modules. Nursing students from Laurea were matched with Coventry University students to make small learning teams. Coventry students were given names and email addresses for allocated Laurea UAS students and contacted their Laurea colleagues by email to agree a time to chat on Skype. Teams included between one and six students from each university. Students held two to four Skype meetings and had discussions on Facebook. The first meeting was to introduce and get used to chatting to each other in English, also to agree discussion topics. Students prepared for the next meeting by planning questions to ask each other. In the second meeting they asked each other their questions and noted them down so that they could prepare answers for the next meeting. The third and fourth meetings were to share these answers. Students could then decide how to keep in touch with their new friends.

In the UK, employers, including the NHS, recognise a need for cultural competence when caring for people from diverse backgrounds. International projects help the students to develop skills, build their portfolio, perhaps related to the EU directives and become more employable. The students kept a reflective account of their discussions throughout the project and shared it with tutors and their colleagues. The Finnish students reported that their English skills had really improved during the project, because their professional vocabulary had increased and they had become more confident in communicating in English. Dooly (2008, 26) states “whether it is through collaborative or cooperative learning, getting students to work together in the classroom and with other students in another part of the world, requires teachers helping their students learn to interact positively with people who are different from themselves and who may not think the same as they do. Through online collaboration, students may come to see the importance of taking responsibility for their own learning and feel empowered to do so while learning to respect the opinions and work of their online partners.”

Things to remember in future projects

In OIL projects it is very important to be respectful to each other’s values and differences, including competence using the English language. The Finns have a longer wait-time following questions than most European nationalities, therefore the UK students probably need to allow awkward silences to enable the Finnish students to consider and plan replies. It is also important to stay within the boundaries of one’s own nursing code of practice, for example by not breaching confidentiality. Participants should check that their Skype connection works in advance of their first meeting. If more than one person shares a computer, students will need to take it in turns to sit near the microphone or use a desk microphone instead. Tian & Wang (2010, 194) studied the benefits of videoconferencing-supported language learning. According to them if it is “used effectively, it can be an important supplement to classroom teaching in that it takes part of the learning outside the classroom and into the real world.”


Universities are globalising. Traditional in-class activities are important in building up the students’ skills and knowledge of the field. However, for the effective development of cultural competence and communication skills students need more learning tasks in the real world in collaboration with foreign students. Web 2.0 tools enable students in different parts of the world to communicate and thus increase each other’s cultural competence. To successfully facilitate OIL projects, teachers need to prepare and build relationships between universities, take time to identify suitable learning opportunities and develop their own skills in facilitation and cultural competence. Erasmus exchange visits provided the opportunity to do this, playing a key part in enabling the OIL project with nursing students and staff at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences of Coventry University and the Degree Programme in Nursing at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Project outcomes include improving the students’ cultural competence and communication skills, as well as offering both students and staff a global perspective on topics in their modules. This global perspective plays an important role in the current multicultural nursing environments both in the UK and Finland, and needs to be taken into account when educating future health care professionals.


Bernie Davies, Senior Lecturer, Coventry University, UK,

Sari Myréen, Senior Lecturer, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Finland,

Dooly, M. 2008. Telecollaborative Language Learning : A guidebook to moderating intercultural collaboration online. Berlin: Peter Lang AG. Retrieved from:

Ernest, P., Heiser, S. & Murphy, L. 2013. Developing teacher skills to support collaborative online language learning, The Language Learning Journal, 41:1, 37–54. Retrieved from:

Lawrence, G. 2013. A working model for intercultural learning and engagement in collaborative online language learning environments, Intercultural Education, 24:4, 303–314. Retrieved from:

Randall, S. 2012. Telecollaboration in Education, Volume 2 : Virtual Worlds for Language Learning: From Theory to Practice. Bern: Peter Lang AG. Retrieved from:

Tian, J. & Wang, J. 2010. Taking language learning outside the classroom: learners’ perspectives of eTandem learning via Skype, Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 4:3, 181–197. Retrieved from:

Applied learning and reflective practice: A discussion and evidence from students’ work

A discussion of the alternatives to lecture-based teaching is found high on the agenda and curriculum of most higher education pedagogical programmes. The frequent charges against the traditional approach is that most lectures are overly long – students struggle to maintain attention after 15–20 minutes – lectures promote student passivity, students’ contextual relevance is absent, and learning is somewhat superficial rather than an emergence of deep learning.

As an alternative, the problem-based approach emerged some fifty years ago in the context of medical teaching. Its premise is ‘that there is little connection between sitting in lectures and improving knowledge and skills’ (David et al. 1998, 626). This approach is part of a collective of post-modern forms of education that offer learning methods that move away from the traditional perspective in which the teacher is considered the be the authoritative expert – the ‘sage on the stage’ (King, 1993).

But, despite opportunities offered by new technologies and a drive by pedagogical reformers that ‘relegates the ancient and honorable tradition of lecturing to an Index of Forbidden Pedagogies’ (Burgan 2006, 31), the lecture-based approach receives continued support, particularly for certain types of knowledge. For example, Charlton (2006) argues that conceptual knowledge is best delivered through the traditions of a lecture. If we translate the notion of conceptual knowledge as ‘theory’ – in other words, well-known key academic ideas/ concepts and recent research/ contemporary thinking – a logical argument can be made that this type of knowledge can be quickly and effectively transmitted through traditional approaches. As Charlton (2006) expounds, with conceptual knowledge there is a gap between teacher and audience, and perhaps the ‘sage’ can best impart, or transmit, this knowledge through somewhat traditional authoritative approaches. Even here alternative approaches could be successfully utilised, but it is frequently the case that time and available resources require the most efficient delivery of this ‘transmitted knowledge’; lectures serve this demand.

But, of course, the model here is rather simple – not all knowledge on a given course is the contextual theory type that might best be transmitted in the traditional way. But neither is it necessarily the case that post-modern approaches – whereby teachers facilitate the co-construction of knowledge – are the most appropriate way to attain all of the aims of the given course or programme.

A case example

The masters level summer school course, ‘Diversity Management’, at Metropolia School of Applied Science offers participants – most of whom are ‘mature students’, with considerable work and life experience – an opportunity to not only study the subject from the academic perspective, but also to actively engage in the various topics and contribute by recounting their own experiences of working in Finnish and global organizations. Indeed, opening up their experience is crucial to the success of the course because it provides diverse real and relevant context. Diverse perspectives also emerge because the cohort is made up of an international group – including students from Asia, Europe, and Africa – resident and working in Finland or visiting the country. Understanding this diversity is employed in the design and delivery of the course, with three pillars that support the content and design. These three elements are:

  • ‘Theory’; well-known key academic ideas/ concepts and recent research/ contemporary thinking
  • Giving space for the life experience of students. This experience and the real ‘struggles’ around diversity that they meet in their personal and work lives are more contextually relevant than teacher-selected case examples
  • Examining ‘Best-practice’ in Diversity Management – often a synthesis of research and ideas from practitioner groups, which frequently informs functional departments (such as HR) on how issues around diversity can addressed in the workplace.

This structure serves to organize the course so that a blend of transmitted knowledge – the lecture approach relevant to the first element – and additional approaches are employed. In this case, these additional approaches are forms of active learning; (a) giving voice to student experience permits co-created knowledge to take place, and (b) students work towards finding best practice (in the form of investigation followed by presentation), which permits the emerge of discovered knowledge.

But what of the evidence that this model does serve to enhance student learning? Can we provide any evidence that students take away any leaning from the course (beyond that garnered through ‘happy sheet’ type feedback responses)?

Evidence of learning: Students’ work

In assessing students’ work, in this case their final written assignment, we can examine evidence of learning, and whether it has been applied; that it helps them make sense of diversity in their workplace.

The students chose any of the themes of diversity that were covered in the course and wrote about them in the context of their work and workplace. Here there was a need to be reflective; the notion that bringing together their experience and course learning develops real knowledge and understanding of the way that issues around diversity are or can be addressed, and how they re-assess their previously held assumptions about diversity.

Two contextual examples are provided from students’ written work – including quotations. These represent examples of different aspects of diversity encountered during the course: valuing diversity from an HR perspective, and employment support for immigrants (affirmative action).

In this first example, the student worked in a managerial position of a global firm and makes the comment … according to the (survey) numbers the employees’ perception of diversity management is clearly poor. Indeed she remarks that; I was not so much aware of diversity and all its facets at that point… until I found out there was so much more to diversity management.

She continues; later, also with views taken from the my course colleagues I came across one person in the company who encouraged me to think differently, out of the box, emphasizing the fact that I had this advantage as a newcomer in the organization and should utilize it for our advantage. She follows this up with a list of recommendations for how the HR department could improve the perception of diversity in the workplace.

The second examines a programme that served to increase the number of ‘immigrant’ employees in local government so that it represents the demographics of the local population. She comments that, nobody (at work) understood why you select for one reason, when others might be better qualified. Continuing, the student reflects on how she realises… the issue is so much more complicated… and there were some heavy discussions between people in the class… perhaps it made me re-think. Later, discussing her return to work, the student remarks on discussions with colleagues about their programme, and seeing real benefit (at least in the short term).

Discussion and Conclusions

Here we have two examples that demonstrate that a combination of ‘theory’ knowledge and the shared experiences voiced by participants in the class has helped students make sense of diversity issues in their workplace. These are by no means the only examples. This evidence supports the case for a combined approach whereby lecturing, a traditional pedagogy, is used to impart transmittable knowledge (the academic/ theoretical elements of the course), and this is accompanied by problem-based methods. The students themselves support teaching that provides them with ‘theory’ but that is also problem-centred. The arguments in support of an approach that goes beyond lectures can be found in research around alternative pedagogies. For example, describing the problem-based approach, David et al. (1998) provide a clear comparison between the traditional learning model (e.g. lectures), and methods appropriate for adult learning. Three points emerge that provide support for the idea that overcoming student passivity and giving voice to students’ contextual relevance and experience is crucial to successful learning.

  • The adult learner is usually a self-directing learner;
  • Their desire for learning usually comes about through their life experiences or the needs from those experiences;
  • In the authors words ‘Adults are themselves a rich resource for one another’ (David et al. 1998, 627).

