North South Co-operation of Lahti aims to turn African waste to value

Long-term North-South partnership between Lahti and Rustenburg has expanded over the years

City of Lahti has been part of the North South Local Government Co-operation program since 2002. The program is coordinated by the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities and funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Through the program, Lahti and its African partner municipalities have received funding for development activities in the field of environmental administration. The co-operation is based on colleague-to-colleague interaction and mutual learning. Best practices are shared through peer reviews, trainings, exchange visits and benchmarking while research pilots and studies are conducted to find new solutions for identified challenges. From September 2014 onwards, the co-operation is being coordinated from Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Lahti has currently local government partners in South Africa and Ghana. In South Africa, Lahti is co-operating with Rustenburg and Madibeng Local Municipalities that are situated approximately 100 kilometers from Johannesburg in North West Province. The area known as a hub of tourism and mining industry, especially platinum mining. In Ghana, Lahti has partnered with the capital of Volta Region, Ho Municipality. The economy of Ho is highly dependent on small-scale agriculture.

Finding the niches for Finnish environmental technology solutions in the African markets

In 2013–2014, the co-operation between Lahti, Rustenburg, Madibeng and Ho has focused on the development of municipal solid waste management and sanitation coverage. Through the support of the co-operation, South African partners have piloted source separation operations and capacitated community-based groups to start recycling and material recovery ventures. In Ghana, feasibility of dry toilet technology and composting have been studied in course of school and community pilots.

For Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LUAS), the project provides valuable insight and contacts to the progressing African environmental technology markets. Understanding the stakeholders, challenges, needs and priorities of the South African and Ghanaian waste and water sectors makes it possible to evaluate the potential of Finnish environmental technology solutions for these markets. The environmental engineering degree program of LUAS has been involved in the planning and implementation of research pilots of the co-operation, e.g. through course works, final theses and student work placement. This R&D approach will be strengthened from 2015 when LUAS is coordinating the co-operation in Lahti.

International experience for students through work and studies in Africa

Annually 2–6 environmental engineering students have been given the opportunity to work in the environmental administration of the African partner municipalities for 3 months. The work placements have supported the implementation and documentation of the research pilots. In Ghana, students have taken part in the activities of the dry toilet pilot, such as organizing the training events for users and builders of dry toilets as well as monitoring the field trials of end products. In South Africa, for example the design of a public waste education center and waste sorting center have been supported with student work placement.

Work placement in Africa is a valuable opportunity to improve language, networking and project management skills. Students get exposed to the whole cycle of project management while taking part in the planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring, reporting and evaluation of the activities. Successful implementation of activities requires collaboration with multiple stakeholders. For example, when organizing field trials with urine fertilizer, it is necessary to coordinate the activities between the environmental health officials, agricultural extension officials, local researchers, farmers and dry toilet owners. A part from technical know-how, the work placement offers a good opportunity to develop presentation, negotiation and management skills.

Through the local government co-operation, Lahti University of Applied Sciences has also created network in the field of higher education to South Africa. This interaction has been extended to other countries in Southern Africa. In 2013-2015, LAMK is coordinating a North-South-South Higher Education project, Fanhees 3, with partners from North-West University (South Africa), University of Botswana (Botswana), Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Polytechnic of Namibia (Namibia), HAMK University of Applied Sciences. This project supports teacher and student mobility and enables few environmental engineering students from Lahti to take part in student exchange annually.

Picture 1. In Rustenburg, South Africa, a two-bag source separation system for solid waste was piloted for households in 2011. Sanna Siri was monitoring the two-bag collection on field.
Picture 2. In 2009, Marianne Siri and Sirpa Kokkinen did their work placement in the biological remediation program of the Hartbeespoort dam in Madibeng. The Harties Metsi a Me -program has been influenced by the remediation approach used in Lake Vesijärvi, Lahti.
Picture 3. Schools and communities in Ho, Ghana, have been trained to treat their biodegradable waste by composting. Mirkku Kauhanen together with Juuso Mäkelä were working closely with schools in 2012 to include composting into the science studies in primary and junior high school level.
Picture 4. Organizing training events has been one key task of the work placement students. In 2012, Joni Lappi and Markku Viitanen organized a workshop on the use of the dry toilet end products.


Anna Aalto, Project Manager, Lahti University of Applied Sciences,

SAMK having co-operation on land and sea in Namibia

Close relations of Finland and Namibia over a hundred years

Finland has a great reputation in Namibia, as missionary workers worked with the local people on technological and education issues as early as in beginning of 1900’s. Nobel Prize winner, our former president Martti Ahtisaari was the key negotiator during the Namibia’s independence process. With the mutual understanding and thrust between the countries, it’s easy to build up new projects and co-operation on educational and research.

The co-operation between Rauma, Finland and Namibia started with the building of a new multidisciplinary highly technical research vessel, with modern research capabilities for marine and fisheries research of Namibia by STX Finland Ltd (STX-Fi) from August 2011 to June 2012. This modern and innovative vessel is specially designed for the purposes of Namibian fisheries research.

Improving the maritime education on Namibia (Maribia)

The main aim of “Improving the maritime education on Namibia (Maribia)”-project is to improve the maritime education of Namibia on the higher educational level of Namibia and on the level that can be approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The project is in line with the objectives of Finland’s Development Policy Programme. It supports the maritime cluster of Namibia by promoting the rise and preservation of sustainable jobs in the maritime field. This MARIBIA-project will last to the end of year 2015.

Figure 1. Minna Keinänen-Toivola and Heikki Koivisto (in figure) visited at R/V Mirabilis in Walvis Bay in September 2014. Our guide was Chief Officer Werner Hamwaalwa. Picture taken by Minna Keinänen-Toivola.

Water project for Horizon2020

Namibia is a large country at over 800 000 km2, with low population number (2.3 million inhabitants) being the driest country south of Sahara desert (Figure 2). Actually, there is more seals 2.7 million than human being in Namibia. The key economic sectors are mining, fishing, tourism and agriculture (most important fish and marine products). All of these sectors depend on a sustainable water supply and sanitation in varying degrees. However, as an example Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, has an average annual rainfall of around 370 mm, while the average evaporation rate is over 3000 mm per annum. The nearest perennial river, the Okavango, is 700 km from the city on the north-eastern border of the country (border with Angola). Windhoek is therefore continuously facing serious water challenges.

In order to address the challenges of sustainable water systems in Namibia, we have put together a consortium of experts to work on these issues. Our proposed project, for Horizon2020, is focused on research, technological innovation, business opportunities, education, tools and methodologies for clean and hygiene water supply and sanitation (including raw water, drinking water, waste water, sea water) in Namibia. An important aspect is the energy, as all parts of operation of water systems need energy for successful operation. Our approach combines innovative technical solutions to local knowledge, operational and effective application of integrated water management in connection to local operators, including policy institutions and implementation bodies. As a practical tool, we have to urban areas as pilot sites: Windhoek, the capital and Walvis Bay municipality (Figure 3). RV Mirabilis is considered as a research vessel for sea water sampling (Figure 1).

Figure 2. Namibia is continuously facing serious water challenges as it’s an arid country. Picture taken by Heikki Koivisto.
Figure 3. Walvis Bay is another pilot site for the water project under preparation to Horizon2020 funding. It’s also the home harbor of RV Mirabilis. Picture taken by Minna Keinänen-Toivola.

Presence is needed on site

However, it should be kept in mind that the way of doing business varies from country to country. For example, in Namibia, the presence on site is very important. Maritime project personnel, as project manager Marva and captain, maritime expert Koivisto with the co-workers have visited Namibia several times since 2012. Project manager Keinänen-Toivola is able to prepare the water project for Horizon2020 on site in Namibia with Kolmiloikalla vaihtovirtaa-project (Figure 4).

Kolmiloikalla vaihtovirtaa- project, a key for successful co-operation

Kolmiloikalla vaihtovirtaa is a mutual project of Satakunta University of Applied Sciences and Turku University of Applied Sciences, funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The project is a part of the CoastAL cooperation between Satakunta University of Applied Sciences and Turku University of Applied Sciences ( It offers the staff of universities of applied sciences the chance to cooperate with their working life partners in an intensive and long-term manner. The Kolmiloikalla vaihtovirtaa project offers two working life exchange options of about three months for the years 2014–2015: Domestic working life exchange and International exchange. The destinations of domestic exchange can be research and development units of companies or sector research facilities. When it comes to international exchange, the RDI units of our strategic international partners or their regional cooperation organizations are recommended as destinations.

Figure 4. First advisory board committee meeting of MARIWATER project at Polytechnic of Namibia in August 2014. Project manager Minna Keinänen-Toivola (third on the right) presented SAMK. Picture taken by Heikki Koivisto.


Minna Keinänen-Toivola, Project Manager, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences/ Faculty of Energy and Construction/ WANDER Nordic Water and Materials Institute,

Heikki Koivisto, Project Manager, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences/ Faculty of Logistics and Maritime Technology,

Meri-Maija Marva, Training Manager, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences/ Faculty of Logistics and Maritime Technology,

Martti Latva, Chief Project Manager, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences/ Faculty of Energy and Construction/ WANDER Nordic Water and Materials Institute,

PRACTICE FUTURE – Creating an Open Innovation Business and Students Network

A substantial number of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), in the Barents region, with the intension of expanding are restrained by limited resources for international marketing and research into innovative business models, products and services. For some of them, an open innovation approach in a pre-defined network and, with minimised risk and costs might be a solution to overcome this hindrance. On the other hand, dwindling population of rural areas is a major hurdle for the development of the region, as well as the lack of a cross-border and cross-culture competent workforce. The need for strengthening entrepreneurship as a main power in regional development points to the problem of an underdeveloped entrepreneurship education. Therefore, beyond small local firms in the region, target groups are entrepreneurship students at partner universities as well as academic and administrative staff, and local intermediaries such as municipalities and business associations. Final beneficiaries are future entrepreneurs in the region who can use the business–university open innovation network; local communities profiting from internationally active local business and municipality partnerships; future entrepreneurship students, using a developed international learning and developing environment; academic staff and programme designers, building future efforts on an approved tool of entrepreneurship education.

Objectives and partners

A Kolarctic financed project Practice Future is an open innovation for local business and students’ network in the Barents Region. The idea for the project originated from the negotiations between higher education institutions (HEI) partners from Norway, Finland and Russia who were already involved in an enterprise project. The project partners are:

  • Small local enterprises in Finnmark County; Murmansk oblast, Lapland, and Karelia
  • Business associations related to the firms and local municipalities
  • HEI partners: The Arctic University of Norway – UiT, Murmansk International Institute of Business Education, Murmansk State Technical University, Petrozavodsk State University, Lapland University of Applied Sciences.

A pilot project in 2011conducted for a small enterprise in Finnmark County, Norway revealed the potential of Practice Future for firms. The outcome of the pilot project was immensely promising as the commissioner got to pursue one of the proposals presented by students. Using another cross-border channel opened by the student network, first steps of valuable cooperation with a Russian partner has already been realised. SMEs in the Barents Region and, students and faculty staff from five universities cooperate in the open innovation project to meet the two-fold aim: firstly to develop practically relevant business ideas and business models for commissioner enterprises and facilitating the enterprises’ access to markets abroad; secondly to develop and implement a practice proven internationally applicable tool of entrepreneurship education to (non-business) students.

International projects are tools in creating cooperation between partners and a school project such as Practice Future do provide such a platform. The collaboration between the partner HEIs not only provide an opportunity for students to be involved in dealing with issues related to “real” enterprises but also to those enterprises to widen dimensions in possible future expansion of their businesses. This is a right platform for students to be innovative and creative with their business ideas. Further the staff in charge also has a chance to discuss and exchange ideas on issues ranging from coaching students and future plans. According to Yle News publication, a Finnish online media, Finland churns out about 15,000 new inventions each year (Problem-solving Finns… 2014). This enormous figure is only made be possible with an enabling and innovating society that believes in innovation as the bedrock of sustainable human development. Lapland UAS being a partner in this project finds this arena an opportunity for its students to showcase their innovative talents on an international platform. Based on the feedback from business students of Lapland UAS, this project is “beneficial” in their studies.

Thus far there has been four semesters of workshops that has been implemented and during each phase on average nine students from Lapland UAS has participated. The students involved are both Finns and non-Finns. Being part of this project the students not only gain insights into real enterprises’ day to day dealing but also acquire cross-border and cross-cultural skills since the partner HEIs and commissioners originate from three different countries. High North being a strategic region of Lapland UAS, this project serves the strategic vision perfectly. Students and staff from Russia, Finland and Norway collaborate to tackle regional enterprises’ assignments. It is not a farfetched aspiration to believe that an innovation hub could be created through such collaboration. A hub for multidisciplinary teams of various cultural and economic backgrounds joins forces in creating synergy for innovative output. Such international collaboration and networking could be tapped to acquire maximum gain for the regional enterprises and organizations. Such an evolving and productive network nurtures a platform where Russian, Finnish and Norwegian knowledge and competences are exchanged fluidly across national borders. Such exchanges also foster and support entrepreneurship education in partner HEIs and entrepreneurial activities in regional enterprises.

Semester based activities

Each semester, international student-teams work together on a virtual platform dealing with tasks assigned by regional enterprises or municipalities. After the online period teams and representatives of enterprises and/or organisations meet each other for a week-long Business Innovation Workshop, where business proposals and plans are completed and presented to the commissioners. The Business Innovation Workshop each semester also incorporate representatives of local business associations and municipalities and serve as a platform for evaluating and successive advancement of the entrepreneurship education tool, cost-benefit optimization for participating firms and development conference of cooperation between municipalities and higher education. Each partner HEI is given the opportunity to a workshop week at its own premises.

The workshop circle began in Alta, Norway at the commencement of the project in the autumn of 2012. During this phase the enterprises involved were Sorrisniva, a tourism enterprise from Alta and Arts from Barents, an online art enterprise from Murmansk, Russia. This was followed by the Murmansk workshop phase in spring 2013 student-teams dealt with assignments related to a youth house, Mr. Pink from Murmansk, Russia and EU Park commissioned by Tornio City, Finland. The following workshop phase in Petrozavodsk, Russia the student-teams had to deal with a couple of challenging assignments: Kirkenes Port case from Norway and a shipbuilding enterprise from the host city, Varyag. Lapland UAS had the pleasure to host the workshop in week in Tornio during 17.-21.3.2014 during which saw student-teams delivering solutions to two case-assignments commissioned by jointly Outokumpu Stainless and Tornio City, and Kvalsund Commune from Norway. The workshops strengthen the relationships between HEIs and relevant regional businesses and enhance the sustainable knowledge and competence exchanges among the relevant parties involved. With such collaboration it is possible to build individual cross-border network that could possibly retain youth in the region.

When students from different countries meet during the workshop weeks and compete to propose best solutions for commissioners’ tasks, the environment fosters communicative, creative, entrepreneurial skills along with cross-cultural competences that are indispensable for international business professionals who need to communicate in a persuasive and compelling way. This could be illustrated by using the latest workshop week held in Tornio. Student-teams worked on the Tornio Port case, co-commissioned by Outokumpu Stainless which rents the port and Tornio City which is the “landlord”, where they had to find ways to improve the attractiveness of the port for other customers than the current tenant. A panel of jury, consisting of the commissioners themselves, the RDI director and the director of Scholl of Business and Culture of Lapland UAS, and the chair of Tornio City Council, heard various ideas and solutions being proposed. They ultimately selected as best ideas based on cost efficiency and feasibility scale. The winning proposals will be reviewed by the commissioners for possible future implementations. Generally the Tornio workshop was a success based on the feedback received from the participants

The Practice Future project still has two phases ahead to be held in Alta and Murmansk. Thus far close to hundred and fifty students and twelve teaching staff has been involved. The student numbers are expected to increase with the upcoming workshops. Without doubt such a project, besides being an entrepreneurial arena, nourishes a fertile ground for intercultural interactions, creation of friendship and networking. The students get more out of each semester then just functioning as entrepreneurs. Each semester involves an intensive sessions of brain storming, frustration, collaborations and results.


Peter Fischer, Assistant professor, The Arctic University of Norway,

Teresa Chen, Senior lecturer, International Coordinator, Lapland University of Applied Sciences,

Problem-solving Finns create 15,000 new inventions each year (2014). Yle news. Updated 16.2.2014. In address:

Bridging the Skills Gap – Competency Development and Entrepreneurship Coaching with ’Xing’

At Arcada University of Applied Sciences (UAS) Helsinki – Finland, the Skills2Work project was implemented in 2010 in response to the challenge set by ET 2020 (European Commission – Education & Training, 2014) drawn up in 2009. One of the long-term strategic objectives is ”Enhancing creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training” (European Commission – Education and Training, 2011, Ch. 4). The ongoing Skills2Work project aims to transfer the competency-based learning outcomes of degree programmes into employability skills by operable, sustainable and innovative pedagogical solutions that build on and develop existing curriculum structures.


Generic or transversal skills are in focus at both national and global levels. The OECD’s ongoing AHELO feasibility study on tuning and performance of education (OECD Higher Education, n.d.; AHELO, 2010-11Tremblay et al., 2012) identifies three strands, one being generic competences in which Finland is a participating country. At the Finnish level, competency frameworks have been addressed in the final report – Oivallus (Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, 2011), which builds on the earlier definitions drawn up in 2006 by the Rectors’ Conference of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (ARENE, 2006). In addition, the adaptability and transferability of skills according to the T-model mean “producing individuals with the right mix of skills” according to recommendations from the New Skills Network (New Skills Network, 2012a).

Skills2Work implementation

The project objectives are to: 1) design a skills mapping and tracking tool, 2) identify a training intervention to develop generic or transversal skills and entrepreneurship in particular, and 3) develop a Personal Development Framework (PDF) for pedagogical and coaching support throughout the study process. The project aims to extend the learning experience, thus complementing the curriculum by bridging the skills gap (New Skills Network, 2012b).