While the medical model of problem-based learning – based on a learning-by-doing pedagogy – is somewhat prescribed as a set of ‘well defined steps’ (David et al. 1998, 627), this need not be the case in the social sciences. Alternative, but conceptually similar approaches that can be somewhat less structured include reflective practice (e.g. Schon 1983) and experiential learning (e.g. Kolb 1984). In both of these models there is reflection – Schon expressly brings together theory and practice, and for Kolb the learner takes new knowledge and engages in reflective observation during its application.

Thus, it is in reflective practice that theory, context, and experience are drawn together, which brings about learning that is relevant, practical and provides meaning to students and helps them make sense of issues of diversity in their workplace. This comes about by providing a learning environment in the summer school that combines the traditions of lecture-based teaching, with pedagogies that allow experienced student voices to be heard.

On the topic of reflection and learning, what of the reflections of the course teacher with regard to personal learning or development? Here learning/development can be understood from two angles: personal development as an individual, and developing one’s teaching practice.

The former is somewhat easy to express. In addition to having the theory knowledge that can be transmitted, the ‘sage on the stage’ has life experiences that move beyond theory – these are used as contextual examples. But adding the diverse stories and experience of others and their impact not only improves the quality of ‘real’ examples employed on the course, it serves to make one re-think personal views (and biases); the teacher as a reflexive learner open to new ideas and perspectives about key areas of diversity.

In terms of developing one’s teaching practice, the demands that the approach described here place on the teacher are worthy of mention. In many ways a formal lecture approach permits detailed planning in which a set of defined objectives for the session, and indeed the overall course, can be rather simply set out and ‘delivered’. However, by allowing student voices be heard the rigidity of the planned approach has to be relaxed. An individual lecture, and indeed some of the key focused areas of the course are allowed to move so that weight is placed on the issue that is salient to the moment and upon which the course participants wish to focus. That issue then becomes central either for a fleeting moment or for most of an entire session, which requires flexibility – in terms of structure, this can rather flippantly be described as ‘making it up as one goes along’. But, of course, a successful course cannot be without structure, one cannot simply let things take their own course. Balancing the tension between planned structure and allowing the issues that are important to students to emerge while also projecting pedagogical professionalism is a challenge for the teacher.


James Collins, Lecturer, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences,

Burgan, M. 2006. In defense of lecturing. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 38:6, 30–34.

Charlton B.G. 2006. Lectures are an effective teaching method because they exploit human evolved ’human nature’ to improve learning – Editorial. Medical Hypotheses, 67:6, 1261-5.

David T.J, Dolmans, D.H., Patel, L. & van der Vleuten, C.P. 1998. Problem-based learning as an alternative to lecture-based continuing medical education. Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine, 91, 626–630.

King, A. 1993. From sage on the stage to guide on the side. College Teaching, 41:1, 30–35.

Kolb, D.A 1984. Experiential Learning as the Science of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Schon, D.A. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. London: Temple Smith.

Pedagogical experiment: Applying the P3P model for learning entrepreneurial mindset

Pedagogical experiments

Laurea’s P3P learning environment offers an entrepreneur with strong business experience and an open-minded attitude towards developing business an opportunity of sharing expertise and co-creating with the students innovations and solutions to a company’s actual business problems and development needs. The P3P model has been developed further from Laurea’s Peer to Peer (P2P) learning environment by students, entrepreneurs and lecturer-coaches during several development projects, and it has proved to motivate all actors to develop their competences. (Kuhmonen & Pöyry-Lassila 2015) In SMEs, there is a demand for developing especially sales and marketing skills and competences (Teknologiateollisuus 2014). The P3P cases have included the development of marketing and sales of SMEs in digital and investment service businesses.

The 21st century workplaces call for an entrepreneurial attitude and spirit (Llopis 2013). In the P3P model, entrepreneurs, students, and lecturers all act, develop and learn together. The educational target of P3P is to facilitate the development of an entrepreneurial mindset. The students are mentored by an experienced entrepreneur and are integrated into the everyday business of the company. They participate in client meetings, negotiations, trade fairs, customer relationship management trainings, and sales trainings, which facilitates the building and maintaining of comprehensive and valuable contacts and networks. (Kuhmonen & Pöyry-Lassila 2015) At the same time, the students implement the development project in close interaction with the entrepreneur, guided by the lecturer-coaches, whose role is to act as facilitators, experts, preparers, implementors, evaluators, and networkers (Raij 2014, 113). By participating in the P3P projects, the lecturer-coaches are encouraged to redefine their roles as teachers and the pedagogical skills towards supporting the sharing of expertise and the co-creation of knowledge in a multi-actor collaboration.

The active interaction between the various actors during the projects facilitates and supports learning and the sharing of expertise. In the students’ case the expertise might mean fresh business knowledge about marketing or sales. As for the entrepreneur, students create value to the company by sharing their ideas and innovative approaches to different aspects of the businesses. When thinking “out of the box” – or “no box” students give an entrepreneur an opportunity to smarten the ideas and boost the decision making. Also the lecturer-coaches both share their expertise and develop it further by participating in the innovative knowledge-creation processes.

The P3P model encourages an entrepreneur to test potential employees in a cost-efficient way without hiring a person. In P3P projects students act in ‘kind of worker’ roles while an entrepreneur acts in mentor’s and supervisor’s roles. Students are selected to the project via ‘job interview’, thus they have a chance to train their sales skills at the very beginning of the project by creating an elevator pitch including the description of the competencies or skills they use to perform their work. (Kuhmonen & Uusitalo 2014, 17.)

The goal of the cooperation is a win more – win more situation, which means either that the students get a traineeship or a permanent job at the company or that they start a company of their own and continue the cooperation as subcontractors. In any case, the students have learnt entrepreneurial attitudes and skills and the entrepreneur has received new ideas and extra resources for the business development. A positive effect is also the development of marketing and sales competences of both parties, and the professional development of the lecturer-coaches.

The innovative and modern P3P learning environment is borderless and provides students and entrepreneurs the opportunity to locate anywhere, for example, in the company’s or Laurea’s premises or they can choose to work in social media, at the entrepreneur client’s premises, or in the networks of the company. Basically, they can build a learning environment suitable for a company’s needs and choose the needed digital tools. (Kuhmonen & Pöyry-Lassila 2015.)

The cooperation in the P3P model is based on mutual trust, commitment, support, and taking responsibility. The fact that the responsibility and space for creativity is given to the students by the entrepreneur and the feeling that they are trusted, both increases the students’ belief in their own capabilities and improves their self-confidence, which is important for their future careers and taking responsibility for the development of their own life.

The P3P model has been introduced by Laurea to the Police University College, and the recognised synergies have encouraged further cooperation. European higher education reforms and modernisation in the context of the Bologna Process have emphasized the importance of lifelong learning (The European Higher Education Area in 2012). Recently, the curriculum reform of the Police University College has been realised and new programmes for police education have been launched. To enable success of the reform and change implementation, boundary-crossing cooperation with educational and research organisations, working life and society is needed. Also the ongoing societal change challenges pedagogy: According to Esko Kilpi (2015), we have moved to the world of “on demand” learning, and we need to learn to “signalise” our competencies. As a result, the role of the universities of applied sciences is changing from the substance expert towards ‘the bank of intellectual capital’ which challenges us to start to estimate the market value of the intellectual capital that we have.

Pedagogical models

At Laurea we apply the Learning by Developing (LbD) Action Model which is based on the pragmatic learning theory and integrates competence producing learning and an innovative R&D project. The defining characteristics of the LbD are authenticity, partnership, trust, creativity and an investigative approach. (Raij 2014, 15, 103.) With regard to learning theories and pedagogical models, we have conceptualized the P3P learning environment and pedagogical model through the theory of trialogical learning. Trialogical learning can be described as expansive learning (e.g.Engeström, 2009) or innovative learning that requires constructing a shared space (common ground, context, or ba). In this shared space, knowledge is collaboratively created with the help of objects, whether conceptual or concrete, as well as practices that are collaboratively and systematically developed through collective intellectual action in which the individual members of the community participate actively. This action is mediated by nature, which means that it takes place through the shared objects, using them as mediators. (Paavola et al., 2004; Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005). Further, the group’s epistemic agency emerges through participation in the shared activities, i.e. intentionally pursuing its epistemic goals (Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005). In practice this can mean, for example, solving problems or creating a new product together.

To succeed trialogical learning requires four elements: (1) individuals with their ideas and personal knowledge and expertise, (2) a community consisting of individuals interested in participating in deliberate knowledge advancement, (3) a shared space for collaboration, and (4) shared objects (ideas, practices, and knowledge artifacts) that are developed collaboratively, and that mediate the knowledge-creation process of the community (Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005). These four elements are present in the P3P learning environment and pedagogy and enable the trialogical learning process and learning the proactive entrepreneurial mindset.

At the Police University College, the pedagogical models framing education and research, development and innovation consist of problem-based learning, and the triangle of Engeström and Pawson & Tilley’s realistic evaluations (see e.g. Kujanpää, O. 2008 & Pawson, R. & Tilley, J., 1997). Several similarities can be found in both organisations’ pedagogical models. Independent of the pedagogical model utilised, modern digitalized work life requires us to build collaboration instead of maintaining old structures dominated by silos, borders and gaps. The mere pedagogical models themselves are not of importance but they are valuable in the sense that they enable individual learners’ growth, open opportunities connect with other learners, and enable the learners to widen their identities.


Laurea’s Learning by Developing (LbD) Action Model and Trialogical learning in the P3P environment improve both students, entrepreneurs, and lecturer-coaches competences. User-driven development of the peer-to-peer (P2P) environment has modified the project environment into a P3P entrepreneurial environment that nourishes entrepreneurial skills and mindsets and thus facilitates the employment of students, but also challenges the lecturer-coaches by requiring them to act in a variety of different roles and to become more entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is seen as a mindset and as a process. The P3P model invites also the lecturer-coaches to develop their entrepreneurial skills and to expand their own roles towards acting more like entrepreneurs. Having personal experience with entrepreneurship could even be recommended for the teachers in terms of advanced professional development. The P3P learning environment provides fruitful conditions for the formulation of innovative knowledge communities, the development of shared expertise, and co-creation of innovations. The P3P model responds to the challenge of the changing of the role of the universities of applied sciences in Finland as facilitators of learning and networkers that ensure individual career paths for students.