Training intervention using ‘Xing’

’Xing’ (Working Knowledge, n.d) was identified as a best-practice training intervention and introduced to teachers as well as piloted with students in three different degree programmes. In the UK, Xing has been used by around 70 higher education institutions in co-operation with employers in inter-university student enterprise competitions, called Flux events (Working Knowledge, n.d.). Arcada UAS is the only HEI outside the UK accredited and licensed by Working Knowledge to use Xing. Xing is a visual planning tool based on teamwork and active learning to train generic skills and especially entrepreneurship, which engages students in planning a strategy for a business idea through an interactive learning method.

Students from different disciplines work with Xing in small groups. Beginning with a business scenario, their task is to define a quantifiable goal with a time frame and strategy to reach that goal. Xing uses example scenarios based on real businesses, but these companies also set students the challenge to work with their own areas. Additionally, Xing can be used to help crystallise students’ own business ideas to ‘tease out’ business start-up strategies, i.e. without a scenario or case study.

Simply put, Xing consists of a planning board and strategy cards representing about 100 business decisions divided into different categories (e.g. Action, Finance, Marketing, Personnel and Strategy). The students work in groups of six and use the cards as decision prompts, which they discuss and select to form their visual business plan by placing the cards on the planning board so that their strategy gradually takes shape.

The Xing process consists of 9 steps in all which together cover the development of a strategy from idea to goal as well as, for example, an exit. One session may even take some days but can just as well be conducted in 5-6 hours. The session is led by teachers who can challenge the groups by asking students to motivate their choices, or by giving students special challenge cards, and in this way they can check the strategy’s logic and time-frame. The session finishes when the groups are ready to pitch their business ideas before a panel of experts.

The process stimulates students into quickly grasping new concepts, decision-making and teamwork, and draws benefit from the diversity of group members’ with different skills. Xing simulates decision-making very explicitly, as no alternative strategies are allowed on the Xing board. Instead, the group must plan, decide on, and implement but one strategy. This incorporates both instrumentalist and risk-taking aspects of microeconomics: If you cannot make necessary decisions to implement your strategy, and commit to managing the risks involved, then how realizable is the strategy? This offers a more personal and hands-on experience than, say, case studies or project assignments, as neither the strategy nor the specific issues to be addressed are static or given, but rather constructed dynamically by the group during the Xing process.

Innovative pedagogical approach

Entrepreneurship training sessions using Xing have so far been successfully implemented within the existing curriculum structures of degree programmes at Arcada UAS with about 400 students. Experience has shown that students’ engagement grows as their business plan takes shape, and their business logic is challenged by the session facilitator. The fact that even friendly classroom competition between the groups constitutes a team-building factor can be clearly seen, and the process encourages social interaction between the group’s participants. Students are also empowered by the fact that a group with members possessing different characteristics is usually more prone to success.

Feedback from students has been very positive, and in such cases where the students have been restricted to one day (or prolonged afternoon) of Xing, there have been clear indications of interest for longer sessions, and even among first-year students. This shows that Xing provides enough depth to sustain prolonged interest and engagement. Students are motivated by working together in a dynamic learning environment to apply what they have learned in lectures. The competitive spirit also helps promote team-building skills, and active participation of each member regardless of their level of business knowledge is encouraged. Whilst Xing is not a game as such, research into board-game playing suggests (Hull et al. 2009) that the perceived objective of games is described more in terms of mechanics than a narrative after the gaming experience. Thus, it follows that the mechanics Xing is based on appeals to the competitive spirit of participants, which is reminiscent of the more traditional approach of board games, yet the process accentuates elements of the strategic decision-making processes of business – through human interaction.

Xing is ’tactile’ as opposed to a computer game – a deliberate choice on the part of the designer – which engages students in an interactive process that transforms the traditional classroom into a dynamic, flexible learning environment, or ‘place for space’ (Wikström-Grotell et al., 2013). From a pedagogical point of view, Xing fosters active learning where the teacher becomes a facilitator, and the learning space opens up new possibilities to gain confidence, explore new ideas, exchange knowledge and experience, and create new solutions, where both teachers and students are mutually engaged in the creative process. Moreover, learning encounters like these also promote integration and team-teaching since the process over-arches specific subject learning. Xing sessions support the attainment of competency-based learning outcomes but also develop skill clusters along with transversal skills and their practical application. Furthermore, debriefing and post-session reflection can be a valuable part of entrepreneurship coaching and skills development for students in a holistic learning experience.


Complementing teaching with Xing sessions promotes those skills that students, especially future entrepreneurs, ought to be equipped with, and creates possibilities to co-operate more closely with companies. Trends within higher education indicate an increased need for graduates with entrepreneurship skills. Xing spurs creativity, innovative thinking and entrepreneurship by providing creative freedom, yet it is governed by real structures and business frameworks. Moreover, as a learning process, not only are entrepreneurship skills trained but other skill clusters that promote the development of transversal skills, e.g. language, communication, team working. The training intervention develops students’ employability skills and is based on an innovative pedagogical approach that involves students in a stimulating learning environment, i.e., active and contextual learning, which can foster links with the labour market if employers are engaged in the training process too. This approach to bridging the skills gap also encourages dialogue with enterprises and organisations, reinforces links between HEIs and the labour market, as well as provides a way to keep students’ skills updated.


Nigel Kimberley, Lecturer, M.Ed., Arcada University of Applied Sciences,

Michael von Boguslawski, Research Advisor, Ph.D., Arcada University of Applied Sciences,

AHELO (2010-11) Assessment of higher education learning outcomes [Electronic version]. Accessed 16 October 2013 at

ARENE (2006). Generic competences of polytechnic graduates. ARENE, 2006. [Electronic version]. Accessed 6 September 2013 at

Confederation of Finnish Industries EK (2011). Oivallus Final Report. [Electronic version]. Accessed  9 September 2013 at

European Commission – Education and Training (2011) Commission staff working document. Progress towards the common European objectives in education and training. Indicators and benchmarks 2010/2011. [Electronic version: NC3211741ENC_002-2.pdf ]. Accessed 8 May 2014 at

European Commission – Education and Training (2014). Strategic Framework – Education & Training 2020. Homepage. Accessed 8 May 2014 at

Hull, K., Kurniawan, S., & Wardrip-Fruin, N. (2009). “Better Game Studies Education the Carcassonne   Way.” Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory. Proceedings of DiGRA 2009

New Skills Network (2012a) Supporting the development of future skills: Recommendations from the New Skills Network [Electronic version]. Accessed  24 May 2013 at

New Skills Network (2012b) Report NSN Final Conference “Skills for the Future” 9-11 May 2012 Cophenhagen, Denmark. [Electronic version]. Accessed  24 May 2013 at

OECD Higher Education (n.d.) Homepage. Accessed  25 October 2013 at

Tremblay, K., Lalancette, D. & Roseveare, D. (2012). Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes, AHELO, Feasibility study report volume 1. Design and implementation. [Electronic version]. Accessed 16 October  2013 at

Wikström-Grotell, C.  Ståhl, T.  Silius-Ahonen, E. (2013). Arcada – A Place For Space. Journal of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences. No 1, 2013. [Electronic version]. Accessed  20 September 2013 at

Working Knowledge(n.d.) Homepage. Accessed  19 September 2013 at

Boat Racing with Solar Power: Midnight Sun KYAMK – Solar Boat Team

DSC and Solar1 are both very exceptional motor racing events there isn’t smell of gasoline, loud engines, pollution or waste of nature resources. Still it’s just as exciting! Teams of engineers and students around the world design and build race boats to be as fast as possible with very limited power. All the power used by the boat has to be produced with onboard solar panels. Efficiency is the key to success.

This is the fifth edition of DSC since 2006 and during this short history the boats have taken big steps in technology. Now most teams are sponsored by local and international companies and are able to demonstrate new technological innovations in each race. Today the boats are far from simple. To build a competitive racing boat requires expertize of several fields: boat design, hydrodynamics and -statics, electrics, mechanical, material and manufacturing engineering just to mention a few. Then there are all other aspects of the project: finding sponsors and partners, arranging the build, PR, travel, etc. It’s a complex task but extremely educating and rewarding with the climax of international competition – a great opportunity to benchmark your knowledge and share experience with other teams who just have gone through the same rumble.

Photo by Kyamk files

The Midnight Sun Kyamk solar boat team consists of students and staff of the Boat Technology degree. The Boat technology is a perfect match for the competition. Designing and building the race boat meets all the aspects of students’ curriculum. It’s a great opportunity to learn, develop and test in practice the skills required in modern boatbuilding. We are very excited about the project. All the students are involved in some way. The design, manufacturing and material testing courses are all integrated to the project. Unfinished boat was shown at Helsinki International Boat show as a part of one course – a great way to get publicity for the University, sponsors and the team. There is so much to do that it’s difficult to have all the ideas “sold” to different reference groups within the tight time frame of the project. There would be great opportunities to integrate student groups from: media, industrial design, project management, logistics, software etc. to the project. However within limited time and small group of people we can’t spend too much time in selling the idea. Every now and then we get some new people excited and joining the team. The team consists mainly of boat technology students but we have a couple of software students programming the Arduino controller and some logistic students looking for the travelling options. 2012 we had also design and media students helping with video footage of the trip. This year we will see, maybe we’ll have to make do with the multitalented boat technology students. Interested?

With this year’s boat we are going to take a huge technology leap from the 2012 boat. And this is not to put down the 2012 boat, it was a great boat, but we have now raised the bar by entering the Top-class. In the Top-class boats the rules allows manufacturing custom solar panels with 500W more power than in the B-class. With 1750W array of light weight solar panels it becomes possible (and necessary in order to be competitive) to use hydrofoils. Hydrofoils are like wings in water that are used to raise the complete hull of the boat off the water. When the boat is “flying” and only the hydrofoils and propeller are still in the water the friction is in minimum and it is possible to reach maximum speed with the limited power available. The boat should reach double the speed as the B-class boat did in 2012. According to simulations we should be able to reach more than 40km/h. Flying isn’t easy, our exceptional flight control utilizes Ultrasonic sensors and accelerometers to adjust servomotor driven control surfaces on the hydrofoils. Everything is well designed and simulated but still, at the time of writing this, just ten weeks to competition, everything is still to be proofed in the test drives that are starting soon.

The weight of the boat has to be kept in minimum. This means tight weight control in everything, all the components have to be selected as light weight as possible. The hull, solar panels, driveline, hydrofoils, seat, steering wheel, more or less everything we can, we build from carbon fiber composite materials. Designing and building the molds and parts consists of everything from grinding and wet lay-up to CNC manufacturing, vacuum infusion and pre-pregs. There is something to do for all the year classes of boat tech students.

We wouldn’t be able to build the boat without support from the sponsors. Most of the materials used in the boat are sponsored by the leading companies in composite industry. It’s not all begging though, we are co-operating with the companies by testing new materials getting user experience and producing video and photo material and so on. All the companies get also positive publicity during the project and races. Research, development and innovation is major part of the project as we are developing and testing new: electric driveline, propeller, hydrofoil control system, propeller and manufacturing methods. The co-operating companies will benefit from the results. Some of the components and our designs are used in our partner teams’ Midnights Sun Mamk B-class boat as well.

There are more than twenty companies supporting the project. The project gets funding also from the European Regional Development Fund.

We are confident that in very near future there will be increasing number of commercial solar boats in the market. Finland has possibility to be one of the leading countries in this development because of projects like this and new innovative engineers entering the boat industry with real life experience in international R&D&I.

We would like to invite you to follow us preparing to the race at:

You can find more info and follow the races online at: (broadcasted in Eurosport as well)

Photo by Kyamk files

Lavia – Green Longboards: How UASes can aid young startups to takeoff

It’s the first days of Sochi and a Finnish snowboarder Enni Rukajärvi has just won silver in women’s slope style. Immediately, a few month old picture of Enni holding a longboard i.e. longish skateboard mostly used by girls and young women, gets shared on one particular Facebook page.

World’s most beautiful longboards

Picture 1: Jaakko Kukkonen (left) and Tuomas Davidsson, picture by Jussi Ratilainen (2013)

The page belongs to Lavia – Green Longboards a small and very cool startup creating “world’s most beautiful longboards” as one Helsinki area fashion blogger stated. Besides of looking nice, these longboards also happen to be the most environmentally friendly out there. It started with natural fiber composite structure glued together with best on the market bio epoxies. Lavia’s two young entrepreneurs Jaakko Kukkonen and Tuomas Davidsson however, didn’t stop there. In the past 12 months they’ve e.g. experiment with methods to attach recycled fabrics in the boards making them really stand out from others out there.

It begins with an idea

Viewed from the perspective of universities of applied sciences, Lavia’s story is of particular interest. It exemplifies the many small ways how a university ecosystem can aid young and talented entrepreneurs in their journey.

In early 2012 Karelia UAS’s research and international relationship office had developed a practice of co-working with lecturers from different fields. In practice, lecturers and innovation specialists organized so called activation workshops fitted in with the normal lectures. After being introduced to various types of examples, students were then asked to think their own personal interests and skills and then write down their own ideas. Finally, at the end of the workshop, the visiting innovation specialist collected all the idea papers. And so it was with Jaakko, who then was a first year student in environmental technology engineering (though he later changed to media studies) and Tuomas who was just finishing his 3rd year in industrial design. On two different workshops, without any prior knowledge of each other, both of them wrote down an idea related to longboards – Jaakko with general interest and experience in longboard design, and Tuomas writing about possibility of doing natural fiber composite longboards. This shared interest was spotted by people at the RDI offices and the two guys were introduced and asked to discuss and see if they could join forces. Luckily, which is not often the case, Jaakko and Tuomas formed a team and started working on their idea.

Draft program

From Karelia’s perspective, second step came when Team Lavia applied for access to the Draft program, a then new initiative at Karelia with a mission to help teams with innovative projects. Jaakko and Tuomas were among the 12 teams selected and received a pledge to have various types development work related purchases made by Karelia (who in turn was receiving funds from Finnish foundation). As part of the program, regular workshops were organized, during which Team Lavia could learn and gain feedback from other teams doing projects of their own (

With first patch of materials received, Jaakko and Tuomas got access to Karelia’s wood and metal workshops at the Centre for Creative Industries. Wisely they started building their first prototypes and at the same time experimenting with ways to cut the production time of one board to minimum paving way for a viable business model.

Facebook visibility

Almost from day one, Lavia’s been using Facebook as their main form of web presence. Jaakko and Tuomas have openly shared images of their on-going development work and treated their “likers” with high appreciation. This paid of early on because national media spotted their efforts providing Jaakko and Tuomas free publicity. From Karelia’s perspective Lavia’s Facebook efforts have been a very positive thing. Firstly, any media visibility Lavia manages to gain is also good PR for the school. Secondly and most importantly, Lavia became a perfect example for other students encouraging them to pursue their dreams. When Jaakko and Tuomas shared pictures of their very first prototypes, it considerably lowers the threshold of entrepreneurship in the minds of others. As opposed to situation where only the stories of the big and successful get shared.

Integration to studies

Yet another way, how Lavia has been collaborating with the school, has been the way how Tuomas and Jaakko have been able to integrate Lavia in to their studies. Prime example was the thesis focusing on Lavia made by Tuomas, who graduated in spring 2013 (Davidsson, 2013). Also, other students not part of the Lavia core team, have been eager to do smaller study related projects, internships and lately theses, too. This is of course more than ok for Karelia, since Lavia offers a more multi-faceted learning opportunity as compared to a more established company, who typically give students narrower tasks.

As Lavia’s journey continues, their integration in to the local startup ecosystem has been deepening. Recently, Jaakko and Tuomas pitched for angel funding at local event organized by a local business incubator. This is all good and well for Karelia, as the school can take genuine credit for being able do its part in helping young teams to pursue their dreams.


Heikki Immonen, Innovation coordinator, Karelia University of Applied Sciences,

Rukajärvi takes slopestyle silver,, viewed 14.2.2014

Picture of Enni Rukajärvi,, viewed 14.2.2014

Lavia – Green Longboards,, viewed 14.2.2014

Maailman kaunein lonkkari: Lavia Green Longboards,, viewed 14.2.2014

Draft program for teams,, viewed at 14.2.2014

Syksyllä 2012 Draft-ohjelmaan valitut tiimit,, viewed 14.2.2014

Picture of a prototype,, viewed 14.2.2014

Davidsson, Tuomas, 2013, Lavia Green Longboards –tuotekehitysprojekti,, viewed 14.2.2014

FUAS Research Review – An evaluation of research, development and innovation activities at FUAS institutions


The need to evaluate research, development and innovation (RDI) activities in universities of applied sciences has been highlighted in numerous different documents (e.g. Ministry of Education and Culture 2012; Ministry of Education & the Ministry of Employment and the Economy 2009; Academy of Finland 2009). In addition to the sector-wide analysis of RDI activities at Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (Maassen et al. 2012), a number of individual UASs have conducted their individual evaluations of RDI activities, but FUAS-level RDI analysis was lacking.

FUAS Research Review was an evaluation of the RDI activities of FUAS Federation and its individual member UASs (HAMK University of Applied Sciences, Lahti University of Applied Sciences and Laurea University of Applied Sciences). It was performed in order to get a clear and realistic picture of the research, development and innovation activities of FUAS through assessing the RDI activities of each member institute to contextualise FUAS globally and to stimulate impulses for future development at FUAS.

The evaluation looked into RDI activities from the perspective of the four focus areas of FUAS (Ensuring welfare, Technological competence and entrepreneurship, Societal security and integrity, and Environment and energy efficiency). In addition to observing the focus areas, FUAS Research Review produced and assessed information concerning the role of RDI activities at FUAS, the relation of RDI activities and education, the international aspects of the RDI activities as well as the profitability, quality and influence of the RDI activities. Furthermore, the FUAS Research Review provided information for the development of the FUAS quality system and for the forthcoming audit of the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council (FINHEEC).