Annemari Kuhmonen, lehtori, FM, Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu,

Olavi Kujanpää, ylikomisario, HTL, Poliisiammattikorkeakoulu,

Päivi Pöyry-Lassila, yliopettaja, TkL, KM, Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu,

Engeström, Y. 2009. Expansive learning: toward an activity-theoretical reconceptualization. In: K. Illeris (ed.) Contemporary Theories of Learning. London: Routledge, pp. 53–73.

Kilpi, E. 2015. Executive Advisor. Interviewed via telephone by Annemari Kuhmonen. 24.4.2015.

Korkalainen, M-M. Oinonen & J. Oyer (toim.) Kerro kaverille kans. Kokemuksia ja näkemyksiä Laurean P2P-opiskelusta. Vantaa: Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu, 16–17.

Kuhmonen, A. & Pöyry-Lassila, P. Forthcoming 2015. P2P-oppimisympäristön käyttäjälähtöinen kehittäminen: Case kehittyy P3P:ksi. Monitoimisuus haastaa – AMK- ja ammatillisen koulutuksen tutkimuspäivät 2014. Jyväskylä: Jyväskylän ammattikorkeakoulu.

Kuhmonen, A. & Uusitalo, T. 2014. P2P kehittyy – seinät pois! Teoksessa A. Lääveri, K.

Kujanpää, O. 2007. Poliisin prosessityön kehittäminen. Teoksessa: Poliisin johtamista kehittämässä. toim. Risto Honkonen ja Nora Senvall. Poliisiammattikorkeakoulun oppikirjat 15/2007. Helsinki: Edita.

Kujanpää, O. 2008. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) -bridging work challenges and education. Teoksessa: Policing meets challenges-preventing radicalization and recruitment. toim. Sirpa Virta. Tampere: University Press.

Llopis, G. 2013. Working with an Entrepreneurial Attitude is a Powerful Addiction. 23.4.2015.

Manninen, O. & Reikko, J. 2014. P3P-oppimisympäristö ja sen hyödyntäminen pk-yritysten markkinointi- ja myyntiosaamisen kehittämisessä. Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu, Opinnäytetyö.

Paavola, S. & Hakkarainen, K. 2005. The Knowledge-Creation Metaphor – An Emergent Epistemological Approach to Learning. Science & Education, Vol. 14 (2005), pp. 535–557.

Paavola, S., Lipponen, L. & Hakkarainen, K. 2004. Models of Innovative Knowledge Communities and Three Metaphors of Learning. Review of Educational Research, Vol. 74, No. 4, pp. 557–576.

Pawson, R. & Tilley, J. 1997. Realistic Evaluation. London: Sage.

Raij, K. 2014. Learning by Developing in Higher Education. Teoksessa: K. Raij (toim.): Learning by Developing Action Model, Vantaa: Laurea Julkaisut 36, 10–26.

Raij, K. 2014. Entrepreneurship Education in the LbD Action Model Review. Teoksessa: K. Raij (toim.): Learning by Developing Action Model, Vantaa: Laurea Julkaisut 36, 103–117.

Teknologiateollisuus. 2014. Miten yritys menestyisi Suomessa? Viitattu 23.4.2015.

The European Higher Education Area in 2012. Bologna Process. Implementation Report. Referred to 24.4.2015.

Uudistava Suomi: tutkimus- ja innovaatiopolitiikan suunta 2015–2020. Tutkimus- ja innovaationeuvoston 5.11.2014 hyväksymä asiakirja. Viitattu 23.4.2015.

Nordic transdisciplinar adventure education for sustainable development


The Society’s commitment is Finland’s national equivalent of the decisions made in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio in 2012. The commitment is divided into eight objectives. One of them is equal prospects for well-being. In that it is mentioned that sustainable development will be integrated in education of all fields and lifelong learning (Ministry of the Environment 2014).

Graduates from universities are in a central role for sustainable development because they are future leaders for all labor markets (Holm 2014). During the last decade, 2005–2014, the UN has focused on enhancing education for sustainable development at all levels of education (UN DESD 2011). In higher education the goal is that graduates would be able to take the social, environmental and economic costs and benefits into consideration when making decisions (Sibbel 2009).

At Novia University of Applied Sciences the overall sustainability goal was to implement sustainable development in the curricula of all degree programmes during 2010–2014 (Holm 2014). In the Bachelor of Humanities program the traditional discipline-centered teaching approach is replaced by project-based learning where theory and practice blend in logical entities and the student takes his/her own responsibility for learning and ardently seeking knowledge that is crucial in accomplishing the goals within a particular study program. Working in study groups teaches students how to work in groups and collaborate with others (Svartsjö 2014). The lecturers of the degree programme have identified participation, tolerance, equality and environmental responsibility as keywords for relevant sustainability aspects for the education (Holm 2014).

For taking all sustainability aspects into account systematic and holistic thinking is needed. Competencies that are aimed at are self-learning, problem -solving and creative as well as critical thinking. It requires cooperation among disciplines and transdisciplinary education (Rieckmann 2012; Sibbel 2009; Svanström et al. 2008; van Dam-Mieras et al. 2008). Trandsdisciplinar education differs from multi- and interdisciplinary education by that the cooperation goes beyond the disciplines and involves also users, problem owners and stakeholders (Lozano 2006). According to Lozano (2011) creativity is recognized as a key skill for sustainability. It is also crucial that individuals who are working for sustainable development share their knowledge and engage in collaboration with different sectors of society (Ferrer-Balas et al. 2010; Lozano 2011).

Multi, inter and transdisciplinar education is challenging in higher education because curricula in is based on disciplines. It is up to the faculty to explore new methods. This article includes a case where it was done in an intensive course. The transciplinar Nordic adventure course was planned and realized in cooperation among the degree programmes for bachelor of Humanities at Humak University of Applied Sciences and Novia University of Applied Sciences in Finland, the Department of Arts, Communication and Education at Luleå University of Technology in Sweden, the degree programme for Social Education at University College Lillebaelt in Denmark, and the degree programme in Sport and Health Sciences, Leisure Studies and Social Education at University of Iceland. The group was an interdisciplinary group from humanities with participants from four Nordic countries.

Figure 1. Nordic recycling tree. Task done by students at the course.

Action research was chosen as methodology, which has been identified as suitable for embedding education for sustainable development in curricula (Cebrián et al. 2012). Action research is based on the four phases diagnosing, planning action, taking action and evaluating (Coghlan and Brannick 2007), a division that we follow in next session.

Realizing the course

The objective for this network and the course was to increase awareness of sustainable development with the help of adventure education.

General objective were to exchange knowledge, skills and ideas and give opportunities for students and lecturers to network with other Nordic countries and learn from each other. The first goal for this network and the course was to develop instruction on adventure education in partner institutions. The second goal was to increase the mobility and awareness within students and lecturers of the network institutions. The third goal was to increase knowledge exchange within the partner institutions and other co-organizations.


The first intensive course was held in Turku in Finland in 2011, hosted by Novia University of Applied Sciences. Luleå University of Technology hosted an intensive course in Luleå in Sweden in 2012. Year 2013 the network concentrated on mobility and student exchange hosted by University College of Lillebaelt in Denmark. And according to the original plan, it was time for an intensive program again in 2014, this time hosted by Humak University of Applied Sciences in Finland.

Planning the course

Since the partner universities of this project have different focus areas in experiential and adventure education, one goal is that both students and teachers will learn from each other. Competence and quality development for this project take place when teachers from the different universities meet and plan intensive courses and take part in teacher exchange. Self-evaluation in developing competence and quality are emphasized. Both the students and teachers are asked to give both informal and formal feedback by group discussion and by filling an evaluation form in the end of the intensive week, which consist of qualitative questions.

The course was 3 ECTS. Studying was based on adventure education, environmental education, and experimental learning methods (Priest & Gass 1997; Rohnke & Butler 1995).

Learning objectives:

  • work effectively in multicultural groups
  • experience adventure and outdoor education
  • experience environmental education
  • understand the educational goals behind the adventure activities
  • understand the purpose of reflection
  • understand how to use activities to promote sustainable development

Course delivery

The intensive course was organized at Humak University of Applied Sciences in Finland, Tornio campus in May 19th–23rd, 2014. The Tornio campus is located just on the border between Finland and Sweden, next to Haparanda. The nature in that part of Finland is ideal to use for this course, because different adventure education tasks were possible to actualize in that area.

Specific teaching material was prepared for the course. The focus was on different skills and methods that you can use for working outdoors and for creating adventures. The transfer effect of different skills was also a topic of the material.

The students were given a pre course task. They were asked to search information in various references and answer questions about: what is experimental learning, what is adventure education, what is environmental education and what does sustainable development mean?

Figure 2. Icelandic folktale. Task done by students at the course.

The students were divided into multinational teams and the learning environment was partly nature and wilderness. The program was also a lot about learning from each other. The student shared their knowledge about different aspects of sustainable development in their home countries, during the activities outdoors and indoors.

Participation in adventure activities was voluntary and was adjusted to students´ comfort level. Different team building methods were used by the students. Social media was a tool that one could see is familiar for this z generation youngsters to use for communication. Here is an example of a Youtube video that some students made during the course which shows how students are familiar with using pictures and video.

Group dynamic exercises that were used were those that are common in youth work and in teambuilding. One example that was applied was Mikka Aalto: Ryppäästä Ryhmäksi that can be translated to from a bundle to a group. Interesting was to see that a lot of the methods where the same in the different Nordic countries.


Evaluation of the learning outcomes was done during the intensive week. The evaluation was divided into assessment of student learning and student feedback.

The assessment of the students work was done by evaluating students’ small group tasks, their performance and ability to link experiences to bigger concepts.

One of the tasks for the student groups were to collected rubbish in the city to make environment art (see Figure 1, 2, 3 and 4). The art work was left at the Campus so that community members could experience them during the weekend at a flea market, which was organized the weekend after. The idea aim was to visualize the learning and share it with the community.

Figure 3. Recycling man. Task done by students at the course.

During the whole week the students worked with reflections, discussions and through learning journals. This was an important part of the whole sharing and learning goal of the course. The project itself was evaluated in the end of the intensive week both by students and lectures.


By conducting this case we found that sharing skills and ideas gives opportunities for students and lectures to learn from each other and from the experiences that takes place during a course like this. When the group is multicultural and -disciplinary it gives a dimension of understanding sustainability in a broader way.

The objective was that through these personal experiences students will gain methods for their toolboxes which they can utilize in their future.

Figure 4. Time glass of life. Task done by students at the course.


Mona Bischoff, Master of Political Sciences, Head of Degree Programme, Novia University of Applied Sciences,

Tove Holm, Training Manager, Ph.D., SYKLI Environmental School of Finland,

Cebrián, G., Grace, M. & Humphris, D. 2012. Developing people and transforming the curriculum: action research as a method to foster professional and curriculum development in education for sustainable development in higher education, in: Leal Filho, W. (Ed.), Sustainable Development at Universities: New Horizons. Peter Lang Scientific Publishers, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 273–284.

Coghlan, D. & Brannick, T. 2007. Doing Action Research in Your Own Organization (2nd edn), Sage, London

Ferrer-Balas, D., Lozano, R., Huisingh, D., Buckland, H., Ysern, P. & Zialhy, G. 2010. Going beyond the rhetoric: system wide changes in universities for sustainable societies. Journal of Cleaner Production 18, 607–610.

Lozano, R. 2006. Incorporating and institualization of SD into universities: breaking through barriers to change. Journal of Cleaner Production 14 (9–11), 787–796.

Lozano, R. 2011. Creativity and organizational learning as means to foster sustainability. Sustainable development.

Holm, T. 2014. Enabling change in universities: enhancing education for sustainable development with tools for quality assurance. University of Turku.

Ministry of the environment. 2014. The Finland we want by 2050- brochure. (accessed 7.10.2014).

Priest, S. & Gass, M.A. 1997. Effective leadership in Adventure Programming. Human Kinetics, Pennysylvania.

Rieckmann, M. 2012. Future-oriented higher education: which key competencies should be fostered through university teaching and learning? Futures 44 (2), 127–135.

Rohnke, K. & Butler, S. 1995. Quicksilver. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/ Hunt.

Sibbel, A. 2009. Pathways towards sustainability through higher education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 10 (1), 68–82.

Svanström, M., Lozano-García, F. J. & Rowe, D. 2008. Learning outcomes for sustainable development in higher education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 9 (3), 339–351.

Svarstsjö, J, ed. 2014.

UN DESD. 2011. United Nations Decade for Sustainable development 2005–2014, Paris,, (accessed 13.8.2014).

van Dam-Mieras, R., Lansu, A., Rieckmann, M. & Michelsen, G. 2008. Development of an interdisciplinary, intercultural master´s program on sustainability: learning from the richness of diversity. Innovative Higher Education 32, 251–264.

Baltic University Programme – A network joining students, teachers and researchers in the Baltic Sea Region

Providing a solid platform for cooperation

It is a well-known fact that networking and internationalisation improve the opportunities and provide a critical mass for partnerships in projects, and through international cooperation institutions can also widen their educational offer and enhance the development of new areas such as sustainable development. Higher education networks can also provide their partners with opportunities for activities such as common seminars and courses, competence development and institutional change. In addition, networks function as platforms for individual contacts at all levels, students as well as researchers and teachers. One example in our region is the Baltic University Programme (BUP,, a network which in addition to common projects, also supports the introduction of sustainability in education, research, and management, and where researchers, teachers, and students cooperate at the macro-regional level. The Baltic Sea region, internationalisation, research and development of education for sustainable development have been the guiding principles of the BUP network. The BUP network has more than 200 member institutions of higher education, of which more than 20 are situated in Finland. Some years ago the Finnish Baltic-21 network (universities of applied science) joined the BUP, bringing in an important number of institutions and expertise. The BUP also cooperates in projects with cities and other stakeholders in the Baltic Sea Region.

The long-term goals are set at the BUP Rectors’ Conferences, and the implementation of these goals is the responsibility of the international board and the secretariat situated at Uppsala University, Sweden, together with the national centres. The BUP is currently a Flagship project under the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region to support enhanced university cooperation in the region. The BUP is an open network, and participation is free, but voluntary contributions are welcome.

The students´ perspective

Having an international network as BUP is extremely beneficial from student’s point of view, taking advantage of the current advancement in the communication field makes exchanging information and latest researches effortless. Yearly over 8000 students are being engaged in the courses that the network has to offer in the field of environment and sustainability for undergraduate and master’s levels. Beside the traditional courses BUP offers different kinds of events for students in favour of their mobility and internationalisation.

Summer courses are organized across the region involving students coming from all around the network’s partner universities to learn more about topics which are relevant to the Baltic Sea region. Conferences are also organised for students, and a special training for PhD students is offered since 2013. In a participant’s own words “The conference for PhD students was perfectly organized… Individual consultations with the experts enabled us to learn the opinion of people not directly related to the subject of our thesis. This made it possible to look at the work from a different perspective and gave an opportunity to enrich and improve it. Friendly atmosphere during the meeting and additional attractions made this one of the most interesting conferences in which I have participated”. And recently BUP introduced the PhD prize, the first three prizes were given at the BUP Rectors’ Conference in October 2014.

SAIL (Sustainability Applied in International Learning) is one of the most unique courses BUP organises every summer. Where students and teachers go on-board of the Polish cruise STS Fryderyk Chopin for 14 days passing by different ports across the Baltic Sea to learn more about sustainability and develop skills which they can’t learn in any class room. During the sailing period lectures & group work takes place, presentation for on-board discussions are prepared by students. At the same time the students work as crew on board with shifts both day and night. This is why the course is also known to be physically challenging: it tests individual limits, contests prejudices, strengthens personalities, and improves personal abilities.

BUP students also take part in the Annual forum of EU strategy for Baltic Sea region. During the previous forums students had a meeting with the European Commissioner for Regional Policy and participated in a plenary panel discussion where they could express their opinions regarding the region with all the politicians participating in the forum. An invitation has already been sent form the Commission to BUP students to participate in the next Annual forum.

Having the youth participating in different kinds of events have a huge impact over their level of academic knowledge and also add a great international experience which is essential to handle the future of our common Baltic Sea region.

Acting together in the Baltic Sea region

The common efforts of the BUP network started in 1991, and now we can summarize that during more than 20 years different activities and projects have covered the whole Baltic Sea region on topics such as sustainability, water management, the Baltic Sea environment, the cultures and societies in the region, urban development, environmental management systems, and sustainable agriculture. Two of the most recent projects are in the areas of sustainable agriculture and maritime planning. In these projects the BUP has acted as a platform for cooperation between higher education and authorities and companies in the countries of the Baltic Sea region.

In fact, the “BUP-region” involves all countries which are part of the water scape, or drainage area, of the Baltic Sea. This means that also countries, such as Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia and Czech Republic are included, although they are not situated along the coastline of the Baltic Sea itself, but water runs from these countries to the Baltic Sea. We estimate that in altogether 14 countries, more than 1500 researchers and about 120 000 students have until now participated in the common projects, courses, seminars, and conferences.

The Baltic Sea regional approach and the teaching and learning methods and technologies that were introduced have been identified as strong, unifying components. Sustainability being a new and challenging topic in higher education also has brought up the need for competence development among university teachers in the region. Understanding sustainable development usually demands both a multi-disciplinary and an international approach in projects as well as in education. Consequently, the use of learning methods should support both learning for and learning about sustainability. This was one of the reasons behind widening the offer of competence development for teachers in higher education, and so from 2013 BUP also teachers at higher education institutions have an opportunity to learn from and with each other in the course “SAIL for teachers”, on board the sail training ship.

During the last years one could observe that new partnerships and thematic groups are being formed within the network, according to expertise and institutional needs. One such current area of interest is energy. This is one more advantage offered to the partners of a large and open network like the BUP, which can help members to quickly and effectively find partners to new projects.


Paula Lindroos, Director, Baltic University Programme, Åbo Akademi University,

Ahmed Mansour, Student, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Member of the International Board of the Baltic University Programme

Nordic higher education institutions joined forces to support sustainable development

History of Nordic collaboration supporting sustainability

The Nordic countries have collaborated officially since 1952, when the Nordic Council was established. It was followed by the establishment of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 1971. Right after the establishment, Sweden had the honor to host the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment was adopted at the close of the conference (United Nations 1972). Following the declaration, the Nordic countries developed their environmental policies, the Brundtland Commission launched the concept of sustainable development in 1987 (WECD 1987), and as one of the milestones of the Nordic environmental collaboration, the Nordic eco-label, the Swan, was born in 1989. Furthermore, the Nordic Council of ministers started to publish a Nordic strategy for sustainable development in 2001, the latest being the strategy published in 2013, A Good life in a Sustainable Nordic Region (Nordic Council of Ministers 2013).

The academic collaboration has a long history in the Nordic countries, but in 1976 a network was established to strengthen especially the collaboration between university administrations. NUAS, Det Nordiska universitetsadministratörsamarbetet, includes several working groups for different fields of university administration, such as the archives, communications and facilities. The collaboration within higher education was further strengthened by the establishment of the Nordic Science Policy Council in 1983, and the establishment of research training collaboration in 1990. Furthermore, in 2006, the Nordic technological top universities organized, and Nordic Five Tech, N5T, was established to form a strategic platform for research and education in the fields of technology and industry.

However, The Nordic higher education institutions (HEIs) did not have administrational collaboration in the field of sustainable development until 2012, despite of the long history of joint efforts in other fields, and the strategic support from the Nordic Council of Ministers. Instead, the institutions developed their sustainability work individually and adopted international connections, such as the International Sustainable Campus Network, ISCN, to find support for their work. Additionally, active national networks, such as the Finnish SD-forum for universities, prevailed in the Nordic countries.

Establishing a network for sustainability experts in the Nordic HEIs

In 2011 Finland had the chair for the Nordic Council of Ministers. As an educational contribution for the year, Aalto University organized a Nordic Climate Festival @Aalto for students (Haanpää 2011). The joint Nordic higher education -event concerning climate change was the starting point to the Nordic Sustainable Campus Network, NSCN, established in Denmark, January 2012 by Aalto University and the Universities of Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Iceland and Oslo.