FUAS Research Review Process

The review included a self-evaluation and audit by an international external Audit Board. The self-evaluation was divided into three main parts. First it concentrated on RDI in the FUAS strategy 2011–2015 and FUAS focus areas. Second, it focused on the RDI culture at FUAS and implementation of FUAS strategy by analysing FUAS RDI structures and resources, RDI practices, RDI integration into education, innovations and entrepreneurship as well as the regional influence of FUAS RDI activities. Furthermore, wide range of RDI projects were presented in order to gain better understanding of the forms, possibilities and problems of RDI at FUAS. Third, a SWOT analysis was used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of FUAS RDI.

The Audit Board consisted of two international evaluators and one Finnish evaluator. The external evaluation was based on interviews with a board range of individuals from the FUAS UASs and stakeholders, and on written documents.


According to the FUAS strategy, FUAS fortifies international practical RDI, which also generates new, internationally competitive content for education. FUAS is an engine for applied research, pragmatic innovation and RDI integrated into student-oriented education. Its RDI emphasises integrated application, transfer into practice, utilisation and commercialisation of technological and social innovations.

The strategic policies for FUAS RDI are decided by the Rectors Collegium and executed by the FUAS RD&I steering group in cooperation with the RDI development manager. In 2012, the RDI volume was approximately € 23 million (including € 13 million project budgets) which accounted for around 16% of the total RDI volume in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences.

Integration of RDI into education is one of the key strategic objectives of FUAS. The used pedagogical RDI-integrated solutions, methods and environments strengthen a creativity-based and problem-oriented student-centred culture. In 2012, over 26% of all credits carried out at FUAS institutions were R&D credits and almost 85% of thesis was commissioned by external organisations.

The most important joint RDI actions fostering innovation and entrepreneurship within FUAS are the Tuoteväylä programme, SENSE Business Idea Competition, Cambridge VentureCamp, and Innovation Express. In 2012, Tuoteväylä fungind was € 250,000 and other funding for innovations and entrepreneurial activities approximately €220,000 at FUAS. There were 240 business ideas in total in which Tuoteväylä programme funded 25 business ideas and 6 start-ups. The number of innovation disclosures was 10 and the total number of student-driven start-ups 24.

Development of FUAS RDI is based on the continuous improvement cycle (plan, do check, act). The FUAS RDI activities are implemented based on the FUAS Strategy. RDI action plan is drawn up and evaluated annually by RD&I steering group and the Rectors Colloquium based on RDI-related strategic indicators, Ministry of Education and Culture agreement indicators, and operational feedback procedures. In the future, the research review will be conducted once a strategy period.

Table 1. Summary of the current state of the RDI-related strategic indicators of FUAS.

International RDI income financing € 5,309.000
International RDI income financing 0.90 %
Nationally competed research funding € 1,422.000
Number of theses done in the wider Metropolitan area of total thesis 2,882
Share of theses done in the wider Metropolitan area of total thesis 80.7%
Share of foreign experts of total number of teaching and RDI staff 0.28%
Share of entrepreneurs compared to total number of graduates (in 2010) 3.67%

Based on the self-evaluation, FUAS has to invest in the development of RDI by increasing participation in FUAS RDI activities, committing all staff, students and stakeholders to the RDI activities, promoting the development of the RDI expertise of staff and students through common operating models, and building appropriate RDI services to support RDI activity required by strategy and the new funding model.

External evaluation

The development of FUAS and its RDI function was analysed against the backdrop of national higher education policy, European policy and international developments. To maintain or achieve a strong position, there seems to a choice for higher education institutes: either to specialise and be relatively small, or to merge and choose a clear set of priorities. The Audit Board stressed that the size does matter in some cases but not always. It is more important to make the right connection between people and groups, develop a common language, a common view and approach, and have the flexibility to adapt to changing requirements and local needs.

The Audit Board saw the idea of FUAS and its strategic ambitions as a good first step, as they offer the prospect of supporting the generation of larger groups, with critical mass to enter European projects on a regular basis, underpinned by a professional, efficient management serving the FUAS UASs. FUAS Federation will also help strengthen research capabilities while enhancing UASs’ international reputations and appeal to potential foreign research collaboration.

To succeed in this, the big challenge of FUAS is that the UASs remain separate entities who operate “on their own” instead of working on further organisation. It is also necessary that FUAS and its UASs further develop their collaborative links with public and private regional partners and enhance their RDI capacities to enable them to participate actively in international RDI activities. For this there are good opportunities, many regional organisations see FUAS and its UASs as reliable partners for the future. Good and clear communication is important for the successful development of RDI, both inside the institutes and towards the outside words.

As a conclusion of FUAS Research Review, the Audit Board defined two strategic choices for developing RDI:  1) RDI as an activity supporting teaching and 2) RDI as a self-determined function. These strategic choices lead to different challenges for university policy and suggest different goals for the management of RDI at FUAS level. The first approach does not require important changes in current RDI practices. In this choice the lack of reputation makes it difficult to access international funding resources and to improve UASs’ RDI performance and reputation. The second choice can take place by ensuring that the staff is up-to-date with the latest developments in their fields and maintains a hands-on knowledge of the shifting requirements and needs of research stakeholders and by supporting the development of research students working at graduate level.  In this choice, the critical mass of research, management capabilities and FUAS brand would be provided by an own legal entity, a FUAS Research Institute.

Future development

FUAS Research Review results were analysed carefully by the Rectors Collegium and the FUAS RD&I steering group. On a broader platform, the FUAS Research Review results have been discussed in the “Voice of FUAS” seminar for FUAS UASs’ staff. In addition, FUAS UASs have discussed the results in their internal meetings. At the moment, the establishment of FUAS Research Institute is not timely. FUAS continues by focusing on integration of RDI into learning. Based on the review results, the following development actions have been outlined for this year: 1) initiating new international RDI projects and increasing the total of external tendered RDI funding, and 2) strengthening the role of FUAS as an RDI regional development player.


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

Academy of Finland. 2009. The State and Quality of Scientific Research in Finland 2009. Publication of the Academy of Finland 10/2009.

Kotonen, U. (ed.). 2013. Integrating RDI into Learning. An evaluation of research, development and innovation activities at FUAS institutions. Publication of Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Series C Articles, reports and other current publications, part 149.

Maassen, P, Kallioinen, O., Keränen, P., Penttinen, M., Spaapen, J.,  Wiedenhofer, R., Kajaste, M. & Mattila, J. 2012. From the bottom up. Evaluation of RDI activities of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences. Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council 7:2012. Tampere 2012.

Ministry of Education and Culture. 2012. Education and Research 2011 – 2016. A Development plan. Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland 2012:3. Department for Education and Science Policy.

Ministry of Education & the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. 2009. Evaluation of the Finnish National Innovation System. Full Report.

Learning of Institutional Quality Assurance System in Higher Education in Finland – Visit to FINHEEC and to Finnish higher education institutions in October 2013, Erasmus Programme

University of Applied sciences Velika Gorica is higher education institution which provides five undergraduate professional and three postgraduate specialist study programmes with curricula realized using advanced technologies, that are being constantly improved, renewed and allowing the students easier knowledge transfer so that when they enter the labour market they will have better opportunities of employment and getting ahead in their careers, i.e. existence in one of today’s modern organizations. The study programmes of the University of Applied Sciences Velika Gorica last for three years (six semesters) and they are harmonized with the Bologna Declaration and performed in compliance with the Act on Scientific Research and Higher Education. The curricula and programmes are harmonized with ECTS – the European Credit Transfer System, thus enabling the transfer of students from other professional or university study programmes to VVG and vice versa, all in compliance with the Act and Statute of the University of Applied Sciences. The curriculum and the structure of the programmes of the professional three-year study have been designed having in mind sustainability, competitiveness and further development, using the principles of optionality and substantial share of practical classes. Those programmes are:

  • Computer systems maintenance
  • Crisis management
  • Aircraft maintenance
  • Eye optics
  • Motor vehicle maintenance.

Also there are three specialist programmes:

  • Information systems
  • Crisis management
  • Logistic.

The objectives of our visit were learning of institutional quality assurance system in higher education in Finland and its development at different HEIs and in different countries. Besides learning of good practice at a Finnish HEIs it was good time for exchanging experiences with HAMK University of Applied Sciences, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Aalto University and its role in the system of Finnish higher education.

Main goals for the visit were:

  • How to improve internal audits of quality assurance system
  • How to achieve continues improvement of quality culture at a higher education institutions
  • How to simplifies procedures of internal audits
  • How to write good reports
  • Integration of ISO and ESG.
  • Revision of Quality policy, Strategy and etc.

The results of our visit were better understanding of all procedures and criteria implement by FINHEEC, better audit procedure of higher education institutions, easier implementation of quality policies and strategic goals in own institution, easier motivation of all stockholders at University of Applied Science Velika Gorica, improvement and motivation method for mobility, definition the influence of higher education institution on regional development and transfer of knowledge and relations with all stockholders.

In FINHEEC we present quality assurance system in higher education in Croatia and we particularly discuss the method of enhancement led evaluations, impact of external audits on the development of higher education institutions quality assurance systems. Also we try to find answers on some questions like: How to improve external audits of quality assurance system and how to develop the methods and write good reports?

At Laurea University of Applied Sciences we meat Mrs. Jaana Ignatius and we talked about the quality culture and good practices of quality procedures in Laurea. Also we shared experiences about developing of the shared quality management of federation of Universities of Applied Sciences- HAMK, Lahti and Laurea Universities of Applied Sciences.

Pic 1. Sanja Kalambura and Nives Jovičić with Mrs. Jaana Ignatius from Laurea University of Applied Sciences (center).

At the Aalto University we met Mr. Sakari Heikkilä, Mrs. Tuija Nikko (quality director) from School of Business and Prof. Olli Saarela from School of Engineering. It was open discussion about quality issues like strategy plans and systematic improvements true PDCA (plan, do, check, act) cycle.

Pic 2. Aalto University – From left Mr. Sakari Heikkilä with Nives Jovičić, Mrs. Tuija Nikko (quality director) from School of Business and Prof. Olli Saarela from School of Engineering.

At HAMK University of Applied Sciences we met Mrs. Mervi Friman and from HAMK student union Mr. Riku Kemppinen and Mrs. Tanja-Maria Hyppänen. The subject was quality culture and good practices of quality assurance procedures in HAMK. In the afternoon we attend professional teacher education lead by prof. Vesa Parkkonen.

Pic 3. HAMK University of Applied Sciences – From left Mrs. Tanja-Maria Hyppänen, Mrs. Mervi Friman, Mrs. Sanja Kalambura and Mr. Riku Kemppinen.

We like to thank all our hosts for very nice organisation and hospitality.


Sanja Kalambura, PhD., prof. Vice dean for quality, University of Applied Sciences Velika Gorica,

Nives Jovičić,, quality department, University of Applied Science Velika Gorica

Cooperation with Universities of Applied Science in Finland is one of the important issues of international cooperation of SPbSPU

Cooperation of St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University (SPbSPU) with Finnish Universities of Applied science is an important issue in the agenda of the SPbSPU internationalization. Finnish UAS are one of the most important strategic partners of our University. Cooperation between our institutions is implemented in the field of student exchange programs, joint educational programs, undergraduate and graduate programs, joint innovation projects for cross-border cooperation.

Working internationally SPbSPU had been visited by 254 delegations and teams a total of 714 people from 40 countries in the current year. The leader in the number of visitors is Finland -148 people. This is not surprising, given the large number of research projects and joint education bachelor’s and master’s programs, conducted SPbSPU together with the universities of Northern neighbor.

Valuable example of cooperation is long term history of work with Savonia University of Applied Science. Started in 2005, when SPbSPU Deans Club was invited to visit Savonia for familiarization visit, our universities’ cooperation has been reinforced by cooperation agreement on strategic partnership, signed by rectors of the universities in 2010. One of the most successful projects is the “Network for excellence in tourism through organizations and Universities in Russia”.

More than a hundred students and teachers of Savonia have been participating in short term study programs in business, IT, Russian language and culture, vocational training programs conducted by SPbSPU within last years. Saimaa University of Applied Sciences is one of our partners in double degree programs cooperation. “Theory and practice of organizational, technological, and economic decision-making“, “Organization and management of investment and construction projects“, “Automated design of buildings“, “Energetic and Sustainable Development“ – here is the list of joint degree programs developed and successfully conducted by our universities.

Our university cooperation with Finnish Universities of Applied sciences has a wide frame, long standing traditions and stable mutual benefits. There are a lot of Universities which are worse to be mentioned here such as Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences – our good partner in Civil Enginireeng, Haaga Helia UAS – partner in Russian language, culture and tourism, Kymenlaakso UAS – Design, Russian Language, business studies etc.

In 2012, together with the Finnish partners we celebrated 100 years of engineering education in Finland which was hosted by Tampere University of Applied Sciences. We were proud to be invited to this event, proud to understand committed partnership between UASs in Finland and HEIs Russia that lays the ground for our mutual long term success in training of highly qualified specialists.


Elena Nikonchuk, Director, International Educational Projects Office, St.Petersburg State Polytechnical University,

How to keep young people in the Barents region

While young people of the Barents Region move to the southern parts for the better employment and career possibilities, demographic downsizing should serve as a wake-up call to universities and industry in the region. Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences and Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences (further referred as LapinAMK due to the recent merger) have been for many years on the front line of regional development work in terms of business innovation and human capital growth.

At the beginning of 2012, Lapin AMK in cooperation with partners from Russia, Norway and Sweden launched 3-year project Young Innovative Entrepreneurs (YIE) aimed to address common challenge and to encourage young people to discover wide business opportunities in the Barents region and to inspire them for the entrepreneurship across the border.

In this article we share some of our experiences and achievements:

Building an innovative support structure to make the ideas of young people to happen across the borders

Cross-border INNOBarentsLab (IBL) was established to ensure a full range of resources to provide young people with the support they need to introduce innovative products and services. The IBL includes office space on the base of two universities – LapinAMK in Rovaniemi and International Institute of Business education (MIBO) in Murmansk, Russia. In terms of professional recourses, IBL provides students with the professional support and supervision for real cross-border business development by experts from business and education.

Currently, the operation of the IBL is driven by the cross-border pilot cases worked-out by the test group of students and young entrepreneurs. IBL pilot cases organized within 4 themes: event management, marketing, cross-border development and IBL structure development. By the end of the project the IBL will be integrated into the educational structure of LapinAMK and MIBO and will allow us to test students’ ideas within the study process and turn the best of them into companies.

IBL is truly unique entity for young cross-border business cooperation in the Barents region. In the longer run we expect it to evolve to the broader network which will support young people to challenge the status quo with their ideas and change their regions to the prestigious places to live.

Picture made by Annett Pee, IBL participant

Building capacities and opportunities

It is essential to help young entrepreneurs to build a long-term cooperation network which will support their cross-border interactions and contact development. In this regard the role of the joint event cannot be overestimated. So far we held tree Matchmaking events in Finland, Russia and Norway. We arranged YIE events as arena were regional actors (experienced businessmen, academia and regional authorities) share their experiences and encourage young people. This is also a place where new cross-border business ideas are emerged and new business alliances created.

Previous 3 matchmaking events included pitch presentations and workshops by successful businessmen, business simulation game, pitching training. Feedbacks from the last Matchmaking event in Kirkenes (Norway) indicated that young people have learned a lot about innovation, how to create new products and how to later receive a profit from them, which is an important part of being an entrepreneur.

Picture made by Annett Pee, IBL participant

Sharing responsibilities and encourage initiativeness of young people

From the start, both in Finland and Russia we selected a group of proactive young individuals to be a pilot group for the INNOBarentsLab Lab. Some of them had already built successful businesses and some were just getting started into entrepreneurship. Some had never had business before, but all them had a strong desire to make a difference in the own region.

The first meetings with selected young people showed that the “test group” is too narrow for them. In no time, our IBL participants became and continue to be co-creators and steering force for the development of the IBL and its activities. Understanding that they can make a difference inspired young people to bring up fresh ideas, business projects and new partners.

Ones inspired, young people tend to come up with great innovative business ideas. In this case, our task is to provide support for the actual entrepreneurship and innovative idea development in practice. Increased innovative entrepreneurial activities across the border will also have a great impact on the whole regional socio-economic development. Youth are the future of the Barents region and the foundation that the project will lay for the innovative entrepreneurial activity amongst young people will have a long term impact on the region.


Irina Gerashchenko, Project Manager, Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences,

The development actions of the UAS Journal in a nutshell

The UAS Journal is under a constant scrutiny: the editing team has looked into the making process of the journal to find out whether or not the development activities have been successful.

Dr Mervi Friman, Mr Mauri Kantola, and Ms Lotta Linko have looked in the processes of the journal bearing in mind the aim of the publication. The method used is action research with quantitative analysis on the contents, production process, and the participating network of the UAS Journal. The writers have studied what the interventions on the UAS Journal network and publication are and what outcomes of those interventions can be identified and measured.

Three processes can be identified in the UAS Journal publication: editing, marketing and networking. The processes are somewhat overlapping particularly in the areas of marketing and networking.

During the past couple of years, there have been six identified interventions in the editing process. The marketing and networking processes have both had four interventions. The figure below sums the interventions and outcomes. Click on the image to view it in larger size.

The outcomes in some cases are very streamlined, supporting each other. One example of a consequentual action/outcome is the following: The introduction of theme issues and visiting editors in the editing process has sharpened the contents and allowed a more focused marketing. The targeted marketing has resulted in more visitors which again is supported by social media presence, allowing to share the article wider.

Mr Mauri Kantola and Ms Lotta Linko attended the EAIR annual conference in Rotterdam in August 2013 where they presented their poster on the actions and outcomes of the UAS Journal processes. The travel report along with other video material can be found at UAS Journal’s YouTube channel.


Ms Lotta Linko, Subeditor of the UAS Journal,

Mr Mauri Kantola, Social media expert of the UAS Journal,

Cross-cultural Understanding on the VET and Vocational Higher Education – Ammattikoulutuksen ja ammattikorkeakoulutuksen tutkimuspäivät 2012

Ammattikoulutuksen ja ammattikorkeakoulutuksen tutkimuspäivät 2012

Puheenvuorossa esitellään havaintoja ja huomioita ammattikoulutuksen ja ammattikorkeakoulutuksen tutkimuspäiviltä Tampereelta 7.-8.11.2012. Tutkimuspäivien tavoitteena oli ammattikorkeakoulutuksen ja ammatillisen koulutuksen tutkimuksen levittäminen ja toimijoiden verkostoituminen. Pääteemana oli Arvot muutoksessa.