The new network targeted at gathering together sustainability experts working in the administrations of Nordic higher education institutions, including also universities of applied sciences. The aim was to create platforms to share experiences and find colleagues in the framework of both, greening the campus, and education for sustainable development, ESD.

The establishment of NSCN was financially supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers during 2012-2013. Aalto University provided the home base for green campus -activities and Åbo Akademi took the responsibility for ESD-activities for the funding period. The financial resources enabled the creation of an own website with a blog, a mailing list, and a functioning organization consisting of a coordinator and a core group of representatives from all 5 Nordic countries. The first NSCN seminar was organized at Aalto’s Otaniemi campus in Espoo, Finland 2013, gathering over 70 Nordic participants to share experiences, case examples and to meet each other. NSCN was additionally introduced to the international ‘sustainability in higher education’ -community through a presentation in the ISCN Conference 2014 at the University of Singapore.

Recent activities of NSCN – The Rio+20 project

In 2013 the core group of NSCN decided to apply for funding for a joint Nordic project concerning the implementation of UN Rio+20 targets in higher education institutions (United Nations 2012a). Besides the signed parties of NSCN, also KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Lappeenranta University of Technology joined the project, and the funding was granted by the Nordic Council of Ministers for 2014-2015. The project is coordinated by Aalto University.

The aim of the Rio+20 project is to follow up The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative for Rio+20 (United Nations 2012b), a declaration created in a side event of Rio+20 Conference, the World Summit on Sustainable Development – Universities, WSSD-U. The project targets to find out how the Nordic HEIs have integrated sustainable development into their activities, especially those 12 institutions that have signed the initiative. The more detailed targets of the project are to inventory the steering mechanisms directing sustainable development and the level of integration of sustainable development. Additionally the target is to inventory the enablers and obstacles affecting the implementation of sustainable actions, and to find out ways to overcome the obstacles.

The targets relate closely to the outcomes of Rio+20 Conference relating to higher education. In the Rio+20 Outcome document, The Future We Want, the effect of transparent and effective governance on the implementation of sustainable development principles in organizations is strongly emphasized (UN 2012a). Good management practices require adequate information on the implementation of sustainable development, and furthermore, change in attitudes and engagement of the management and decision makers to the goals of sustainable development. Therefore, by focusing on benchmarking and reforming the steering measures in all Nordic countries to more effectively support sustainability goals, Nordic HEIs have a full potential to work as examples of sustainable communities reflecting transparent and sustainable management practices.

In order to reach the goals of the project, a wide survey on steering mechanisms and sustainability was conducted in November 2014 in the Nordic HEIs. The survey reached 152 respondents in all Nordic countries. The results of the survey will serve all Nordic HEIs, but especially the institutions that responded the survey.

Joining forces with university administrations

NSCN has collaborated actively with NUAS from the very beginning, as it is the most central network for university administrations in the Nordic countries, though lacking an environmental/sustainability perspective until 2013. NSCN encouraged NUAS to include sustainability into their organization, and as a result, the working group ‘Buildings and Facilities’ was renamed ‘Facilities and Environment’ in 2013. NSCN collaborated with the working group in organizing their annual conferences at University of Oslo 2013 and at Helsinki and Aalto Universities 2014.

After two years of successful collaboration with NUAS Facilities and Environment and active discussions with NUAS board, NSCN was decided to form a new NUAS working group, NUAS Sustainability, from the beginning of 2015. Being a part of a comprehensive university network enables sustainability experts in the Nordic HEIs to reach the other fields in university administration easily, and hence, enables integrating sustainability perspective gradually into university activities as a whole.

Conclusions and next steps

Apart from proceeding well with the Rio+20 project targets, NSCN has created well-functioning platforms for sharing experiences and connections. Additionally, NSCN has strengthened sustainability perspective in NUAS and clarified the status of sustainable development in the Nordic HEIs in international contexts.

The active collaboration with the Nordic Council of Ministers has taken Nordic HEIs to an even wider international arena; the Rio+20 project was invited to be presented in the International Symposium on Northern Development in Quebec, Canada in February 2015 (Plan Nord 2014). The discussions are also going on concerning future projects. The main theme discussed with the Nordic Council of Ministers is Green Growth, which is a strategic framework launched by the Nordic prime ministers (Nordic Council of Ministers 2011). At Finnish level one of our targets is to support the society’s commitment to sustainable development 2050 -process (Ministry of the Environment 2013). It is evident, that we need to continue strengthening ESD and green campus activities in all Nordic HEIs and thus, also support the Rio+20 process and the UN Post-2015 agenda (United Nations 2012c). As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (Ban 2007) put it: “We hold the future in our hands. Together, we must ensure that our grandchildren will not have to ask why we failed to do the right thing, and let them suffer the consequences.”

More about the network:


Meeri Karvinen, NSCN coordinator, Rio+20 project Manager, Aalto University, Finland,

Meri Löyttyniemi, Chair of NUAS sustainability, Senior Advisor for Sustainability, Aalto University, Finland,

Ban, K. 2007. Secretary-General’s address to a High-Level Event on Climate Change: The future in our hands, New York, 24 September 2007.

Haanpää, S. (ed.). 2011. Shortcuts to Sustainable Global Communities. Experiences from Nordic Climate Festival @Aalto.

Ministry of the Environment. 2013. The Finland we want by 2050─ Society’s commitment to sustainable development (in English). Online:

Nordic Council of Ministers. 2011. The Nordic Region – leading in green growth: Report by the Nordic prime ministers’ Working Group for Green Growth.

Nordic Council of Ministers. 2013. A Good life in a Sustainable Nordic Region – a Nordic strategy for Sustainable development.

Plan Nord. 2014. The International Symposium on Northern Development 2015.

United Nations. 1972. Environment Programme: Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Declaration).

United Nations. 2012a. The Future We Want, sections 233-235. Outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio de Janeiro 2012. Online:

United Nations. 2012b. The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative for Rio+20. Online:

United Nations. 2012c. Report of the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Realizing the Future We Want for All.

WCED, World Commission on Environment and Development. 1987. Our Common Future. Report of the WCED (Brundtland report). Oxford University Press, Oxford.

How sharing promotes sustainability

Capitalism in crisis paving the way for sharing and collaboration

Capitalism has been largely criticized for recent financial, social and environmental crises. (Porter & Kramer 2011, Heinrichs 2013, etc.). Porter and Kramer (2011) argue that despite is shortcomings, capitalism is an unparalleled vehicle for meeting human needs, improving efficiency, creating jobs, and building wealth. During the global financial and economic crisis of the past five years, alternative perspectives on capitalism and consumerism have been voiced. Between the poles of “repairing” and improving regulation of the existing “system” and radical alternatives to a capitalist market society, a third perspective has gained attention. The concept and practice of a “sharing economy” and “collaborative consumption” suggest making use of market intelligence to foster a more collaborative and sustainable society. Heinrichs (2013) strongly believes that the sharing economy is a global phenomenon with remarkable dynamics, not just hype.

At the same time, alternative approaches rise. Jeremy Rifkin (2014) argues that during the past 10 years, the growth of the NGO sector in the US has doubled economic growth and NGOs are currently employing over 10% of the work force in US, UK and Canada. Instead of for-profit value creation, a more collaborative mindset is emerging.

The past three decades have witnessed an erosion of the categorical divide between profit-based and non-profit enterprise, as various types of businesses have emerged that embody characteristics of both. Grassl (2011) among others argues that there is a wide operating space for hybrid organizations between the current non-profit and the for-profit dichotomy as also suggested by the notions of shared value (Porter & Kramer), Base of the pyramid businesses (Prahalad), the B-Corps movement; and in fact many examples of the collaborative or sharing economy.

What is the sharing economy?

The collaborative economy builds on distributed networks of connected individuals and communities. The rise of new forms of consumption is not constrained to individual actions of buying goods to satisfy needs, but includes collaborative consumption, focusing on: products as services; redistribution markets; and collaborative life-styles (Botsman; Rogers, 2010). Solutions for the shared use of goods exist in the private (C2C/P2P), public (public sector-to-consumer) and the commercial (B2C) spheres. The current growth of the collaborative economy is due to the emergence of new urban lifestyles, and more importantly, the development of digital platforms that enable new forms of collaboration, as well as the development of professional skills and services that allow the replication of individual collaborative solutions.

The internet makes it cheaper and easier than ever to aggregate supply and demand. The advancement and dissemination of ICTs made possible new forms of sharing, and the ascension of platforms for collective practices that allow interaction, free access to information, knowledge exchange, creation and collaboration. Friedman (2005) affirms that competition and collaboration at global scale, among individuals and companies, are now cheaper, easier, less conflictive, more productive, and reaching an ever increasing number of people. According to Friedman (2005), in the 2000’s a global playing field was created and, articulated through the web, made different forms of collaboration viable, meaning the sharing of knowledge and work at global scale.

Owyang (2014) has split the collaborative economy into six distinct areas or spheres in his visual work in the following picture. Collaborative consumption currently includes prominently such areas as transportation, food, services, goods, money and space. He identifies the key forces shaping the development to be either societal, such as the desire to connect or the sustainability mindset, economic such as the financial climate or technology enablers such as the internet and mobile technologies. Botsman (2014) on the other hand sees the collaborative economy to be thriving based on five key problems of redundancy, broken trust, limited access, waste and complexity.

Figure 1. Dimensions and elements of the sharing economy. (Owyang)

The sharing economy is characterized by an explosion of practices such as carsharing, ridesharing, cooperatives, community farms, shared housing, shared workspaces, and a multitude of new micro-enterprises made possible by platforms that connect supply and demand at the peer-to-peer level. Examples of prominent companies operating in the sharing economy are Airbnb, Lyft, Sidecar, TaskRabbit and Uber.

While its definitions are varied and parameters continue to evolve, activities and models within the collaborative economy enable access instead of ownership, encourage decentralized networks over centralized institutions, and unlock wealth. They make use of idle assets and create new marketplaces. In doing so, many also challenge traditional ways of doing business, rules, and regulation.