Cross-cultural Understanding on the VET and Vocational Higher Education

Opiskelija Dong Seob Lee (Tampereen yliopisto, ammattikasvatus)

The cultural diversity and internal variety of education is currently challenged by the unity of knowledge, skills and competences, showing converging reality at macro-level and divergent and heterogeneous character at the micro-level. The international session from Austria, Sweden, South Korea, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, and Japan unfolds the dynamic, complex picture of the reforms of VET, vocational higher education, labour market policies, and their curricula and contents. In addition, it makes it difficult to define unstable positions of institutions, professionals, and individual learners in the progress of industries from labor-intensive to capital-intensive, and ultimately to technology-intensive.

Faced with these challenges, Dr. Mikkio Eswein traced the change of meaning and values of education and work among younger Japanese between 2001 and 2011. In the period of recession she found out that traditional work- and organization-committed values had gained importance, especially among temporary and female workers. Dr. Lorenz Lassnigg pointed out different approaches for the historical analysis; “in order to understand the reforms of Austrian education and training sector, I think, we can cross the different disciplines, different perspectives, and different theories to approach. We can find very fundamental ideas in different entities, systems and disciplines. Different issues of reform in education and training are tackled by very different disciplines. For instance, people from management discipline are very much trying to make theories of the New Public Management (NPM) work.” In response to Fay Lund-Nilsson´s interpretation of changes in forest workers´ vocational education, Anja Heikkinen commented about differences in the historical and cultural backgrounds of Swedish and Finnish forest work, “If you’re looking into the history related with the VET, the ownership of forest can help to explain it more widely… In Finland forestry belongs to agriculture and therefore solutions in VET may have been different than in Sweden.”

Stefanie Stolz brings out the essential challenges of school-to-work transition between Finish and Swiss VET. She pointed out that steering and reforming process concerning VET and school-to-work transitions are mainly influenced by national discourse although both countries have already or will implement national qualification frameworks under the trans-national agenda. Dong Seob Lee focused on the complexities and challenges in reforming engineering sector of the Ammattikorkeakoulu and Korea Polytechnic University since 1990. He unfolded the meaning and value of vocational education in a process of locating unstable positions between “capitalism” and “community values” on a non-linear timeline in response to different perspectives, concerns and issues of competency based curriculum in different context.

Timo Nevalainen speculated a concept of entrepreneurial education how it is seen in real practice of Finish vocational higher education context. Anja Heikkinen pointed out “when the entrepreneurial education, yrittäjyys, is translated, it is important to identify what different connotation it has had in the Finnish context. It’s more earning one’s living that makes something else profits”. Furthermore, Katrin Kraus said “entrepreneurship education should be critically analyzed because it brings people to show some kind of attitude itself in all institutions and all settings”.

In a series of Marjatta Huhta’s research group presentation, she argued that many studies for the company are not collected as best theory and practice. “The Ammattikorkeakoulu should provide the values to look at profound phenomenon for a coming ready solution.” Anja Heikkinen asserted that “master thesis is a whole academic process both for personal and collective purposes. Hence, how she/ he manage through this process and during this development, the product should be useful afterwards, to give values for the enterprise. In response to that, Marjatta Huhta said “there are some developmental innovations related to the business, I think, the more dialogical studies for most business student.” Furthermore, Erja Turunen commented that “we expect that most of thesis in the Ammattikorkeakoulu are willing to work for some organizations, it is only something for our students. We expect to the master students would be the developers. It’s very often that they do it to be truly as an action research, for they are involved. If they are involved, so they are starting at the beginning and they come out. Most of master programs at the Ammattikorkeakoulu are part time basis for 2 years, which makes it possible for really do something for all the time. Then, have any enough time and include that master thesis? Because some students are delay their studies.”

The issue of inclusion and exclusion with disabilities in dual VET system in Germany can be differently perceived from different actors of sub-cultures in accordance with what angles we are looking for and looking at. The inclusion policy can be perceived as an evil in that the State tried to save their national budgets so that it should be carefully reflected beyond educational and training context. Dr. Manfred Wahle also pointed out in his presentation “the domination of the well-established system of sheltered workshops in the area of VET is without being linked with enterprises, vocational schools and universities in a region. The widely missing cooperation of parents, teachers, instructors and researchers in order to develop adequate concepts of inclusive VET. It should not only think in the framework of education but implement suitable didactical methodological concepts.”

Finally, with the interaction of different cultures in this international session we can grasp more in-depth and holistic pictures which find a feasible solution to the dilemmas that each country faces, while tracing back to the history, and can come to take a proper shape of future VET and vocational higher education to engage in local community and to reflect on the values and meanings of education and training.

Koulutuksen arvovalinnat ja haasteet

Yliopettaja, TtL Heidi Kassara, Tampereen ammattikorkeakoulu

Sessiossa oli kaksi esitystä. Ensimmäinen esityksen piti Lahden ammattikorkeakoulun Innovaatiokeskuksesta YTM Susanna Vanhamäki, joka kertoi mielenkiintoisesta työelämälähtöisestä oppimisesta EcoMill -ympäristötehokkuustyöpajassa. Hanke on ESR -rahoitteinen. Siinä tavoitteena on työelämän kanssa tehtävä yhteistyö, ympäristötehokkuus, opetusteknologiset menetelmät ja projektin oppimistaidot. Se on työelämälähtöistä oppimista käytännössä ja osana perusopetusta, jossa tärkeänä on tietojen ja taitojen lisäksi asenteet ja projektioppiminen. Hieno esimerkki tästä on ammattikorkeakoulun ja oppimiskeskus Fellmanin kanssa tehty projekti, jossa osana kestävää kehitystä kunnostettiin opiskelijoille pajoissa vanhoja kierrätettäviä pyöriä opiskelijoille osana kestävää kehitystä. Opiskelijat ovat tehneet myös Mukkulan koulun jätehuollon suunnitelman. Tähän mennessä saatu palaute on hyvää.

Saman session toisen esityksen piti Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulusta Eija Laitinen. Hän on aloittanut väitöskirjan tekemisen aiheenaan ammattikorkeakoulun opettajien kulttuurienvälinen kompetenssi. Tutkimuksen tavoitteena on lisätä tietoa, jota voidaan käyttää koulutuksen kehittämiseen ja kansainvälistymisen ohjaamiseen. Aihe on tärkeä, koska niin kulttuurienvälisyys kuin kansainvälisyys koskevat meitä kaikkia entistä enemmän. Laitinen korosti, että kulttuurienvälisyyttä voi oppia ja opettaa. Kokemus on tarpeen, mutta kulttuurienvälisyys ei synny pelkästä kokemuksesta, vaan siinä tarvitaan myös itsereflektiota.

Feevale Campus and the Concert Hall in Brazil

A university should be prepared for the challenges that have being happening. The university is faced with a complex situation, explains the Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2008), highlighting that increasing demands from society have arisen. The university has to be connected to life, internally or combined with the global scenery, says the Brazilian philosopher Renato Janine Ribeiro (2003), which assumes that we must listen to what society says and wants.

Feevale University

Feevale University was established in 1969 from an initiative of the community. Feevale is located in Novo Hamburgo in the State of Rio Grande do Sul. Novo Hamburgo city has arisen from the settlement of German immigrants in Vale do Sinos River. In the seventies, the growth in the footwear industry attracted thousands of migrants. Leather cluster and shoe manufacturing are still a considerable percentage of the local economy but the city hosts important footwear and accessory international fairs as well, positioning itself as a trend and a technological leader in this segment. Committed with the regional development and dedicated to educate citizens in different areas of knowledge, the University has brought cultural, educational, technological, economic and social development for the region.

Feevale has two campuses in Novo Hamburgo, and it is also provided with two extension Technological Parks. The University counts with approximately 16500 enrolled students, 574 Professors out of 1435 employees, 46 Continuous Extension Projects, 70 international partners in 21 countries. 25 Research Groups work in four different fields: Pure Sciences and Technology, Health Sciences, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and Applied Social Sciences. Feevale covers all education levels: children’s education, elementary school, high school, professional education, 44 undergraduate programs and graduate studies, Masters and Doctorates degrees.

Knowledge to renew the World

This is the slogan of the University that has the mission to promote the production and the democratization of knowledge, contributing to the development of society. The Institution pursues to be a recognized university in knowledge production and in innovative entrepreneurship. According to its mission and attentive to the social needs for a privileged space for culture, to fulfill regional demands,  hosting seminars, graduation ceremonies, plays, concerts and many other kinds of events, the project of a cultural area was conceived for.

Though, from the academic needs and the diffusion of artistic and cultural production in the region, a concert hall was built, named Feevale Theater:

Feevale Theater is a pride for all of us. We believe that the place  will allow improvement in the cultural field, transforming the intellectual production of our University. After all, it is not possible to talk about education without speaking about culture, neither talk about culture without speaking about education, affirmed Rector Ramon Fernando da Cunha (Picoral, p. 15, 2011).

The Project

The project area covers 21,219.22 square meters. Besides the theater itself there is also a parking lot with 482 parking spaces and there is still a reserved area for a panoramic restaurant to be built.

The theater has 1,826 seats, excellent stage size and a variety of scenic equipment. It arises as the first largest theater in the State and the fourth largest theater in the country inside a university.


Feevale Theater was built inside Campus II of Feevale University next to a major highway of the state (RS239) in order to facilitate the public access.

Seeking to create conditions of accessibility to all citizens, including people with disabilities or reduced mobility, a “ring” was designed. This way, the audience is at the same level of the foyer and the stage, in order to ensure autonomy and independence to everyone: spectators and artists.

The visual programming was designed in a modular and bilingual system considering different situations.

The Opening and The Agenda

In September, 20th 2011, the Spanish tenor José Carreras performed at the theater, opening the new area of culture in Novo Hamburgo. The Theater has also host Rick Wakeman from the United Kingdom; the Celtic Legends from Ireland; Virsky – the National Ballet from UkraineMoscow – Circus on Ice among many others international, national and local artists as well.

Cooperation through Culture

The greatness of the project is impressive, but what we should consider is the potential for cultural actions that the concert hall can host. Transcending the conventional areas of education, approaching cultures through national and international performances, are some of the possibilities that we hope to multiply. Expanding the cultural agenda with artistic performances of the representatives from Feevale’s partners, as Finland, with a long tradition of excellence in the arts, would certainly be a highly enriching cooperation through the indelible bonds of culture.

Feevale Theater, designed by Alan Einsfeldt, Dean of the Architecture College, places our region in the itinerary for national and international events.


Paula Casari Cundari, PhD, Journalist, Lawyer and Professor In the Social Communication College and Director of International Affairs of Feevale University, Brazil,

Picoral, Rosana (org.). Teatro Feevale – Porto Alegre: Palotti, 2011.

Ribeiro, Renato Janine. A Universidade e a Vida Atual. Campus: Rio de Janeiro, 2003.

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa; Almeida Filho, Naomar. A Universidade no século XXI: para uma universidade nova. Almedina: Coimbra, 2008.

Health promotion in adolescence: what about the social media?

Adolescence is an essential time for health promotion (Viner et al. 2012, WHO 2012). Lifestyle and health related behaviors adapted during adolescence most often continue through later life and strongly effects future health. Social factors at individual, family, school, community and national level strongly effect health as well as health related behaviors and lifestyles adapted by the adolescents. The role of these factors strongly correlates to the future health of the whole population and the development of nations. Worldwide the strongest determinants of adolescent health are structural and related to the poverty: national wealth, income inequality, access to education, safe and supportive families, schools and peers. The most effective interventions to promote health in adolescents are suggested to relate to the general well-being in every day family life. Also factors, such as addressing risks in adolescents´ social and physical environments, access to education and employment as well as preventing injuries, consumption of alcohol and unsafe sex have been suggested as most relevant factors for promoting the health in adolescence. (Gore et al.2011, Viner et al. 2012.)

Health promotion is strongly based on values and the core question lies in the justification of the content as well as the actions (Leino-Kilpi 2009). Respect for general human rights, doing good and avoiding harm, justice, honesty, reliability, equality and empowerment are strongly related to the justification of health promotion. (Cribb & Duncan 2002, WHO 2011). The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986) is often addressed as the ethical cornerstone for health promoters around the world. According to the Ottawa Charter, health is defined as a resource for everyday life. Education, peace, food, income, social justice, and equity are presented as prerequisites for health and basic foundations for health promotion. (The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion).

As main factors and ethical consideration regarding health promotion in adolescents have shortly been discussed, we now move to an excessively growing and extremely challenging environment of health promotion; the social media. Social media is part of the life of most present day adolescents and they use online social media, such as social networking sites (eg. Facebook and MySpace), blogs and status updating sites (eg. Twitter) and chat rooms (Pujazon-Zazik & Park 2010). The social media includes online activities and virtual communities where people share information and interact using words, pictures, videos and audio material based on shared interests (Safko & Brake 2009). Social media can be categorized into: forums and message boards, review and opinion sites, social networks, blogging and micro blogging, bookmarking and media sharing (Sterne 2010).

Purposes and effects of social media

There are potential positive effects of online socializing. These positive effects have been suggested to relate to building and maintaining social contacts, learning and refining the ability to exercise self-control, express sentiments in a normative manner, develop tolerance, respect to others, critical thinking and decision making (Berson et al.2002). There are also potential negative effects of the online social media, such as cyberbullying, online risk-taking behavior, sexual predators (Pujazon-Zazik & Park 2010), promotion of unhealthy lifestyles (Seidenberg et al. 2012) and sharing of misleading health-related information (Betch 2011).

Several researchers have addressed serious concern about the emotional well-being of present day adolescents (Sourander et al. 2008, Laaksonen et al. 2008, 2010). Additionally there have been suggestions about the social media creating a new, potential mental health problem, the ‘addiction’ to social networks and online games. The research evidence addressing the addictive qualities of the social networks are however still relatively scarce. The social media and networking sites are mostly used for quite common social purposes. Extraverts have been suggested to use social networking sites for social communication whereas introverts tend to use the sites for compensation for “real life” social connections. The negative effects of the social media usage include decreased engagement in “real life” social connections and participation which are reduced academic performance and problems in personal relationships, factors generally related to addictions. (Kuss & Griffiths 2011). As the negative effects of the social media on the real life social relations and school performance have been addressed, some concerning results are reported in the Finnish results of the 2010-2011 School Health Promotion (SHP) Study. According to the 2010-2011 SHP results about 5% of adolescents report use of internet reducing the quality of their social relations, 20-30% report using internet negatively effecting school performance and about 25% report using internet causing disruption in circadian rhythm. (School Health Promotion Study).

In the context of health promotion, social media has been described to be used for five main purposes: 1) communicating with consumers, 2) establishing positive brand pictures, 3) disseminating information, 4) expanding the reach of health promotion to broad and diverse audiences and 5) fostering partnership and engagement (O’Mara 2012, Neiger 2012). The health promoters should utilize the social media for what it potentially can deliver but not as a solution to complexities in health behavior and lifestyles. The social media may carry the potential for evidence based, ethically solid health promotion but also as an environmental for contradictive purposes (Neiger et al. 2012). Next we´ll be presenting few examples of studies describing social media in the context of health promotion.

Importance of online decision making

Research on the effects of internet and social media on health-related decision making is rare but as the use of these new environments are increasing; the body of literature and research on these topics is rapidly growing. People in general report that internet does not affect their decision making but according to Betch (2011) the internet may in fact play a very important role in the persons´ health-related decision making processes. It has been suggested that a person can use information in several phases of the decision making process and that information selected and processed from internet and the social media may significantly affect the current as well as future decisions.

Seidenberg et al. (2011) performed a You Tube video search to analyze the content of the videos related to smokeless tobacco. Description of smell, flavor, social references and interactions were found to be presented in over 50% of the videos. By contrast, references of public health information or the effects of nicotine were identified in only about 10% of the videos. None of the identified videos had restrictions preventing youths from viewing the content. The study suggests that You Tube doesn´t restrict youth from viewing smokeless tobacco videos and calls for attention to prevent social media to become vehicles for promoting smoking in adolescents.

Gold et al. (2011) performed a literature review aiming to examine the extent to which social networking sites (SNS) are used for sexual health promotion. The review identified almost 180 sexual health promotion activities from which only one was identified through a traditional systematic search of the published scientific literature. Most commonly used social networking activities targeted on young people, involved information delivery and were conducted by non-profit organizations. The most commonly used site was Facebook, followed by MySpace and Twitter. The amount of users and posts varied greatly between health promotion activities. The study suggest that social media is used for sexual health promotion but not reported in the scientific literature. Future research is needed to guide the development of health promotion activities in the environments of the social media.

Marketing substance use online

Morgan et al (2010) examined the adolescents´ use of social media web sites to post imagines or videos of themselves describing alcohol consumption, inebriated behavior or use of marijuana. The majority of the identified videos representing use of alcohol depicted females in social situations while videos representing use of marijuana depicted males. The identified videos were quite frequently viewed and gained positive ratings from the viewers. The adolescents´ attitudes toward posting alcohol-related consumption on the social media sites were generally positive and seen as a matter of individual decision making. Marijuana-related posting were however seen more negatively. Future research is needed to provide knowledge about motivation to post images and videos of substance use in the social media as well as the benefits and risks related to these activities. The study however suggests that adolescents in general relatively frequently seem to accept alcohol-related activities.

Moreno et al (2012) examined how the displayed use of alcohol and problematic drinking on Facebook is associated to self-reported problem drinking in adolescents. The adolescents who displayed problematic drinking on Facebook were more likely to score high AUDIT results, suggesting problematic drinking, more likely than the adolescents who did not display such activity. Also the ones who displayed use of alcohol on Facebook were more likely to report alcohol related injuries than the ones who did not display use of alcohol. As a conclusion to the research, it was suggested that Facebook references to problematic use of alcohol was positively associated with high AUDIT scores as well as alcohol related injuries. Further research is suggested to evaluate social media as a tool for targeting populations and send health promoting messages, advertisements or information to selected groups.