There are only few studies of how much people are using the collaborative economy. In Germany research reveals that more than 50 percent of consumers have experience with some form of sharing economy, and that approximately 25 percent can be described as “socio-innovative co-consumers” (Heinrichs and Grunenberg 2013). Another study by VisionCritical demonstrates that 40% of the adults population in the US and 52% in the UK have used sharing economy enabled platforms to access goods, services, transportation, money or space from other consumers instead of going through traditional means (Owyang et. al. 2014). A supply-side focus suggests there has also been a dynamic increase in sharing models concerning cars, bikes, rooms, food, gadgets, etc. Similar observations can be made for product service systems within business and between businesses and consumers or redistribution markets, including upcycling and other ways of finding new uses for old things.

The growth of sharing

Due to its wide applicability, the potential of the sharing economy is substantial. In fact, the market is surpassing any other markets in outlook and market growth. Recent estimates by Forbes place the sharing economy at 3,5 billion USD in 2013 with a market growth rate of over 25% (Forbes 2013, Dervojeda et. al. 2013). At this rate, peer-to-peer sharing is transforming from an income boost into a disruptive economic force. The sharing economy is being called next big trend in social commerce, and represents what some analysts say is a potential $110 billion market (Contreras 2011).

AirBnb, perhaps one of the most raved examples of the collaborative economy, sees over 12 million annual guests staying on 34,000 cities globally (Riley 2014). Airbnb is forecasted to grow to 100 million nights per year, a figure that would likely produce revenue of more than $1 billion, up from an estimated 150 USD million in 2012 and 250 million USD in 2013. Currently, according to the Wall Street Journal, Airbnb has a $10 billion valuation, meaning it is valued at more than some of the hotel chains it is increasingly competing against. (Wall Street Journal 2014). Although this is only an example, it demonstrates the immense potential for the collaborative economy to disrupt traditional industries and force the companies in those industries to rethink their business logic.

How sharing promotes sustainability

Production and consumption seem to be converging where social and environmental problems are in focus. There is a strong trend demonstrating that access is being more valued than ownership, especially when it comes to commodities such as cars for example (Birdsall 2014, Kelly 2009). The sharing economy has the potential to provide a new pathway towards sustainability as a long-term goal (Heinrichs 2013).

The sharing economy and collaborative consumption can neither bring about sustainability by themselves. However, they may be a significant element in facilitating a new pathway towards sustainability. Collaborative systems can, in fact, be more environmentally friendly by increasing usage efficiency, reducing waste, incentivizing better products, and by absorbing the excess of production and consumption. These lead to declines in CO2 levels, noise and traffic congestion and natural resource savings through product life-cycle extensions and decreases in food wastage for example (Dlugosz 2014, p.39). Yannopoulou et. al. (2013) find references to a strong sustainability discourse and inter-personal exchange in collaborative consumption experiences such as Couchsurfing and Airbnb.

The sharing economy makes fuller use of idle resources, allows decentralized production and consumption systems and provides an outlet for surplus or under-utilized personal goods. It has also been demonstrated to bring about social benefits through engagement, building trust and enhancing community values and cohesion for example. For a great number of people, the sharing economy provides an additional source of income, sometimes even substantial. The sharing economy brings people and their work back together through sharing, gifting, bartering, and peer-to-peer buying and selling. It thus has deep implications for how cities design urban spaces, create jobs, reduce crime, manage transportation, and provide for citizens. There are clear indications that sharing can contribute to sustainability both environmentally, socially and economically, however, it is unsure whether the scale is sufficient considering the global challenges faced today.

Conclusion and outlook

The sharing economy seems to bring about substantial benefits socially, environmentally and also economically. Undoubtedly it also raises many questions, which relate to public policy, urban planning, fairness and safety for example. However, we believe that fostering the growth of the sharing economy is worthwhile and something that merits further studies to see whether it can be used to boost prosperity and resilience in times of economic crisis and climate change. Cities could act as a platform for sharing and provide breeding ground for reaping the benefits of the collaborative economy. It is our intention to study the idea of the sharing city further to learn how cities could contribute to more resilient ways of providing housing, transportation, goods, food and jobs through promoting collaborative business models.


Minna-Maari Harmaala, yliopettaja, Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu,

Birdsall, M. 2014. Carsharing in a Sharing Economy. Institute of Transportation Engineers. ITE Journal. Apr 2014;84, 4. pg. 37-40.

Botsman, R. 2014. Sharing’s not just for start-ups. Harvard Business Review. September 2014. pp. 23-25.

Botsman, R. & Rogers, R. 2010. What’s mine is yours: the rise of collaborative consumption. New York, USA. HarperCollins.

Contreras, J. 2011. MIT Sloan grad on the “sharing economy,” the next big trend in social commerce.

Dervojeda, K., Verzijl, D., Nagtegaal, F., Lengton, M., Rouwmaat, E., Monfardini, E. & Frideres, L. 2013. The Sharing Economy. Accessibility Based Business Models for Peer-to-Peer Markets. European Commission. Enterprise and Industry. Case Study No. 12.

Dlugosz, P. M. 2014. The Rise of the Sharing City. Examining origins and futures of urban sharing. IIIEE Publications. Lund. Sweden.

Forbes. 23.01.2013. Airbnb And The Unstoppable Rise Of The Share Economy.

Friedman, T. L. 2005. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Grassl, W. 2011. Hybrid Forms of Business: The Logic of Gift in the Commercial World. Journal of Business Ethics, Supplement100 (Mar 2011): 109-123.

Heinrichs, H. 2013. Sharing Economy: A Potential New Pathway to Sustainability. GAIA 22/4 (2013): 228– 231.

Heinrichs, H. & Grunenberg, H. 2013. Sharing Economy: Towards a New Culture of Consumption?. 21 S. Lüneburg: Centre for Sustainability Management.

Kelly, K. 2009. Better than Owning. January 2009. The Technium.

Owyang, J. 2014. Collaborative economy honeycomb. Creative commons.

Owyang, J., Samuel, A. & Grenville, A. 2014. Sharing is the New Buying.

Porter, M. E. & Kramer, M. R. 2011. “Creating Shared Value. How to reinvent capitalism—and unleash a wave of innovation and growth.” Harvard Business Review, 1-2/89, 62-77

Rifkin, J. 2014. The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism. Palgrave Macmillan.

Riley, T. 2014. Sharing economies are here to stay. The Guardian.

Wall Street Journal. 21.3.2014. Airbnb Is in Advanced Talks to Raise Funds at a $10 Billion Valuation.

Yannopoulou, N., Moufahim, M. & Bian, X. 2013. User-Generated Brands and Social Media: Couchsurfing and AirBnb. Contemporary Management Research, Pages 85-90, Vol. 9, No. 1, March 2013

Interdisciplinary expertise as a goal in universities of applied sciences


Interest in interdisciplinarity has been growing steadily within higher education in the wake of more wicked problems to be solved in the world, demands of industry for ground-breaking research-based innovations that typically happen through disciplinary boundary-crossing, and as a consequence of funding agencies’ emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration (Raisio 2010, Huutoniemi 2012, Lyall & Fletcher 2013). Moreover, philosophers of science have taken up the challenge of systematic work on interdisciplinarity as advocated recently by Uskali Mäki in his “Philosophy of Interdisciplinarity: A Manifesto” (Mäki 2013).

Interdisciplinarity is related to the discussion on multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. Multidisciplinarity refers to two or more disciplines working together on a common problem but drawing only on disciplinary knowledge, that is, maintaining their basic assumptions, concepts, methods and other manifestations of disciplinary boundaries. Transdisciplinarity calls into question disciplinary thinking, as Thomson Klein argues (2004, 524). It refers to close collaboration and exchange of assumptions, concepts and methods that approaches the formation of a new discipline. Interdisciplinarity lies somewhere between these two. Concepts converse and migrate across disciplines, methods are compared and contrasted between disciplines, and, after critical analysis and evaluation, better formulations of methods may be achieved through cross-disciplinary discourse. It looks at a discipline from another discipline’s perspective and may lead to greater integration, that is, to real interdisciplinary engagement. There is typically also some reflection of each individual discipline’s basic assumptions against the assumptions of another discipline but each discipline maintains its (current) fundamental commitments, which does not happen in the case of genuine transdisciplinary enterprise. (Stember 1991, Thomson Klein 2004, Rubin 2004.)

Interdisciplinarity in universities of applied sciences and their master programmes

In the context of a university of applied sciences, discussion of multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinarity plays a role among teaching staff as they have typically all been trained in an academic discipline. Multidisciplinary collaboration in research and development projects is becoming more common as industry and services development demand it, but reflective interdisciplinary engagements are harder to find. Transdisciplinarity hardly exists since forming new disciplines is a realm of traditional universities rather than universities of applied sciences, whose mission is to educate and to conduct applied research and development work.

The master’s students of a Finnish university of applied sciences can be seen to come from different professions rather than disciplines because they enter their respective master’s programmes with at least three years of work experience after the bachelor’s degree. Their work experience is typically even longer, 5–15 years. From the perspective of master’s students, universities of applied sciences could be said to be inherently multiprofessional. Now the challenge for developers of master’s programmes and their research and development orientation is what to do with the multidisciplinary teaching staff and the multiprofessional student body if there are drivers towards greater interdisciplinarity and analogous interprofessional collaboration, as has been suggested by Hautamäki and Ståhle (2012), among others.

We remarked in an earlier article (Lindeman et al. 2012) that multidisciplinary, multiprofessional, interdisciplinary, interprofessional and their variants appeared in only one title of the articles included in the earlier book on the development of master’s degrees at universities of applied sciences (Varjonen & Maijala 2009). In the recent similar volume (Töytäri 2012), there are two articles with such terms in the title: our own and another one on an interprofessional teacher group. Otherwise, the book focuses on the relationship between working life and different aspects of educational practices of master’s programmes, without explicit attention to interdisciplinarity or interprofessionalism. However, the need for interdisciplinary and interprofessional collaboration is widely shared, in Honkanen and Veijola (2012), for instance.

The evolving aim at KyUAS has been to move from multidisciplinarity towards interdisciplinary work among faculty members of different master’s programmes. A further aim has been to expose master’s students to interprofessional encounters, particularly in general management and leadership studies, and, more recently, also in project management studies and multicultural studies.

A call for further development and research

A challenge that has yet to be taken up seriously concerns the development of research and development studies, together with the thesis supervision process, in a way that would increase interdisciplinary collaboration and interprofessional problem-solving (Lindeman et al. 2012). This challenge is particularly wicked with respect to thesis work and supervision. In order to fully understand the task ahead, we need a closer look at the research-assisted development work that master’s students have done in their theses. We also need to study the RDI projects of universities of applied sciences from an interdisciplinary point of view in order to find out good practices and working methods driving development towards this goal. Studying of RDI projects might also reveal hidden problems in integrating disciplinary and professional knowledge meaningfully and for the full benefit of working life partners involved.


Ari Lindeman, Team Leader, Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences,

Minna Veistilä, Principal Lecturer,Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences,

Hautamäki A. & Ståhle P. 2012. Ristiriitainen tiedepolitiikkamme. Suuntana innovaatiot vai sivistys? Helsinki: Gaudeamus.

Honkanen H. & Veijola A. 2012. Kunnat tarvitsevat rohkeita uudistajia, miten ylempi ammattikorkeakoulututkinto vastaa haasteeseen? In Kehittyvä YAMK – työelämää uudistavaa osaamista, ed. by A. Töytäri. Hämeenlinna: Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu. 107–123.

Huutoniemi K. 2012. Interdisciplinary Accountability in the Evaluation of Research Proposals. Prospects for academic quality control across disciplinary boundaries. Academic dissertation. Publications of the Department of Social Research 2012:17, Social and Public Policy. Helsinki: Helsingin yliopisto.

Lindeman A., Niiranen-Linkama P. & Veistilä M. 2012. Kiperät ongelmat ja monialainen ongelmanratkaisu metodologisen tarkastelun välineinä ylemmissä ammattikorkeakoulu-koulutusohjelmissa. In Kehittyvä YAMK – työelämää uudistavaa osaamista, ed. by A. Töytäri. Hämeenlinna: Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu.

Lyall C. & Fletcher I. 2013.Experiments in interdisciplinary capacity building: the successes and challenges of large-scale interdisciplinary investments. Science and Public Policy 40/1, 1-7.

Mäki U. 2013. Philosophy of Interdisciplinarity: A Manifesto. Lecture in Pre-symposium of the European Philosophy of Science Association’s conference in Helsinki (author’s lecture notes).

Raisio H. 2010. Embracing the Wickedness of Health Care Essays on Reforms, Wicked Problems, and Public Deliberation. Acta Wasaensia 228. Vaasa: University of Vaasa.

Rubin A. 2004. Monitieteisyys, poikkitieteisyys, tieteidenvälisyys. Accessed 10 December 2013

Stember M. 1991. Advancing the social sciences through the interdisciplinary enterprise. The Social Science Journal. Vol. 28 Issue 1. pp. 1–14.

Thomson Klein J. 2004. Prospects of transdisciplinarity. Futures 36. pp. 515–526.

Töytäri A. (ed.) 2012. Kehittyvä YAMK – työelämää uudistavaa osaamista. Hämeenlinna: Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu.

Varjonen B. & Maijala H. 2009. Ylempi ammattikorkeakoulututkinto – osana innovaatioympäristöjä. Hämeenlinna: Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu.

Healthcare logistician – New profession, new education


The healthcare logistician (HL) profession and the education for it result from the Healthcare Logistician Project funded by Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) as part of the “Innovations in social and healthcare services” program, which aims to renew health and social services and increase business opportunities. The project was coordinated by Uudenmaan Pikakuljetus Oy as part of the global DSV group, and implemented in cooperation with two regional hospital districts and Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LUAS). The aim of The Healthcare Logistician Project was to create a new service concept, a new profession, define a job description and competence requirements for it, and develop education for healthcare logisticians.

Healthcare logistician service concept

Healthcare organizations are process organizations that are complex and challenging, containing actions and structures that have demanding material and personnel flows in which logistics contribute greatly to the quality of the operations (Fraunhofer 2013). Logistics plays an increasingly important role in healthcare, and it has become one of the largest cost factors for hospitals (Lillerank & Haukkapää-Haara, 2008). Simultaneously, financial and human resources have decreased in the healthcare sector. This has meant an increasing demand for more efficient productivity and material flows, the reallocation of existing human resources, changes to former working methods and the development of innovative working practices.

The key idea of the healthcare logistician concept is based on the findings of Keskiväli’s (2007) study, which found that the organization of logistics functions and the descriptions of those functions are insufficient, the education of personnel conducting healthcare logistics is inadequate, and full-time employees who are educated in logistics are sorely lacking. The basic idea of the concept is to free traditional healthcare personnel from the need to conduct logistics operations, thus allowing them more time to take care of patients. The aim is that logistics tasks are given over to HLs educated for the purpose but who also understand the special characteristics of the demanding healthcare environment. As indirect effects, cost savings arise in two ways: first they move logistics activities away from expensive treatment rooms, thereby freeing room capacity for more productive use. Second, the tools and equipment used become standardized. The expected benefits of the HL concept include reduced travel and search times, improved supply and equipment flows, efficient team working, clearly defined process ownerships, balanced workloads, and better spatial use solutions, thereby improving quality and patient safety.

Healthcare logistician profession

Healthcare logisticians work in a variety of healthcare organizations. Despite the differences in their working environments, healthcare logisticians support the work of healthcare professionals. They understand nursing and speak the same professional languages as nursing staff and logisticians. They take care of all variety of goods needed in healthcare operations, so that all the goods are in the right places at the right time, although they do not participate in nursing or the handling of medicines. In addition to availability and situational logistics tasks, HLs also closely cooperate with the internal and external logistics operations of other hospitals when planning order-delivery processes and creating the preparedness of components and stock buffering, etc. A HL is also a developer, a person who critically analyses logistics processes and functions and develops them.

Competence requirements

This new profession also has new requirements for its required competencies, skills and knowledge. The competence requirements of a HL are a combination of logistics and social and healthcare skills, which are based on the concepts of job-related (Cheetman & Chivers 1996 and 1998; Boyatzis 2008; Winther & Achtenhagen 2009; Bartlett et al. 2000) and professional competence (e.g. Torr 2008). The competence description of a HL is not a set of minimum competency requirements for all HLs in all healthcare organizations but is more a collection of abilities to perform tasks and duties. Due to professional competencies being context-dependent (e.g. Deewr 2007; Le Diest & Winterton 2005; Guthrie 2004; Mulder et al. 2007; Calhoun et al. 2002), they differ not only between individuals but also between organizations, thus they should be considered based on the needs of the respective organization. Despite contextual differences, the definition of competence requirements creates a collective understanding and agreement on the professional requirements for the profession of healthcare logistician.

A competent HL professional masters their work processes by means of the methods, tools and materials available and while observing occupational safety. In addition to occupational skills, he/she also has interpersonal and personal skills; the competence map of a HL highlights functional competencies (tasks that HLs should be able to do) but strongly recognizes both cognitive (what and why) and behavioral competencies (how to behave).

The competence map of an HL contains 11 task-related competence areas:

  1. Can plan and manage warehouse operations
  2. Can carry out orders
  3. Is familiar with duties connected to goods delivery and shelving services
  4. Is familiar with duties connected to goods collection and shipment processes
  5. Can establish a shelving service
  6. Is able to carry out stock management tasks
  7. Can store and handle hazardous materials and chemicals
  8. Is able to carry out infection prevention measures in accordance with best practices, the organization’s quality system, instructions and legislation
  9. Is able to plan and develop healthcare logistics and understands the role of healthcare logistics as part of the overall healthcare process
  10. Has knowledge of acts, decrees, regulations and guidelines governing his/her work practices
  11. Can maintain and enhance customer and stakeholder relations

And four interpersonal and personal skill areas:

  1. general working life skills
  2. personal skills
  3. language skills, and
  4. technology and information technology skills.

The large number of competence areas indicates the challenging content of the new profession.

Healthcare logistics education

Due to the particularly demanding work environments, existing logistics education – as part of business or technology education – does not meet the high standards and requirements of healthcare logistics. Consequently, a special competency based healthcare logistician education (HLE) that combines logistics and social and healthcare education is required. The most appropriate backgrounds for those wishing to study HLE include people with vocational degrees in business or logistics (e.g. warehouse operative, instrument technician), or people working in social and healthcare (practical nurse). This new education programme would offer students of business logistics or health and social care the opportunity to specialize.

HLE is being developed and carried out in cooperation with social and healthcare and business logistics educators from Lahti University of Applied Sciences and also receives thorough cooperation form healthcare organisations. The education is bachelor’s degree level further education (European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 6). Thus, participation in HLE is open for vocational graduates, offering new bachelor level studies at both universities and universities of applied sciences. It is also possible to integrate and/or credit HL studies (30 ects) to part of bachelor’s degree. The study programme consists of six modules including social and healthcare issues, logistics, team and interpersonal skills development, project work and practical training. The first study group, 14 students, began studying at the end of 2013 and will graduate at the end of 2014. The next study group will begin in spring 2015.


The need for healthcare services is increasing due to Finland’s ageing population. At the same time, financial resources are decreasing. This means that healthcare services need to be developed and healthcare organizations have to find new more efficient operating models. Healthcare logistics would enable that by strengthening logistical operations and allowing nurses to concentrate on nursing. In the most progressive organizations, several HLs are already working, whereas others are only considering the implementation of a healthcare logistician model.

Defined competence requirements and HLE will decrease uncertainty, reduce resistance and increase confidence in the profession. In addition to HLE, benchmarking and sharing best practices will be important competence development methods.

Future research on the HL concept and profession is needed from differing healthcare environments and organizations. In addition, there is a need to benchmark HLE internationally.


Ulla Kotonen, Development Manager, DSc (Econ & Bus. Adm.), FUAS – Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences,

Ullamari Tuominen, Lecturer, Project Manager, LUAS – Lahti University of Applied Sciences,

Miika Kuusisto, Lecturer, Project Manager, LUAS – Lahti University of Applied Sciences,

Bartlett, H.P., Simonite, V., Westcott, E. & Taylor, H.R. (2000) A comparison of the nursing competence of graduates and diplomates from UK nursing programmes. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 9, 369 – 381.

Boyatzis, R.E. (2008) Competencies in the 21st century. Journal of Management Development, 27(1), 5 – 12.