The alcohol marketing in the social media use several different strategies. There are real-world-tie-ins that refer to themed night club events across the globe that serve as marketing events of different brands of alcohol. There are interactive games that eg. invite users to suggest alternative endings to commercial videos, sponsored online events that are connected to materials advertising a certain brand. Also encouraging messages to drink have been produced by different alcohol brands. No Facebook posts explicitly recommended responsible or moderate drinking. According to the research social media allows new ways to add marketing to alcohol sales. In additional to the traditional marketing of stimulate conversation about brands but they also allow users to observe, analyze and direct those conversations on a larger scale. Moreover the social media allows embed brand-related activities in the routines of the social media consumptions for excessive amounts of people and encourage real time alcohol use. As a conclusion, social media reaches into new levels of advertising than any previous communications platforms in blurring the boundaries between advertising, consumer interaction and broader social activities (Nicholls 2012).

Adult involvement and research needed

Clearly, there are more than technical skills needed in health promotion in adolescence with social media. The virtual environment has altered the way of communication, learning and socializing for all of its users. The social media consists of, not only interaction between media and other people but also, invisible mental system of the users. In order to promote healthy choices in this unique virtual mental world, adults need to focus on creating and navigating in adolescents’ social environment with them, meaning complex virtual context of multipronged dimensions and approaches to health-related topics.

Evidently adolescents learn more from their peer group online and use social media and online searches as a key source of advice and information than before exploring critical developmental period, social status, friendships and romance. Social media is there for an important environment to empower adolescents´ as in-person contact or with exclusive health content to support health promotion against unhealthy, damaging or traumatizing information and social contacts online. As evidence about the effect of the social media on the health and well-being of adolescents as well as on the content and utilization of methods implemented for health promotion is scarce, future research on this topic is highly recommended.


Camilla Laaksonen, PhD, Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS), the Faculty of Health Care,

Jan Holmberg, Master of Health Care,

Marjale von Schantz, PhD, R&D Manager, Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS), the Faculty of Health Care

Berson IR, Berson MJ, Ferron JM. 2002. Emerging risk of violence in the digital age: Lessons for educators from an online study of adolescent females in the United States. Journal of School Violence; 1: 51-57.

Cribb A,Duncan P. 2002. Health promotion and professional ethics. Blackwell, Oxford, UK.

Gore, FM, Bloem,PJN,Patton, GC,Ferguson,J, Joseph, V, Coff ey, C, Sawyer,SM, Mathers, CD. 2011. Global burden of disease in young people aged 10–24 years: a systematic analysis. Lancet.

Gold J, Pedrana AE, Sacks-Davis R, Hellard ME, Chang S, Howard S, Keogh L, Hocking JS, Stoove MA. 2011.A systematic examination of the use of online social networking sites for sexual health promotion. BMC Public Health; 21,11:583.

Kuss DJ,Griffiths MD. 2011. Online Social Networking and Addiction—A Review of the Psychological Literature. International journal of environment research and public health; 8(9):3528-52. Epub 2011 Aug 29

Laaksonen C, Aromaa M, Heinonen OJ, Koivusilta L, Koski P, Suominen S, Vahlberg T,Salanterä S. 2008. Health related quality of life in 10-year-old schoolchildren. Quality of Life Research 17, 1049-1054.

Laaksonen C, Aromaa M, Heinonen OJ., Koivusilta L, Koski P, Suominen S, Vahlberg T, Salanterä S. 2010. The change in child self-assessed and parent proxy –assessed Health Related Quality of Life (HRQL) in early adolescence (age 10-12). Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 38, 9-16.

Leino-Kilpi H. 2009. Terveyden edistämisen etiikka. Teoksessa: Etiikka hoitotyössä. Leino-Kilpi, H. & Välimäki, M. (eds.). WSOY oppimateriaali Oy.

Moreno MA, Christakis DA, Egan KG, Brockman LN, Becker T. 2012. Associations between displayed alcohol references on Facebook and problem drinking among college students. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine;166(2):157-63. Epub 2011 Oct 3

Morgan EM, Snelson C, Elison-Bowers P. 2010. Imagine and video disclosure of substance use on social media websites. Computers in Human Behavior; 26: 1405-1411.

Neiger BL, Thackeray R, Van Wagenen SA, Hanson CL, West JH, Barnes MD, Fagen MC. Use of social media in health promotion: purposes, key performance indicators, and evaluation metrics. Health Promot Pract. 2012 Mar;13(2):159-64

Nicholls J. 2012. Everyday, everywhere: alcohol marketing and social media–current trends. Alcohol and Alcoholism;47(4):486-93. Epub 2012 Apr 23.

O’Mara B. 2012. Social media, digital video and health promotion in culturally and linguistically diverse Australia. Health Promotion International; 4.

Pujazon-Zazik M,Park JM. 2010. To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Gender Differences and Potential Positive and Negative Health Outcomes of Adolescents’ Social Internet Use. American Journal of Men’s Health; 4(1): 77-85.

Safko L, Brake DK. 2009. The social media bible: Tactics, tools and strategies for business success. Hoboken, NJ, John Wiley.

von Schantz M, Heinola A (eds.) 2012. Expertice in Health Care and Medication. Reports from Turku University of Applied Sciences 128. Available at:

School Health Promotion (SHP) Study 2010-2011. Available at:

Seidenberg AB, Rodgers EJ, Rees VW, Connolly GN. Youth access, creation, and content of smokeless tobacco (“dip”) videos in social media. Journal of Adolescent Health 2012; 50(4): 334-8.

Sourander A, Niemelä S, Santalahti P, Helenius H, Piha J. 2008. Changes in psychiatric problems and service use among 8-year-old children: a 16-year population-based time-trend study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 47(3):317-27.

Sterne, J. 2010. Social media metrics: How to measure and optimalize your marketing investment. Hoboken, NJ, John Wiley.

The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. World Health Organization. 1986. Available at: 16.10.12.

Viner RM, Ozer EM, Denny S, Marmot M, Resnick M, Fatusi A, Currie C. 2012. Adolescence and the social determinants of health. Lancet, 28;379(9826):1641-52. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

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Changes in Finnish nursing students’ learning approaches between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s


Higher education in nursing started in Finland at the beginning of the 1990s. The establishment of tertiary education in nursing was part of an academic drift towards developing the formerly non- university-based, vocationally oriented courses into an internationally more comparable educational model and to develop a nursing education that can serve the changing needs of the rapidly developing world of work. (Pratt 1997; compare Ahola 2006) The education is organised in Universities of Applied Sciences, which have since 2002 also offered practice-oriented Master’s level degree studies. The current Bachelor-level education lasts for 3.5 years and the matriculation examination or vocational education is required from all applicants. (Statute 351 / 2003; 351 / 2003)

The main aim in developing nursing education into a higher educational programme was to enable students to obtain a comprehensive picture of the role of nursing in the Finnish health care. This meant expanding the view of nursing not only in this society but also internationally. It was considered important to enable nurses to acquire a higher level of training in the field of nursing. Previously, vocational nursing education had provided the knowledge and skills for nursing practice, and one aim of higher education in nursing was to develop inquiring minds in the students, in addition to transferring knowledge and skills. The overall aim was to educate a new kind of personnel that can promote innovative changes in the profession (Pratt 1997).

At the end of the 2000s, higher education in nursing in Finland has become well established. This reform in Finnish nursing education has taken into account the Bologna Process, which aimed to create by 2010 a European Higher Education Area where students can choose from a wide and transparent range of high quality courses and benefit from recognition and accreditation procedures. The Bologna Declaration of June 1999 put into motion a series of reforms to make higher education in Europe more compatible, more comparable and more competitive. As a result, nursing students can participate in student exchange programs and nurses can work in the other signatory countries. This kind of nursing education is also available outside Europe: for example, Turkey strives to develop its nursing education in line with the Bologna Declaration. Some central features of nursing education in selected countries are presented in Table 1, based on articles in international journals of nursing (Bahcecik & Alpar 2009; Davies 2008; Khomeiran & Deans 2007; Kyrkjebo et al. 2002; Svavarsdottir 2008; Turale et al. 2008).

Table 1. Comparison of central features of nursing education in various countries

Nursing studies at the academic level first commenced in the University of Kuopio in 1979 in the administrative training program. Studies in nursing administration, nurse teacher training and nursing science were organized in the universities in full by 1996. To be able to apply for these programmes, the applicants had to have a nurse specialist qualification. In several countries Master’s level education can be completed either with or without honours, i.e. with emphasis on research studies or with specialization. However, Finnish nurses specialize already during their studies at Bachelor-level, while academic research studies are completed during Master’s degree studies. The development of Master’s level nursing studies has strengthened the research orientation of Finnish nurses. (Kuuppelomäki & Tuomi 2005).

The aim of the reform in nursing education in Finland was to produce nurses who are able to take more responsibility in nursing and can become equal members of multi-professional teams in health care. Before higher education in nursing was established, there had been a national curriculum for nurse education. After the reform in the 1990`s every school of nursing at the Universities of Applied Sciences had to create an individual nursing curriculum for their institution. Besides the content of the curriculum, nursing schools also defined the learning approach they were planning to use. Mainly the schools chose to adopt the ideas of the cognitive view of learning, and therefore underlined the importance of supporting the idea of students’ self-directed learning. (Ponkala 2001; Perälä & Ponkala 1999)

The aim of this article is to describe how the learning approach of nursing students has changed since 1990’s. The data were collected from Universities of Applied Sciences in different parts of Finland during 1996-1997 and 2006-2007. The paper reveals the changes that occurred, and offers some similarities and differences between them.

The approaches to learning nursing

The focus in the training type curriculum had been in clinical skills and nursing care of patients mainly in hospitals (Roxburgh et al 2008). The learning approach used in this kind of nursing curriculum until the 1980s can be described as a didactic learning process. This approach to teaching and learning has also been referred to as the behaviouristic paradigm (Romyn 2001). In this approach, the nursing teacher is considered to be in possession of the necessary knowledge and also knows how to transfer it: in other words, she knows how to teach students. Students are expected to be able to apply this knowledge, first during their laboratory studies, and then in their nursing practice in patient care. Similar features of the learning process have also been described in pedagogy (Knowles 1980) and single loop learning process (Greenwood 1998).

The early 1980s was a turning point in the views of learning in nursing curricula. Student-centered views of learning began to gain more significance in nursing curricula. In Finland, this shift started in the mid-1980s, following the ideas of Marton and Säljö (1976). This learning approach can be associated with constructivism and meaningful learning, which are related to cognitive psychology and the humanistic-psychological model of learning (Apodaca & Grad 2005; Ausubel 1978). The approach emphasised students’ abilities to be active learners who improve and modify the structure of their knowledge. Earlier experiences, knowledge and attitudes influenced the students’ learning process. The teachers role is to support the learner to find information and insight, and to identify learning and work-related problems.

As mentioned earlier, in the 1990’s the idea of students’ self-directed learning was emphasised in the nursing curricula. Self-directed learning is possible when the methods of learning support the students’ own possibilities to plan, carry out and evaluate their learning process (Levett-Jones 2005). Methods such as learning diaries (Blake 2005) and portfolios (Williams & Jordan 2007) have been tested to enhance critical thinking, meaningful and active learning and reflective practice. Portfolios focus especially on supporting students in managing change efficiently. They also help them in terms of self-directed learning to find ways which will assist them in enhancing the quality of their learning activities. Actually, both concept mapping (Hay 2008; Abel 2006; Hsu 2004) and portfolios (Bashook et al. 2008) have been suggested to be very useful in e-learning, too. The self-directed learning approach has changed the role of the teacher, as well. Teachers are seen as facilitators (Badeau 2010, Williams 2004), defined in terms of genuine mutual respect, a partnership in learning, a dynamic, goal-oriented process, and critical reflections between the facilitator and the student. This conception is also connected with the humanistic paradigm in nursing education (Gillespie 2005).

Besides the view of self-directed learning, the co-operational learning became more popular also in the nursing curricula during the 2000’s. Several situated learning theories (Lave & Wenger 1991) and work-based learning (Guile & Griffits 2001) approaches describe the possibilities of learning from one another, and of learning in teams, in terms of democratic dialogues and co-operational meetings. Moreover, the situated learning theory assumes that knowledge is embedded within the context in which it is used and cannot be separated from the activity, context, and culture of that situation (Lave & Wenger 1991; Engeström 2001). Co-operative learning and situated learning have been highlighted as necessary for learning the co-operational methods needed to function as a member of a multi-professional team working in complex situations in health care (Tynjälä 2008). In co-operative learning the ownership of teaching and learning is shared by the students.

The aim of the study and study questions

The aim of the study was to describe how the learning approach of nursing students in Finland has changed since 1990’s . This study set out to answer the following questions from nursing students’ point of view:

i) to what extent did Finnish nursing students demonstrate and express the features of assisting, self-directive and co-operational actors in 1996-1997 and in 2006-2007, as their approach to learning nursing?
ii) what differences are there in nursing students’ approaches to learning nursing between the years 1996-1997 and 2006-2007?
iii) to what extent do the background variables (age, sex, professional or lay experience in nursing) explain the differences in students’ approach to learning nursing between 1996- 1997 and 2006-2007?


Sample and data collection

The data was gathered during 1997 and in 2006-2007 in nursing schools in Universities of Applied Sciences in northern, western, central, eastern and southern Finland in order to get geographically and regionally relevant information.

The amount of nursing schools in the Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences was 24 in 1997, 23 in 2006 and 22 in 2007. The total amount of nursing students in Finland was 5,589 students in 1997, 6,891 students in 2006 and 7,545 students in 2007. Four schools were chosen into the sample in 1996-1997 and six schools in 2006-2007. Three of the schools were the same in both phases of the data collection. The number of nursing students in those sample schools was 712 students in 1997, 2,056 students in 2006 and 2,141 students in 2007. (Finnish Ministry of Culture and Education, online statistics 14 April 2011)

The nursing students (N=1,086) voluntarily answered the questionnaire: 426 in 1997 and 660 in 2006-2007. The response rate in 2006-2007 was 76.4%. In 1997 the researcher administered the data collection at schools. In 2006-2007 the questionnaire (N=864) was delivered to students by the research assistants. The questionnaire was given to all nursing students, who were having their theoretical study period during the data collection (simple random sampling). In 1997 37.5% of the respondents were first year students and 40.1% final year students. Information was missing from 22.5% of the respondents. In 2006-2007, 57.4% of the respondents were first year and 42.6% last year students.

The questionnaire contained questions concerning background factors and 26 Likert-type statements. The following background factors were elicited: sex, age, any children, pre-educational caring experiences and intentions to leave nursing. The statements were designed on the basis of a literature review. The tool consists of three sub-scales measuring nursing students’ approach to learning nursing; the assisting, self-directive and co-operative actor approach. Each sub-scale includes statements measuring the relationship between nursing student and nurse teacher/supervisor, the relationships with peers while learning nursing, and nursing students’ views of learning and of responsibility in the field of nursing

The student with assisting actor approach needs the teacher’s and supervisor’s support, and the encouragement of peers. She is willing to work with an experienced nurse and is able to work as a reliable member of a nursing group. However, she is not willing to take personal responsibility in patient care.

A self-directive actor sees teachers, supervisors and other experts primarily as facilitators who share information with her. Such students want to learn to make decisions independently. They want to develop their individual structure of knowledge continually and develop an inquiring mind towards their work and working environment. They want to learn to take responsibility in their given field.

The co-operational actor wants to test her knowledge, ideas and practices together with peers and a multi-professional team in practical situations during her education. For these students, learning is not an individual but a shared experience. It is possible to create new practices and to evaluate them while learning nursing and developing patient care in health care practice. Co-operational actors are willing to take responsibility as individuals and as members of a multi-professional team.

Ethical questions

In Finland, the permission of the Ethical Committee is not required if the research does not deal with patients or other vulnerable groups. After gaining approval for the research from the institutions (today they are called Universities of Applied Sciences), the researchers contacted nursing teachers. The teachers who agreed to participate asked the students to take part in the study and then organized the data collection. Completing the questionnaire was voluntary and the students answered anonymously.

Data analysis

The data were analysed using SPSS for Windows 15.1. Factor analysis was used to compress information into smaller units. The principal component method and Varimax rotation were used in factor analysis. The criteria for separating the variables for factor analysis were the following: sufficiently high loading of items on the factors (≥ .40), high communality values (≥ .30) and as clear a solution as possible. Three factors emerged: co-operational actor, assisting actor, and self-directive actor (Table 2). The sum scores were calculated for each factor. The internal consistency of the sum variables was tested using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient. The Mann-Whitney U-test and Chi-Square test were used for testing the change between the 1990s and the 2000s. The Chi-Square test was used to test the similarities in the demographics. There were only slight differences (max. 10 %) in the demographics between the two time periods of data collection.

Table 2. Factors describing nursing students’ approaches to learning nursing

Reliability and validity of the measurement tool

The validity and reliability of the measurement tool were tested before use in this study by panel evaluation and subsequently by using psychometric measurements. An expert panel assessed the validity and reliability in terms of readability, homogeneity and content validity using a paper and pencil test. The panel members (Finnish nursing students) assessed all items in terms of clarity and content validity. The agreement on homogeneity with all items was over .60.
Actually, the sumscores used were on ordinal data. However, when using this kind of scale the sumscores can be handled as continuing variables. The Cronbach alpha coefficient was .759 on the whole scale, and validity was measured using explorative factor analysis, which supported the three- factor solution (Nunnally & Bernstein 1994) (Table 2). The value of alphas in the subscales varied from 0.78 to 0.54, which can be seen rather low. However, it is notable that the value of alpha varies according to the number of variables in the measurement tool and subscales, i.e., the more variables, the higher the alpha (Carmenis & Zeller 1979).