Calhoun, J.G., Davidson, P.L., Sinioris, M.E., Vincent, E.T. & Griffith J.R. (2002) Towards an understanding of competency identification and assessment in health care management. Quality Management in Health Care, 11 (1), 14 – 38.

Cheetman, G. & Chivers, G. (1998) The reflective (and competent) practitioner: A mode of professional competence which seeks to harmonise the reflective practitioner and competence-based approaches. Journal of European Industrial Training, 22 (7), 267 – 276.

Cheetman, G. & Chivers, G. (1996) Towards a holistic model of professional competence. Journal of European Industrial Training, 20 (5), 20 – 30.

Deewr. (2013). Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (2007) The training package development handbook for units of competency.

Fraunhofer IML. (2013) Hospital logistics. Available at: Read 21 March 2013.

Guthrie, H. (2009) Competence and competency-based training: What the literature says.

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Winther, E. & Achtenhagen, F. (2009) Measurement of vocational competencies. A contribution to an international large-scale assessment on vocational education and training. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 1 (1), 85 – 102.

If You Can Make It There You Can Make It Everywhere – Triumph of the Metropolitan Area Cooperation

Berlin and Helsinki sharing the same capital city potential

In the future, the engines of innovation and growth are focusing more and more in big cities and metropolitan areas. When experts and enthusiasts of a certain industry are working in the neighborhood, or near each other, new ideas are unfolding and innovations get on wings. The larger the city, the more versatile is its economy structure. This fact protects against the problems that one-industry-based cities, like Detroit, have been confronting in recent years.

Moreover, capital cities as metropolitan areas draw immigration. For people from different parts of the world there are in big cities local ethnic communities, which support coping with and prospering in the new homeland. For instance Berlin and larger Stockholm seem to be real idea kettles in this sense, and that’s why they are expected to have a flourishing future.

Helsinki Metropolitan Area, like Berlin and Stockholm, have several strengths in common: they have immaterial and intellectual capital, a creative and tolerant atmosphere, well-educated inhabitants, knowledge-based start-ups, residential areas with distinctive identities and individual characters, and a set of established universities and research institutions. These capital cities also seek actively for new economies and new growth by emphasizing innovation as means for creating emergent markets. Along with this kind of development trends, radical competitiveness is expected to increase.

Networks as a source of strength

Today, highest levels of excellence and innovati­on strength are sought across all value-adding networks. The scope of expertise is extended through co-operation and alliances also within higher education institutions, not only in business or among companies. That is why three years ago, HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia – both being Universities of Applied Sciences – signed a general cooperation agreement to formally enter into a ‘strategic partnership’.

With a student body of more than 13,000, the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (HTW) Berlin is the largest university of applied sciences in Berlin. With around 70 compact and practice-orientated bachelor’s and master’s courses in engineering, economics, information technology, culture and design, the range of qualifications it provides is impressive. University rankings have consistently established HTW Berlin as one of the leading providers of a modern and professional education. Enjoying an excellent academic reputation, it has received many prizes for exceptional innovation in the university sector, for internal management reforms, the consultation and service packages offered to small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups, and for the commitment to gender equality and barrier freedom.

Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland’s largest university of applied sciences, educates the professionals of tomorrow in the fields of culture, business, health care and social services, and technology. At Helsinki Metropolia with its nearly 17,000 students and 1,100 full-time employees, people and worlds meet to create insight, expertise and well-being for both the world of work and life in general. Cooperation in and through the vivid metropolitan area, is the key to discover new ideas and solutions to build a better future. Helsinki Metropolia has 65 degree programs, and 14 of them in English. It is most popular UAS in Finland in terms of applicants, second-most popular in terms of attractiveness. It complies with the requirements of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) as one of very few universities in Finland.

The step to build a strategic partnership between these two higher education institutions took place after a longer period of student exchange, a joint international Master´s Degree, and other bilateral activities showing that there is a high potential for closer cooperation in the international framework of Europe. Also the fact that the institutions are situated in capital cities facing the same kind of challenges and possibilities, played a significant role.

Added value through alliances

At HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia, an international partnership means that an alliance is built with a foreign university, research institution, or working life organization in order to achie­ve goals which benefit both parties. A partner of an added value network is called a ‘strategic partner’ once the co-operation relationship is continuous and intensive, so that in the pace of time the contribution of the other party is clearly visible.

When talking about higher education institutions and other non-profit organizations, the objective of these partnerships is rarely direct economic profit; the goal is rather to detract new, underlying needs through the co-operation. The recognition of silent signals and the development work on them increases the know­edge of all participants. Acknowledging the new thus means an added value for both the competencies and the mental flexibility of the organization.

Both in HTW Berlin and in Helsinki Metropolia the discussions with professors, experts and top management convinced that in the future, both universities are able to see the world through innovative angles, learn new things, and generate creative breakthroughs best in interaction with an ally. This was the trigger for starting a new and more systematical phase of partnership between the two higher education institutions.

Many potential forms of collaboration

In the strategic alliance between HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia, practical methods include interest forums, brainstorming sessions, workshops, thematic seminars and annual conferences. In higher education, benchmarking of processes and administrative policies like quality management, yearly planning of teacher work or human resource development, are an important part of strategic cooperation.

In addition, a growing interest lies in mutual research activities. Developing and nurturing new relationships with people and organizations outside the universities of applied sciences has become a critical element of successful and sustainable research programs. Both institutions, HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia, seek to break into new areas and re-invigorate the already well-established strengths in the field of research, and are convinced that this is done best in partnership with each other and each other´s allies. Either partner could, of course, do business without the other, but in ideal cases it would be either difficult or not as rewarding as working in close interaction. To reach this kind of level of intensity, the partnership should be thinking 5−10 years ahead, have a strong written vision and plan the actions on this same timescale.

An effective partnership dynamo is in practice mostly the impact force of the individual, because the organization itself is never energizing. Individuals with enthusiasm are the premise of functioning. The dynamics of seeing and develop­ing partnership opportunities depend on personal relationships. At best, cooperation consists of a guild of top professionals, which is focused on people’s intrinsic motivation.

Criteria for partnership

A genuine strategic partnership has a major impact on the parties’ thinking and planning. In HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia cases, an indication of this is that the top leaders meet each other and sup­port the goals set for the co-operation. Between the parties, there is an open and effective communicati­on at many different levels.

The benefits of the added value network are realized only if the alliance between the two parties shares a very high degree of confidence. This results in an enriching balance between mutually transferable skills, knowledge and practices. It is said that a partnership is like an intimate relationship that needs to be cared for and where open sharing of things carries you furthest!

Between 2010 and 2014, Helsinki Metropolia has in­vested heavily in strategic partnerships. One outcome of this investment is a set of criteria for choosing partners. Potential partners and international alliances are estimated e.g. by going through a list of questions. The following matters should, for instance, be discussed thoroughly:

  • Is the partnership planned to be long-term and systematical?
  • Do both parties significantly benefit from the partnership?
  • Are the partner’s values and strategy ac­ceptable?
  • Is there a genuine shared willingness for mutual strategic cooperation?
  • Do the parties commit themselves to intel­lectual and financial inputs that the coop­eration presupposes?
  • Does the partnership offer sectorial coop­eration, but also generic prospects related to the development of higher education?
  • Is the partner’s geographical location ap­propriate for sustainable development and an ecological point of view to travel?

What makes the difference?

Cooperation in the field of research, tuition, student and staff exchange, human resource development, and internationalisation are the bedrock in the partnership between HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia. But there are phenomena, which make it beyond ordinary ‘cut-and-dried’ international cooperation.

Both parties have strong roots in the capital city area of their home countries and each plays a substantial role in the economic, social and cultural life of its city and region. There is a genuine commitment to collaborate to disseminate, implement, exploit and/or commercialise knowledge in these areas, but also a willingness to seek to work together in developing urban solutions, wellbeing in the society, artistic and cultural activities, too. Both parties share the mission of being influential stakeholders in the metropolitan areas, be it Helsinki or Berlin, which are very well to be compared. Acting as innovation drivers especially in the Baltic Sea Region is a natural expansion of the roles of the parties.

The two higher education institutions will also act as socially responsible partners and exchange knowledge and experiences regarding social responsibility issues including efficiency of operations and the impact of operations on the environment, and on the key stakeholders: students, staff, and both public and private sector.

The four-year experience of strategic partnership has shown that there is a mutually shared ambition about a high standard education that makes the HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia graduates fit for jobs in their home countries, but also in Europe and abroad. Combining strong applied research and development with project study and including this into education is for both parties the essential premise as well a permanent, everlasting mission.

Today, there is a clear trend towards working in partnerships and thus build up centres of creativity and innovation. HTW Berlin and Helsinki Metropolia wish to be harbingers, not only in improving their own quality but in being models for the students. The two institutions are open for students from everywhere in the world and want to educate students who feel themselves as citizens of Europe and the world. That is what a strategic partnership is for: opening our capital cities, countries and cultures and let others take part in it and share its beauties and richness.


Matthias Knaut, Vice-President for Research and International Cooperation, Professor, Ph.D., HTW Berlin – University of Applied Sciences, Germany,

Tuire Ranta-Meyer, Director, Ph.D. MMus, Adjunct professor, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland,

Hautamäki, Antti & Oksanen, Kaisa 2013. Metropolista haastavia ongelmia ratkaiseva innovaatiokeskittymä. Kvartti 1. City of Helsinki Urban Facts Quarterly. (The article is available also in Swedish in the same publication/ web-page.)

Ranta-Meyer, Tuire 2013. Metropolia´s Strategic Partnerships. Co-creating Expertise (ed. Kiventaus & Ranta-Meyer)., ISBN 978-952-6690-05-6.

Santalainen, Timo 2009. Strateginen ajattelu & toiminta. Helsinki: Talentum. ISBN 978-952-14-1373-5.

Strategic Partnerships Manual. University of Leeds. ISBN 0853162050.

Redecker, Christine, Leis, Miriam & al. 2011. The Future of Learning: Preparing for Change. Institute for Prospective Technical Studies.

Vartiainen, Juhana 2014. Tulevaisuus on metropolien. Näkökulma. Suomen Kuvalehti 30, 25.7.2014.