Students’ background factors

Most of the participating students were females in both the 1990s (90.4%) and the 2000s (92.4%). In fact, the distribution between the sexes was about the same as it is in nursing in general in Finland (Finnish Ministry of Culture and Education, online statistics 14 April 2011). Moreover, there was not a big difference concerning the age distribution, either: more than half of the participants were in the youngest age group. Furthermore, the nursing students of the 2000s had more professional nursing experience than those of the 1990s. In effect this meant that the nursing students of the 2000s had already had occupational education in nursing: i.e., before continuing their studies in higher education they had been working as nurses and wanted to develop further in nursing. In contrast, the nursing students of the 1990s started their nursing education straight after their secondary education (Table 3).

Table3. Students’ background variables in the mid-1990s and in the mid-2000s

The changes in nursing students’ approaches to learning nursing in the 1990s and in the 2000s

In the questionnaire, the Likert scale offered choices between 1 (agree) and 5 (disagree). The smaller the mean scores, the more the respondents agreed with the statements. The extent to which the nursing students revealed different approaches to learning nursing varied in the mid-1990s and mid- 2000s (Table 4).

Table 4. Nursing students’ approaches to learning nursing in the mid-1990s and in the mid-2000s and differences between the means (M) of expressions (Mann-Whitney U -test for equality of means)

The results show that features of assisting actor were more common among the nursing students in
the mid-2000s than in the mid-1990s. The change was statistically significant (Table 4). On the other hand, the nursing students of the 1990s expressed fewer features of the co-operational actor than did those students who studied in the 2000s. However, there was no change concerning the features of the self-directive actors between the students of the 1990s and those of the 2000s (Table 4).

Connections between background variables and nursing students’ approaches to learning nursing

The results suggest that some of the background variables explain the variation among the nursing students of the different decades. The results show that the female students of the mid-2000s, in general, expressed more features of the assisting orientation to learning nursing than did those studying in the mid-1990s. On the other hand, there was no significant difference among the male students of these decades. There was a clear trend of more students in the age groups 17-20 and 21- 23 years expressing features of the assisting approach (p<.001). The nursing students who had had earlier lay experience in the field of nursing and who had studied in the mid-2000s, expressed fewer features of the assisting actor (p<.001) than did students who had studied in the mid-1990s (Table 4).

Neither the age group, sex, nor earlier professional experience in the field of nursing explained the change in nursing students’ self-directive learning approach. The only exception is the youngest age group: students between 17 and 20 years of age were significantly more oriented to self- directedness than the older students. The students of the mid-1990s who had had earlier lay experience in the field of nursing to some extent revealed more features of self-directive learning approach than did students who had studied in the mid-2000s (p=.045) (Table 4).

The background variables explained some of the changes concerning the co-operative approach to learning nursing between the students of the mid-1990s and those of the mid-2000s. Sex explained some of this change in the mid-2000s. The trend was for the expression of fewer features of the co- operational approach to learning nursing in the cohort of the mid-2000s. The difference was statistically significant in both sex groups. Moreover, the age (17-23 and 31-55 years) explained the change in demonstrating fewer features of the co-operative approach to learning nursing when coming to the mid-2000s. The students of the mid-1990s and those who had previous lay experience in the field of nursing expressed more features of co-operational actors than did the students who had studied in the mid-2000s (p=.001). Moreover, the students of the 1990s who intended to change fields in the future showed more features of co-operational actors than did those of the 2000s. The difference was statistically significant (p<.001). Among the nursing students who did not express such intentions, the trend was the same (p<.032) (Table 4).


The aim of the study was to describe how the learning approach of nursing students in Finland has changed since 1990’s. The results suggest that the features of the assisting approach to learning nursing among nursing students were on the increase between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. The assisting actor approach means that the needs the teacher’s and supervisor’s support, and the encouragement of peers. However, to some extent she hesitates to take personal responsibility in patient care. This is surprising because the learning methods used nowadays are intended to promote self-directiveness among nursing students (Blake 2005; Williams & Jordan 2007; Levett- Jones 2005). However, some students are able to manage their learning process better, whereas others need more supervision (Levett-Jones 2005). According to these results, the number of features of self-directiveness has not changed among these student groups.

The nursing students of the 2000s expressed fewer features of co-operational actors than did those of the 1990s. The co-operational actor approach includes testing knowledge, ideas and practices together with peers and a multi-professional team and emphasises learning as a shared experience. The decrease of these features may be the result of the use of learning methods that support the students’ self-directive learning and individual learning processes. However, nurses have to work as full members of interdisciplinary teams in social and health care. In fact, there are some studies that support the development of interdisciplinary learning in the field of health care (Jacobsen et al.
2009; Steiner et al. 2008). In nursing education in the future, it could be valuable to pay more attention to the development of nursing students into responsible actors in multi-professional health care teams.

There are many measurement tools that can be used to analyse and evaluate the learning styles of students, and they have been used in nursing studies, too (Fountain & Alfred 2009). There are also instruments developed to measure the nurse-patient relationship from patients’ perspective (Suikkala et al. 2009) and to assess the competence of the nurses (Dellai et al. 2009).The measurement tool used in this study was specifically developed for nursing and with nursing teachers and students. As a limitation, the subscales in the measurement tool were short. In fact, it would be useful to develop more valid statements into the subscales. However, based on the results of this study, it is possible to make suggestions regarding suitable learning methods for individual nursing students. We believe that this kind of measurement tool has a place both in students’ peer and self-evaluation, and also in the discussions between supervisors and students when planning learning methods in nursing education.


It is worrying that there are still students in higher education in nursing who are willing to assume an assistant’s role in the field of health care. In the light of this result, it is important to develop teaching and learning methods which are based on the idea of shared learning and improve the students’ self-confidence and development towards expertise in nursing. Moreover, more attention needs to be devoted to learning how to work as a responsible member of a multi-professional team. This should be an important focus in nursing education in the future.
This was the first time that this measurement tool has been used to measure nursing students’ learning approaches in nursing. The measurement tool worked successfully when studying the changes in students’ learning approach in nursing between the 1990s and the 2000s. Furthermore, it could be useful when choosing and developing learning and teaching methods in nursing education in the international scene of higher education. While project-based nursing education, such as learning by developing (Kallioinen 2011) has been established and developed in universities of applied sciences, it would be interesting to study the learning approaches of the students of 2010s.


The authors thank Vivian Michael Paganuzzi, University of Eastern Finland, for his suggestions regarding the language and style of this paper. We are also very grateful to the nurse teachers who have helped us to collect the data, and to the nursing students who participated in our study.


Liisa Vanhanen-Nuutinen, RN, MNSc, PhD, Research Manager, School of Vocational Teacher Education, HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences, Finland

Sirpa Janhonen, RN, MA, PhD, Professor (emerita), Institute for Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Finland

Maija Maunu, RN, MNSc, Lecturer, Degree Program in Nursing, School of Health and Social Care, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, Finland

Helena Laukkala, M.A., Lecturer,Department of Research Methodology, University of Lapland, Finland

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Finnish Perspectives from the European Level

The European Students’ Union (ESU) is the umbrella organisation of 47 National Unions of Students (NUS) from 38 countries. SAMOK (The Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences) and SYL (The National Union of University Students in Finland) are members of ESU from Finland, representing the interests of Finnish students in ESU.

In April I was elected the vice-chairperson of ESU for the upcoming year 2012-2013, being the first Finnish student from a University of Applied Sciences to be in the presidency of ESU. I will not only represent Finnish students but students from the 38 countries where ESU has members.

My story of how I got involved in ESU starts in METKA, the student union of Metropolia UAS, where in 2009 I was a member of the executive committee. I was a first year student in Metropolia, studying Social Services. The following year in 2010, I worked on international affairs in the executive committee of SAMOK, representing Finnish students in universities of applied sciences in ESU. After my mandate finished in SAMOK, I got involved in ESU as a member of the social affairs committee for the year 2011.

The aim of ESU is to represent and promote the educational, social, economic and cultural interests of students at the European level towards all relevant bodies and in particular the European Union, Bologna Follow Up Group, Council of Europe and UNESCO. Through its members, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. ESU is run by students, whom come from all over Europe. The headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium, where the staff and presidency of ESU work full-time. The presidency consists of the chairperson and two vice-chairpersons. I look forward to moving to Brussels and starting my mandate in July with great enthusiasm. Europe is faced with many challenges due to the economic crisis, with higher education taking big hits through the budget cuts and rising tuition fees all over Europe.

Imagine having to pay a 1000€ more from one year to another as the tuition fees rise or having to pay an extra 600€ for failing an exam. This is what is happening in Spain. In Portugal, students are forced to leave their studies due to the student support being cut. In Hungary, the government recently passed a law which binds state-funded students to work a certain number of years in Hungary after graduation, restricting the free movement of people. In addition the number of student support is being cut dramatically. While all of these changes are taking place, in April ministers of higher education gathered in Bucharest for the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Bologna Process to set priorities for the next three years.

One priority laid down in the Bucharest Ministerial Communiqué aims to “Strengthen policies of widening overall access and raising completion rates, including measures targeting the increased participation of underrepresented groups.” The actions of the governments in the three examples given previously work clearly in the opposite direction of what the ministers promise to work towards in the upcoming years, as cutting student support and raising tuition fees affects the students from lower socio- economic backgrounds first and foremost. The near-sightedness of governments and higher education systems now will end up causing more damage to the society in the long run, as having highly educated professionals are the basis of economic growth.

Even if it seems that some countries have more work to do to reach the targets of the Bologna Process, they are equally valid and need further work from governments and higher education institutions in all of the Bologna Process countries.  In Finland we may have a universal student support system, providing student grants for everyone despite their socio-economic status, but still have groups that are underrepresented in higher education. Some measures are for example being taken to increase the entry levels of immigrants to higher education, especially to universities of applied sciences, but they are still a largely underrepresented group in Finnish higher education institutions.

Ensuring and safeguarding a system where students are not penalized and end up paying 600€ when faced with a difficult subject or where students do not have to drop out due to not being supported, goes a long way. Student representation and doing what I will be doing for the next year would become nearly impossible as I still have some studies left to finish. We have the luxury of taking a year off our studies to work for a better tomorrow of fellow students and engage in civil society activities, which support the personal and professional growth of an individual, allowing one to gain more perspective into their studies as well as future work life. I am lucky to have this opportunity and as the vice-chairperson of the European Students’ Union I will work to try and make this a reality for as many students as possible in Europe.

For more information on the European Students’ Union:


Taina Moisander,

The writer was recently elected the vice-chairperson of ESU for the upcoming year 2012 – 2013. Moisander ist the first Finnish student from a University of Applied Sciences to be in the presidency of ESU.

Formulating belongingness scale for higher education students – a pilot study


The starting point of this pilot study and the larger project around it was the concern about student wellbeing in higher education institutions (HEIs). In a recently published study the students of Finnish universities of applied sciences felt that the strongest factors associated with their ability to study were their personal resources and their social study environment (Lavikainen 2010: 97–108). Many studies report that students feel less satisfied with their lives than the general population (Vaez, Kristenson, & Laflamme 2004; Kjeldstadli et al. 2006).

Student wellbeing can be examined from the viewpoints of general life-satisfaction (Krokstadt 2002), self-esteem (Mellor, Cummins, Karlinski & Storer 2003), stress (Lopez et al. 2001) and coping (Vitaliano et al. 1985). However, the belongingness dimension seems to be increasingly important one when we look at the higher education institutes nowadays. The concept ‘belongingness’ has been used more than before since the 1960s (e.g. Osterman 2000; Levett-Jones et al. 2007). It has been defined from the various viewpoints in social sciences and psychology. According to Hagerty et al. (1992), ‘sense of belonging is the experience of personal involvement in a system or environment so that persons feel themselves to be an integral part of that system or environment’. Baumeister and Leary (1995) and Somers (1999) define belongingness ‘as the need to be, and the perception of being involved with others at different interpersonal levels, which contributes to one’s sense of connectedness (being part of, being accepted, fitting in) and esteem while providing reciprocal acceptance, caring and valuing each other.

Belongingness, connectedness and integration or lack of them, are related to many wellbeing factors of students: self-esteem, burdensomeness, sleep, depression, risk of suicides (Lee 2002; Armstrong et al. 2009; Wong et al. 2011). They are also associated with student retention, academic attitudes, motives and progress which are professional, scientific and economic indicators of success for individual students and for higher education institutions (Tinto 1975; Osterman 2000; Rosenthal et al. 2007; Allen et al. 2008). According to Tinto (1975) student drop out is associated with the students’ degree of academic integration, and social integration. This is why higher education institutions need instruments to follow up students’ sense of belongingness.

Konrath et al. (2011) found that empathy amongst American college students has been declining sharply since 2000 and so has the capacity to take another persons’ perspective into consideration. School shootings are the most serious indicator of separation and malaise. According to Newman (2004), the school shooters are far from being ”loners” but rather ”joiners” whose attempts at social integration have failed. School bullying may lead to a negative view of students’ peers and schoolmates. In the long run, the effects include an increased risk of depression and a negative attitude toward other young adults. (Ministry of Justice, Finland 2009). Lack of integration, belongingness or connectedness characterise often these youngsters. The extent of school shootings indicate that something must be done to improve the wellbeing of the students.

This study is a part of a larger research and development project called ‘Promoting student
wellbeing in Second Life’. The purpose of the project was to promote the availability of student wellbeing services in real world and virtual world. It was financed by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. In previous phases of the project, a qualitative study was conducted involving the students and staff of one large Finnish University of Applied sciences (UAS) in order to find means to promote communal wellbeing and a sense of belongingness. On the basis of those suggestions, an action model was set up for communal meeting spaces that had been established. Also virtual student wellbeing services were constructed and studied their usefulness.

In order to promote belongingness in higher education institutes, we must have instruments to measure it. The aim of this part of the study was to formulate a scale measuring belongingness in higher education institutions.

Materials and methods

Data collection

This pilot study was conducted during spring 2011. Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences is a multidisciplinary higher education institute having about 16,000 students with 67 degree programmes, 14 of them being taught in English. An invitation to take part in the study via a web-based questionnaire was placed in an internal information portal of University of Applied Sciences. Identical paper questionnaires with boxes for returning them were also placed in seven communal meeting places created in the previous phase of this project. The questionnaires and hard copy versions of them were available in the web for three weeks. The data received from the web based questionnaires was converted to SPSS PASW 18 program directly after the end of the data collection period. The boxes were collected back by the project group members and coded to the same SPSS matrix as the web based data by the first author of this article. This program was also used for the analysis.


The questionnaire began with eleven background questions, four of them about sosiodemographic issues (age, gender, marital status and number of children or other dependents), three about studies (degree programme of the respondent, years of studies and basic education), and four about taking part in student or other activities.

There are many scales measuring belongingness (e.g. Mehrabian 1994; Leary et al. 2007). The 35- item instrument was developed on the basis of the Levett-Jones Belongingness Scale – Clinical Placement Experience (Levett-Jones et al. 2009), which has its ground on the work of Baumeister and Leary (1995) and Somers (1999). This scale was chosen on the basis of instrument development because the Levett-Jones (2009) instrument has also been developed in the higher education context in an institution respective to universities of applied sciences in Finland. The construct validity and consistency reliability of the Levett-Jones (2009) scale were high. The authors believe that belongingness is multifaceted concept that needs to be examined from several viewpoints. The benefit of the scale chosen (Levett-Jones et al. 2009) is that it is multidimensional. The permission to use and modify the scale was received from the creator of the scale in written.

The Levett-Jones et al. (2009) BES–CPE –instrument had 34 items which formed three factors: Esteem subscale (Cronbach’s alpha 0.92) comprising statements being in held esteem by one’s work colleagues, Connectedness subscale (Cronbach’s alpha 0.82) included statements concerned with interpersonal connections, and items included in Efficacy subscale (Cronbach’s alpha 0.80) were about efficacious behaviours undertaken to enhance one’s experience of belongingness. Four of the original items (Q6, Q11, Q15 and Q27) were left out of the questionnaire because they were specific to clinical replacement. Five new items about cooperation and meeting places were added because in the qualitative study by Jenze (2010), which was also part of the same larger study, it was found out that in the higher education context, communal meeting places are very important in order to gain a feeling of belongingness. BES–CPE items Q12 and Q22r, which were excluded from the factor analysis in the testing by Levett-Jones et al. (2009), were included in our questionnaire, but not item Q6. In the instrument the phrase ’clinical replacement’ was substituted with ’University of Applied Sciences’ or the name of it, or ’student community’. The word ’colleagues’ was replaced with the words ’fellow students’ or ’student mates’. Considering the amount of customized and revised items, it can be stated that in this study a new instrument having its grounds in the theoretical structure in the work of Levett-Jones et al. (2009) was formulated.

The instrument was delivered in Finnish and English languages. The customization and first version of the translation was made by the Finnish language project group members who all have good skills in English language. The accuracy of the translation was reviewed by a translator who is both native English and Finnish language speaker. The questionnaire applied five-point Likert-scale. The choices were 1 = never true, 2 = rarely true, 3 = sometimes true, 4 = often true and 5 = always true.


The psychometric properties of the instrument were tested in the same way as in the study of Levett-Jones et al. (2009). Principal component analysis with varimax rotation and Kaiser Normalization was performed. The number of factors was restricted to three and Cronbach’s alphas were calculated in order to determine internal consistency of the scales.

Permission for the study was asked from and granted by the vice rector of the University of Applied Sciences. A letter explaining the purpose, financier, voluntary of responding, executors and time of responding was enclosed to the electronic as well as to the paper format questionnaires.


Background variables

Although the questionnaire was available for all the students of the University of Applied Sciences (n=16 000), only 57 responses were received. These represented all the faculties of the UAS: Business school, Civil engineering and building services, Culture and creative industries, Health care and nursing, School of information and communication technology, Industrial engineering, and Welfare and human functioning. The mean age of the respondents was 24 years, with 37% of them married or living in a registered relationship, and there were students from all the semesters of the three and a half years that completing a degree takes. Most of them (75%) had college-level training as basic education, and 60% of them belonged to some real-life community and the same proportion of them to some virtual community.

Psychometric testing

Principal component analysis with varimax rotation and Kaiser Normalization was performed for all the 35 variables of the belongingness scale. Eight components with eigenvalues greater than one were extracted accounting 73.44% of the variance. However, this factor structure did not fit into the theory of the instrument because the first factor comprised most of the variables and the remaining seven factors consisted of one to three items. Factor solutions with five to three factors were run, and out of those the three-factor solution fitted best to the theory of belongingness in the context of higher education institutions. This three-component solution accounted for 52.12% of the higher education institutions students’ sense of belongingness.

The variables stemming from the original scale of Levett-Jones et al. (2009) and the new items created for this study loaded to the factors quite in a different way than in the study of Levett-Jones et al. (2009). For that reason they were renamed. Items loading to the first factor (n=22) were about feeling connected to other students and being part of student community. The first factor accounted for 27.78% of the variance. The items loading to the second factor (n=9) described feeling part of, and belonging to the UAS as higher education institution: importance of cooperation between the degree programmes, taking part to common activities and about the relation to the UAS staff. This factor accounted for 12.44% of the variance. The third factor having four items was about the integration to the student community and higher education institution. It explained 11.97% of the variance. (Table 1)

Table 1. Rotated component loadings of the instrument.
Table 1. Rotated component loadings of the instrument.

Cronbach’s Alpha of the first factor ‘Connectedness to the student community’ was 0.95 and item– factor correlations varied between 0.37 (weakest) and 0.84 (strongest). However, leaving any statement out of the scale would not have given higher Alpha to the scale. Scale ‘Connectedness to higher education institution’ received Cronbach’s Alpha 0.84. Item–scale correlations were between 0.23 and 0.70. Leaving out the item ‘I have liked the University of Applied Sciences’ lecturers I have met’ would have given Alpha size of 0.85. The variable was left on the scale because of its importance from the viewpoint of content. The last factor ‘Integration’ received Cronbach’s Alpha 0.81 with item scale variation between 0.49 and 0.80. Leaving the last two items out would have resulted a higher Alpha. The scale was given the name Belongingness in Higher education institutions BES-HE (Table 2)

Table 2. Cronbach's Alphas of the BES–HE scale.
Table 2. Cronbach’s Alphas of the BES–HE scale.

Belongingness in the higher education institute

In the University of Applied Sciences where the study was made the students gave highest scores to Connectedness to student community dimension of belongingness (mean 3.92), scale Integration mean score was 3.82 and Connectedness to higher education institute 3.48. There was no difference between genders in the sense of belongingness but all the dimension of if had mild inverse correlation with age (0.33 to 0.43).


Limitations of the study

The weakest point of the study is the low response rate of the study. Only 57 students answered the questionnaire although there were about 16,000 students in the UAS in question. Although the sample size was small, the respondents represented all the faculties of the UAS. However since the number of respondents was so low, there may be some selection in the sample e.g. students that are most interested in student wellbeing and social issues may have responded. This may have caused some bias to the responses favouring more positive views about the belongingness in the University of Applied Sciences in question.

The data collection was performed as a part of a larger study and comprised only a part of it. The questionnaire as an entity was too long and the marketing of the study could also have been better. However, this was a pilot study and the number of answers received was enough for running validity and reliability tests. Johanson and Brooks (2010) suggest that 30 representative participants from the population of interest is a reasonable minimum recommendation for a pilot study where the purpose is preliminary survey or scale development. The study was performed in just one UAS of Finland, which poses a limitation of geographic generalization. However, being the largest and multidisciplinary UAS in Finland, students all over the country and also from other countries apply for and study in this UAS. Because of the small response rate the results are only indicative need validation with larger and more geographically representative sample. It should also be culturally validated.


The BES–HE items loaded to the three factors quite differently than in the validation study of BES– CPE instrument by Levett-Jones et al. (2009), which was made in the context of clinical placement. To the first factor loaded about equal proportion of items from each three original subscales of BES– CPE plus one of the four new statements. However, although the factor structure looked different compared to the BES–CPE scale, it was quite logical when thinking about the context of BES–HE instrument. In the context of higher education social connectedness to individual students is one dimension of belongingness, and commitment to educational institution another (e.g. Allen et al. 2008). The student may feel connected to the fellow students but not connected or committed to the higher education institution or vice versa. To the third factor were loaded four statements which indicate integration to the student community and to the UAS as a higher education institution. In the lives of UAS students, integration is one of the most important developmental tasks especially during the first year of study but also for the students of all the semesters. Like Hagerty et al. (1992) state, integration or ‘experience of personal involvement in a system or environment’ is one central dimension of belongingness. This is why the last factor was given the name Integration.

All the dimensions of belongingness are important but also some different meaning for the higher education students may be found. If we think about individual students’ mental health and general wellbeing the subscales ‘Connectedness to student community’ and ‘Integration’ are the most important. If students feel respected, accepted and supported by other students and is involved in the student community, communicating freely with fellow students, they are better equipped to withstand many threats of student life such as lack of self-esteem in the face of failures, depression, stress and burdensomeness (Lee 2002; Armstrong et al. 2009; Wong et al. 2011). If the student does not feel connected to the student community, it may lead to adverse behaviour as may be read e.g. in the reports about school massacres (Ministry of Justice, Finland 2009). The subscale ‘Connectedness to HE institution’ which comprised items about cooperation between different degree programmes and staff may have more to do with the education success indicators. If the student feels at home in the higher education institution, gets along with the staff, feels that he is supported enough by the institution, this has a positive impact on the retention and progress of the studies (Tinto 1975; Rosenthal et al. 2007; Allen et al. 2008).


As a result of this pilot study, Belongingness in Higher education institutions scale was formed. It comprises three subscales totalling 35 items. Supported by theories of the topic (e.g. Tinto 1975; Rosenthal et al. 2007; Allen et al. 2008) and on the basis of the results of this study the authors suggest that the subscales ‘Connectedness to student community’ and the subscale ‘Integration’ are associated with student wellbeing. They also suggest that the subscale ‘Connectedness to higher education institution’ is associated with success indicators of higher education institutions.


1st and corresponding author: RT, PhD, Principal Lecturer Eija Metsälä, Coordinator, Learning centre for evidence-based practice, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Health care and nursing

2nd author: RT., MSc., Senior Advisor Eija Heiskanen

3nd author: B. Soc. Sci., Wellbeing Advisor Maarika Kortelainen

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Mobile Augmented Teleguidance-based Safety Navigation Concept for Senior Citizens


Societies in Finland and Japan are aging at an alarming rate [7, 8]. As the structure of the population is shifting towards the elderly, studies have shown that Finland is facing a crisis when the cost of supporting the elderly rises and the amount of caretakers is not sufficient enough for support [2].
The numbers of elderly who live alone grows and the older they get, the more assistance they require [3]. The amount of elderly people, suffering from varying memory impairments, is also going to more than double during the next 30 years [1]. If we can improve the caretaker productivity by just 1% and postpone the decline in cognitive and memory functionality of the elderly by just 5 years, the need for more caretakers plummets from near 25% to about 15% [3]. Thus accumulating vast savings accumulated for the society until the year 2040 [2].

Technological innovations have created a net of wireless information exchange between individuals with ubiquitous solutions, which could also be used to improve the quality of living for elderly. It is important to consider the availability and use of technology in different situations and to create novel solutions that meet the demands of users.

Memory problems are common for elderly and range from simple age-related problems to Alzheimer’s disease. A collaborative study in Nordic countries was made to individuals with dementia and the goal was to find out what kinds of aid devices are used, suitability for the users, and to gather improvement feedback [6]. Conclusion was that introducing aid devices improved management of daily activities, helped maintain skills and made people socially active. A study by Sorri et al. [5] has also suggested that a way finding advising technology has the potential to provide important support for the elderly by similarly motivating and empowering them to perform their daily activities.

Based on the Nordic study basic requirements for future design can be made: combine functionalities, smaller number of devices, tailor interfaces and offer tele-presence assistance. Over 40 different aid-devices were used and the median of use was a year and four months. Looking at different types of aid-devices, e.g. GPS, calendar, portable alarm and a safety camera, some existing solutions e.g. a mobile phone already combine some functions, but doesn’t offer usability designed for dementia. Reducing the number of devices is feasible, but care has to be taken in the design of the devices for the end-users. However, misplacing a device, means losing all the functionalities associated with it. Based on the feedback data, the need to learn use of new devices was constant. The degrading nature of the disease presents new problems and existing devices had to be switched to new ones. In some cases people having same severity level of dementia in similar living environments didn’t always use same devices or used them differently. Devices with tailored information would lessen the need to introduce new devices and would be familiar to the user throughout the process. Implementation of tele-guidance could provide help regardless of place and time.

Sorri et al. [5] way finding prototype was tested with real users in real environment using predefined routes. The orientation advice was given through three modalities, visual, audio and tactile signals, two of which were used at a time. Nine subjects, with a median age of 84 years, participated in the user study. Their severity of dementia ranged between mild and severe, and walking abilities ranged from “frail to hobby skier”. In addition, two elderly persons were recruited as control subjects.

In most cases, the orientation with the way finding aid on predefined routes succeeded, with a few misinterpretations. The severity of dementia didn’t seem to foretell success in orientation with the way finding aid. Finding the right door, straying from the defined route, and the attractions of real- life context like other people were challenged most the test persons. Also the correct timing of the way finding advice was found to be crucial but difficult because of the varying walking speed of the subjects. If the advice appeared too early the subjects could forget them or, alternatively, they complied with the advice literally and as a result in worst cases, turned against the wall. As against using “left”, “right” and “go straight on” commands as the way finding advice seems to be more successful than using landmarks. Confirming subjects were on the correct track turned out to be beneficial for longer legs of the routes [5].


The applicability of the approach was first evaluated in a multidisciplinary research project Value Creation in Smart Living Environment for Senior Citizen ( workshop. This multi- disciplinary research group used living lab approach, where technology was designed and evaluated by and in co-operation with the end-users. Smart living environment technology was designed by taking into account human-computer interaction, communication, product and services as well as human interaction. In this study focus was on testing the designed navigation system prototype with scenario-based video with actors. In the video an actor (represents end-user) tested the navigation system prototype alone and with the help of security personnel and family. Quality of Life improvement was assessed using Quality Function Deployment (QFD) framework.


In this study focus was on presenting a new idea of a smart navigation system for people who have mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, and who often require help in their daily activities. Aim of the whole system design was to make it as simple and illustrative as possible to accommodate the needs of such people. Specifically the aim was to design the system for senior citizens. This was achieved by designing the system based on a script written in the form of a storyboard [4]. The script was first illustrated with four early storyboard designs which were presented and evaluated by the research team. Such approach was chosen to help the research team/audience better identify themselves with the main character of the scenario. According to the feedback the final 30 page storyboard was constructed and it formed the basis for the scenario video. The feedback also helped to make the video more compact and easier to understand. The storyboard was useful for the main character and other people to understand the whole concept of the safety navigation system.

Figure 1. Storyboard was used to develop the usage scenario.
Figure 1. Storyboard was used to develop the usage scenario.

Scenario video

The designed scenario video (1) features Marjatta, a 73-years old widower who lives alone. She is suffering from a mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease. Such characteristics were chosen for the main actor of the video, since they most likely are those observable in our end-user population. In the video we picture a typical shopping trip, representing typical activities of daily living. The trip included planning, walking from home to the shop and back. The journey contained different problems, such as choosing directions, with the possibility of the main character Marjatta being disoriented. A narrator leads the story forward. Different informative signs and guides are presented in the video which are essential for the senior citizen to comprehend the functioning of the smart navigation system but also help the viewers. The main idea of this short video was to demonstrate and describe how the possible future smart navigation system could actually work.

1 The Safety Navigation scenario video is available at:

Figure 2. Concept video was used to describe and collect feedback from the users and stakeholders.
Figure 2. Concept video was used to describe and collect feedback from the users and stakeholders.

Implementation considerations

Safety Navigation Overview

The main purpose of the Safety Navigation system is to help elderly people in their outdoor activities that they would feel safe and secure, and to increase awareness of the situations of the elderly for those who are concerned. The objective of the system is to assist the seniors remotely utilising a variety of behavioural scenarios and modern technologies such as positioning, embedded cameras, multi-channel and multi-media communications, and laser pointers. The entire community of the Safety Navigation system consists of MoTe (Mobile Terminal) users and Aware users. Aware users are in charge or may provide help to the MoTe users.

Main Functionality and User Interfaces

The Mobile Terminal concept is developed on a base of the Android OS smartphones. Such technologies and connected frameworks were enhanced with personalized features such as addresses and safety check points. Safe areas, like the way to a bank, hospital or a store, can be also defined to the user. When the user selects a destination, the application shows the safest route for them. After departure a predefined countdown timer is activated for the user. If the time limit is exceeded, the system will notify Aware users via e.g. SMS or email message, including location, date and time, so they can take appropriate actions in order to help the MoTe user.

Ubiquitous Home Environment

Ubiquitous Home Environment (UHE) is a user-centric set of systems through which users can interact with their living environment and outside world. An essential part of the UHE is a serving engine. Typically the engine achieves interoperability with the UHE infrastructure through a variety of generic and dedicated modules. The engine should expose a number of GUIs to terminal devices.

PBOL at Oulu UAS has built an implementation of the serving engine, the UbiHOMESERVER. For sensing the physical environment, the UbiHOMESERVER interoperates with Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) and IPTV, mobile and web channels serve for human interaction. As a core of the engine, an intelligent module was developed. Knowledge technologies, such as Semantic Web, were considered in design.

The UbiHOMESERVER offers a set of GUIs through which it is possible to interact with the UHE as well as to consume and manage the ICT Home Services. Device recognition and content adaptation technologies were used to reduce end-user GUIs’ dependencies on devices. The end-user GUIs utilise multimodal information presentation, exposing textual, symbolic, colour, sound, voice and visual modalities. The UbiHOMESERVER and GUIs are able to handle environmental changes dynamically. A grid layout was chosen for the UbiHOMESERVER GUI design. Entire interface is implemented as low-hierarchical and intuitive.

Figure 3. Main view of the UbiHOMESERVER GUI.
Figure 3. Main view of the UbiHOMESERVER GUI.

Several systems, for example the Safety Navigation System, were made interoperable with the UbiHOMESERVER and thus became integrated parts of the UHE.

Safety Navigation System Architecture

The backbone of the Safety Navigation System is the UHE. The UbiHOMESERVER is running 24/7 and serve the users of the UHE. For example, family members may share the same living environment of the MoTe users, or be connected to it remotely. Those of them, who are trusted, may also be granted access to the MoTe user’s UHE and thus use a dedicated functionality of the Safety Navigation. Security staff doesn’t not have access to MoTe user’s UHE. Instead, their systems may interoperate with the UbiHOMESERVER through dedicated interfaces.

Figure 4. Architecture of the Safety Navigation system.
Figure 4. Architecture of the Safety Navigation system.

The Mobile Terminal may be implemented in a form of a self-sufficient all-purpose device, or in a form of a distributed/interconnected set of devices. Among those may be a wearable camera, a key ring with laser pointer and a smart phone. Due to a specific target group, the Mobile Terminals must provide end-users with controls and GUIs dedicated to the use by elderly people.

The wearable camera starts to take pictures of the surrounding area when the user is considered lost. Those pictures supplement location technologies and help the Aware users to identify the position of the MoTe user more precisely.

Figure 5. Safety Navigation system for identifying user position.
Figure 5. Safety Navigation system for identifying user position.

Users may launch a live audio/video conversation, and receive guidance from the Aware users at any time. A laser pointer can be used to display a proper direction with an arrow or other symbols on a flat surface when the user is not able to use audio/video communication properly.

The door guard generates an event when the user departures from home. Safety Navigation system keeps track of such state changes by logging them with a time-stamp. The log data may be used for defining safety areas and time frames more precisely, and in the future such knowledge may bring an opportunity to develop a proactive behaviour of the system.


This work has been partly funded by the Academy of Finland and JSPS (Japan) under Smart Living Environment for Senior Citizen research projects (VESC, P-SESC) and by Tekes for Well-being Ecosystem (Ryhti) project.


Petri Pulli, Zeeshan Asghar, Mika Siitonen, Risto Niskala, Eeva Leinonen, Antti Pitkänen, Jaakko Hyry, Dept of Information Processing Science, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland

Jarmo Lehtonen, Scope Associates Oy, Helsinki, Finland

Vadym Kramar and Markku Korhonen, (, Pehr Brahe Center for Industrial and Services ICT (PBOL), Oulu University of Applied Sciences, Finland

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Promoting Entrepreneurship in Social and Health Care Sector – International Joint Development


Working life is changing, also in the social and health care sector. In the future, experts in working life need skills to learn quickly new things as well as the ability to adapt to different working environments. Core competences in special fields of social and health care are needed, but also extensive competencies. (Suomen Fysioterapeutit 2011.) There are differences between the enterprise habits of men and women, fewer women than men run businesses in Sweden. Women have a great potential for running businesses. Sweden needs more entrepreneurs. Innovation and creativity are needed within all sections of society, including within the public sector, associations and education. The entrepreneurial perspective should be given to areas such as the education sector, research and the public sector. The education sector plays an important role in promoting entrepreneurship and improving knowledge of enterprise. (The Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and communications 2007-2013, 2011.)

Finnish Ministry of Education (2007) supports entrepreneurial way of working and entrepreneurship during studies in higher education. Positive attitudes, will and a desire to act are connected to a high level of professional competencies while supporting the entrepreneurial way of working. (The Ministry of Education 2009.) European Qualifications Framework defines the requirements for competences in the end of studies at higher education. For example it is defined that students must be able to solve complex problems, lead complex professional tasks and work independently in expert tasks. Finnish National Quality Frameworks defines also basic prerequisite of entrepreneurship to be part of competencies (Arene 2010).

In Forte project two entrepreneurs, who are running their own companies, in social and health care were interviewed about the recommendations of contents and implementation of entrepreneurship studies during higher education April and May 2011. Learning by doing was experienced to be a suitable way of learning entrepreneurial skills. Learning basic skills to do a business plan and learning about licensing practices were experienced as being an important part of studies. Different company forms and basic skills in business calculations were thought of as being important. Discussions about business plans were experienced as being important to widen students´ own way of thinking. Tendering in social and health care sector should have an important role during studies in higher education from the point of view of entrepreneurs.

Learning entrepreneurship during studies of social and health care sector in higher education

Higher education can offer students a learning environment where they can feel a desire to learn in close connection with working life. Teachers become coaches of learning and the process of learning is owned by the students themselves. Entrepreneurial way of working in student enterprise and in development projects of working life can offer possibilities for this kind of learning. The learner is an active owner of her learning process, and the method of learning in student groups and teams, customer projects, networks and in an entrepreneurial way seems to be an effective model to learn entrepreneurship. (Taatila 2010, Leinonen, Partanen and Palviainen 2004.) The entrepreneurial way of learning requires a change in the traditional teacher centered way of working. Peltonen (2008) did found a positive relationship between the support of team and team members’ efficacy beliefs, during the way to become an entrepreneurial teacher. Luukkainen (2004) presents a conception of future teacher: the teacher has ethical opinions and plays an active role in developing society. Content management, promotion of learning, future orientations, societal orientations, co-operation and continuous self and work development which means continuous learning are the constituents of teachership.

The aims of free and responsibly working students are a starting point. For teacher, the model requires an ability to take risks and indulge in the learning process together with students. (Peltonen 2008.) Dialogue is the process of thinking together. The possibilities of dialogue should be used in learning process. (Isaacs 2001.) Anttila (2003) says that dialogue is the way, maybe the only one, to educate so that the good of the learner can purely be promoted. Without dialogue it is impossible to know what is good for the learner, so the direction of education and teaching must be solved through dialogue.

Among women who are studying in higher education, entrepreneurship is not believed to be as attractive an option as to men. Two out of three men think that they can manage as an entrepreneur, compared to one third of women. (OPM 2009.)

In social and health care sector, entrepreneurs highlight more of their professional identity than their entrepreneurial identity (Österberg-Högstedt 2009, 24).

Faculty of Social and Health Care is participating 4-year long research project that measures the dynamics of entrepreneurial orientation within student population in several universities. Laurea University of Applied Sciences will do the research, but we have opportunity to explore our students´ answers. The questionnaire studies both direct entrepreneurial orientation and general ethical competence of the students and students who started this autumn answered the questionnaire. Lahti joined the project this autumn 2011 and here we will present some early observations from answers. In the end of Year 2014 we will find out has there been any changes in students´ entrepreneurial orientation during professional education. (Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Students´ entrepreneurial desire in the beginning of their studies.
Figure 1. Students´ entrepreneurial desire in the beginning of their studies.


Promoting entrepreneurship in the social and health care sector

The structures of social and health care are changing. Clients want to have services suited for their individual and special needs. There is more supply of private sector and clients can choose what services to use. The transmission from a public health care to a mix of public and private provides a wide range of new business opportunities, especially for women’s entrepreneurship. It is also important to promote entrepreneurial skills in working life.
International co-operation in Forte- Promoting women’s entrepreneurship in social and health care sector- project seeks to promote positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship and develop new models for entrepreneurial teaching in social and health care sector. Joint development offers possibilities to share good practices internationally. The partners in project are the County Administrative board of Östgötaland, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Linköping University, Innovation office of Linköping University and Vårdförbundet.

Studies of entrepreneurship have been developed since 2004 in social and health of Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Teachers created the path for students to learn about entrepreneurship, during their studies of social and health care. All of the teachers in social and health care took part in education days about entrepreneurship, eight teachers in larger 8 ECTS education. The group of teachers have later been educated more about entrepreneurship training. The results of the teacher questionnaire made in Forte- project described that the experiences of teachers who had been coaching students learning entrepreneurship were positive. This way, they had more time to meet individual students and their needs. The teachers described enthusiastic feelings while training their own student group. They also noticed that students must have a concrete platform and knowledge of how entrepreneurship studies are part of professional studies and how they build knowledge and competencies of the student. The faculty of social and health care in Lahti University of Applied Sciences has arranged inspirational entrepreneurship days for students in the past four years and the aim has been to promote positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship among all students of social and health care.

Promoting entrepreneurship in social and health care – Examples from Lahti University of Applied Sciences and Linköping University

The aims of development during Forte project.

Joint development and modeling of entrepreneurship training models and entrepreneurial learning environments
Joint development and piloting of entrepreneurship e-learning course solution for social and health care students is piloted and developed during project

Joint development and piloting models for awareness raising and more positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship

Innovative planning of services in social and health care

The students of social and health care can create innovative solutions for the challenges they meet during their studies and practical placements. Topical examples have been seen during compulsory 4 ECTS entrepreneurship studies in Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Studies are a special solution for students of social and health care sector. The most important aim in studies is to raise interest and positive attitude towards entrepreneurship. The basic understanding of entrepreneurship and business is also important. In future some of students can establish their own company, but entrepreneurial way of working is also needed when you work for someone else. Students did give feedback about the course in Spring 2011. Many students got interested or excited about the possibilities of entrepreneurship in the social and health care sector. They learned basic things what is required to be able to establish a company in social and health care sector. Some of them thought that it would be complicated. The experience of the course was that learning was implemented in an entrepreneurial way, which was mentioned to be important and useful.

Students as entrepreneurs in Lahti University of Applied Sciences

The group of students has established a student coop in the faculty of social and health at February 2011. It is the company owned by students and it offers the services of wellbeing. They can do customer projects in an entrepreneurial way and put their knowledge into practice during their studies. They have teacher coaches with whom they regularly discuss their projects and aims. Students negotiate contracts, plan the products, put them into the practice and do assessment together with clients, other students and coaches. The model of the role of the teacher as a coach of entrepreneurship is created and developed in Forte-project in close connection to students, teachers and networks, including Swedish partners working with the same subject.

Teacher coaches of students who work in the coop of students were interviewed at November 2011. The first experiences from the coaches of students is that the coach shouldn’t be too active in coaching. The students are active and responsible of their projects, they are also the owners of the projects. This kind of working is supporting the inner motivation of students. Pink defines motivation of learning so that the learner has a feel of mastery, purpose and autonomy about the things that she is learning (Pink 2011). Delivering different roles to students in projects was experienced to be positive solution, the responsibility of students was higher. Teacher coaches also described the coaching process to be empowering for themselves. The things to develop teacher coaches mentioned the regular weekly meetings with coop of students and the limited resources to work with clients. Students do have professional studies and practical placements parallel to working in coop, so the group of students don’t have possibility to meet coaches every week or take different clients. The structures of learning environment are not supporting working in student coop, the solutions are under development.

Implementing entrepreneurship in the Occupational Therapy Programme Linköping University, Sweden.

During the fifth semester a collaboration between occupational therapy (OT) students from Faculty of Health Sciences and engineering students at the Institute of Technology (both at Linköping University) takes place. The educational philosophy in the Faculty of Health Sciences is Problem Based Learning (PBL).The main idea behind PBL is the focus on learning and on the learner (Silén, 2004). The learning is based on real-situations, situations that students may face and have to deal with in their future profession. The supervisors’ role is to encourage, challenge and support students’ learning. The purpose with the collaboration is to design a product that can be used by people who experience different problems in activities of daily living. Throughout their work the students have to consider the aspect of Universal design (Design for all) focusing on the usability of the environment or products by all people, to the greatest degree possible, without adaptation (Christophersen, 2002).The students form small groups to work with a specific design project. The supervisors’ provide examples of everyday problems that persons, with or without disability, in different ages experience and encourage the students to go out and meet these persons. Persons with disabilities who don’t have the ability to use certain services, products and environments can feel excluded from the society (Letts, Rigby & Stewart, 2003).

By interviews and observations the students get the consumers point of view concerning the problem. In that way they analyze the problems closer to the reality based on the user´s perspective. Some topics of investigation can be: mobility in the society, safety in the home, shopping and leisure. The OT students have the role of a consultant on human factors in relation to environmental problems within the chosen problem area. They also give suggestions to practical solutions to the problem. During this process the OT students endeavor the role of an entrepreneur and are supported through literature within the field of entrepreneurship. Students are offered an opportunity to meet the University’s´ Innovation Office to receive information about how to prepare business plans. The main responsibility for the engineer students’ is to lead the project and to design a product concept in the technical sense. Good communication in the group and respect for each other is of utmost importance for a smooth development of the product concept. The role of the supervisor is to encourage and question the process of product development, in line of the PBL concept. A final oral report of the project is done at the end of the semester where the OT students contribute with both the OT and entrepreneurial perspective on the product concept developed.

To support the OT students learning about the entrepreneurial perspective a specific seminar “Design, consumer participation and entrepreneurship” takes place. In preparation for this seminar the students are provided with a work material about entrepreneurship and OT to enable the thinking about the design projects in an entrepreneurial way. For example the students make an analysis of strengths and weaknesses about the product and the role of the OT, competitors they have in that arena and how they can market the product in an appropriate way (Pattison, 2011). Based on the article ”OT – Outstanding talent: An Entrepreneurial Approach to Practice” (Pattison, 2006) they will also reflect on how working with design and entrepreneurship could affect the OT profession and the ability to act in a changing society. Both design and entrepreneurship are still new areas for occupational therapists to work with making this reflection important for the student learning. For instance Pattison (2006) argue that even small changes in a product can be as important as an world changing idea.

Students’ evaluations regarding the entrepreneurial part of the project reveal increased insight about the great value of the occupational therapy profession in other contexts and the close relationship between the methods, strategies and concepts used within the profession and the entrepreneurial approach to practice. Further, the students emphasize the importance of the interprofessional integration and the possibility to create solutions close to the consumer and in relation to real life situations. However, the students find the mutual collaboration sometimes difficult because of the different professional backgrounds. According to Letts, Rigby & Stewart, (2003) OT have the possibility to be an important team member when it comes to Design for all contributing with the knowledge about human functioning, disability, interaction between the person and environment and assistive technologies. It is suggested that OT have to engage in partnerships with professions like architects, constructors and designers for the possibility to develop mutual expertise. In summary, primary results of the entrepreneurial part of the project show that the students feel more prepared for a new and creative way of thinking within the profession, importance for evolving the profession for the future.


The entrepreneurial way of learning offers students a great possibility to personal and professional growth. Students learn to cope with the constant changes in the world as well as in working life. Students have fresh ideas and it is important to offer them real possibilities to develop their ideas in further and put them into the practice. Students can create even more innovative solutions if they network with other students from different professional fields. The models of learning in entrepreneurial way and in student enterprise are developed and also sharing good practices with partners. Topical discussions are how to make the whole learning environment able to support entrepreneurial way of learning and how to include it into the faculty structures.


Annamaija Id-Korhonen, Senior Lecturer, Project Coordinator, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Social and Health Care

Jane Holstein, Lecturer, Forte project member, jane.holstein(at) Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences, Occupational Therapy Programme

Eija Viitala, Lecturer, Project Coordinator, eija.viitala(at) Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Social and Health Care

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Isaacs, W. 2001. Dialogi ja yhdessä ajattelemisen taito: uraa uurtava lähestyminen liike-elämän viestintään. Kauppakaari, Helsinki.

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Letts L, Rigby P. & Stewart D. (Eds) (2003) Using Environments to Enable Occupational Performance. Thorofare NJ: SLACK Incorporated

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Pattinson, M. 2011. An Entrepreneurial Approach to Practice – Sweden. (unpublished material) MPOT Pty. Ltd Lyndoch.

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Internationalisation in companies in North Karelia

1 Introduction

At the moment, internationalisation plays an important role mainly in large companies and work places in North Karelia. The number of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) operating at a global level is still rather small. Exporting is restricted to relatively few companies in North Karelia: about 20 companies are responsible for 80 % of exports. The share of SMEs in exporting was only 11‐ 16 % of the total export figures for 2008‐2009. (See Pohjois‐Karjalan elinkeino, liikenne‐ ja ympäristökeskus 2010.) In order to rise to the challenge of international business, companies need competitive products and/or services, international demand for their products and/or services, personnel with international competence and motivation, as well as sufficient investment in international business.

2 Background information for the survey

The survey on the current state of internationalisation in companies in North Karelia was carried out in collaboration with North Karelia University of Applied Sciences and North Karelia Chamber of Commerce. The aim was also to prepare background material for the Development Plan for Internationalisation at NKUAS. The Planning Specialist, Anneli Airola, from NKUAS was responsible for the survey at NKUAS. She worked in close cooperation with the Manager Director, Tiina Tolvanen, from North Karelia Chamber of Commerce.

2.1 Research objectives

The main objectives of the survey centred on three areas: 1) to identify competence requirements in international business, 2) to explore the companies’ future aims related to international business and 3) to examine the cooperation between companies and educational institutions in North Karelia.

2.2 Method

The online questionnaire related to the objectives of the survey was sent out by email to member companies of North Karelia Chamber of Commerce in February 2010. Replies were received from 309 companies. The data from the 309 questionnaires were coded for statistical analysis to answer the research questions. The SPSS was used for statistical analysis. In addition to this, twelve company interviews were carried out and the interviews were transcribed for the purpose of analysis. A press release was drawn up and circulated to local newspapers at a press conference in June 2010. The results of the company survey, as well as the results of the surveys carried out among the staff and students of North Karelia University of Applied Sciences, were reported in the publication Kansainvälistyvä Pohjois‐Karjala (Airola 2011). The quotations used in this article are direct quotations from the company interviews.

2.3 Background information on the companies

309 companies completed the questionnaire. With regard to the size of the companies: half of the companies (51 %) were small companies employing a maximum of four staff, 44 % of the companies employed 5 – 249 staff, and the remainder (5 %) represented larger companies employing over 250 personnel. The companies represented the following areas of business: 32 % industry, 19 % retail trade, 8 % tourism, 3 % accommodation, 3 % ICT and 43 % other areas of business.

Almost half of the companies (44 %, N=135) informed us that they were in some way engaged in international activities. The term `international activities´ refers, in many cases, to exporting; however, importing, producing services for foreigners, foreign investments, student exchange, recruiting foreign employees and trainee exchange can also be regarded as examples of international activities. In this study, 70 % of the companies representing the areas of tourism and accommodation had foreign customers, over half of the industrial companies (55 %) undertook export activities and 40 % of the companies in the retail trade were engaged in international activities.

The main market for all the companies was Finland. 19 % of the companies also did business in the Nordic countries, 23 % in other European countries and 15 % in Asia or North and South America. The biggest single foreign market was Russia (13 %), followed by Sweden (12 %) and then by Germany (10 %).

3 Business Competence

“We need competence, organisational skills and a clear strategy.”

When trying to become global players, companies need above all to have a competitive product or service and international demand for their products or services; however, companies also need to have a desire for expansion into international markets as well as the ability to expand. The competence of personnel in international activities is crucial. Investing in international business is a natural and essential alternative or even a prerequisite for growth, if domestic markets are not sufficient for a company. Sometimes a pure chance, such as an encounter at a trade fair, could start a company off in international business. The web pages of companies offer opportunities for potential contacts. A more secure way to internationalise is, of course, thorough preparation based on analysis of foreign markets and reflection on the company’s strengths and weaknesses towards opportunities offered by possible target markets. (See e.g. Pirnes & Kukkola 2002.) There are many challenges involved in embarking upon international business, e.g. choosing business partners, the new operational environment and sufficient communication skills. The international competence of personnel has a strong effect on success in international markets.

The area of international business competence in companies in North Karelia was focused on with two research questions relating to: 1) the current international business competence of staff and 2) recruitment requirements for international roles.

3.1 Shortages in international competence

“Versatile language skills are an important and special challenge for a company.”

In relation to international business competence, the sufficiency of staff resources, expertise about customers’ requirements and concrete skills in international business activities were studied in this survey. The term `concrete skills in international business activities´ refers to skills in legal matters, logistics, insurances and delivery terms, finance, language and cultural knowledge, and competitive pricing.

Figure 1. Shortages in international business competence (%)
Figure 1. Shortages in international business competence (%)

The greatest shortages were found in legal matters, logistics, insurances, delivery terms and international finance (36 – 39 %). About one third of the companies felt that they had shortages in language skills and cultural knowledge. According to about one third of the companies (N=101), staff resources were not sufficient to take part in international business. (See Figure 1.) In the company interviews, it was pointed out that staff resources were often a real challenge for local companies. In smaller companies, as well as in companies that have recently started their international business, it was usually the managing director who was responsible for international business. He/she was usually the founder and the main owner of the company. If the managing director had some international expertise, he/she was usually involved in so many other company issues that he/she was not able to dedicate himself/herself fully to international business. On the other hand, limited resources meant that it was not always possible or desirable to hire new employees.

The least shortages were found in the items ‘expertise about customers’ requirements’ and ‘competitive pricing’. Only 16 % of the companies felt that they had problems with competitive pricing. Usually in surveys investigating international competence, the competitive pricing is a problem, because in foreign trade it is impossible to price products/services at the same principles as in domestic trade (Larjovuori, Laiho & Talonen 2004.)

When the areas of business were compared, industrial companies were found to have the most shortages in international competence (37 %), whereas in other areas about one quarter of the companies felt that they had shortages in international competence. The kinds of shortages in international competence were found to be about the same in all the areas.

3.2 Recruitment requirements for international roles

“Finding skillful employees is a challenge.”

In the following question, the respondents were asked to consider the kind of requirements needed for a person who was being recruited for international roles. Skills related to oral communication were considered to be the most important: language and communication skills (71 %), good negotiation and cooperation skills (49 %) and good salesmanship (30 %) (see also Jussila, Mäkinen, Mäkirinne & Tompere 1997). (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Recruitment requirements for international tasks (%)
Figure 2. Recruitment requirements for international tasks (%)

The results show that personal communication was considered to be very valuable in international business. In addition, familiarity with trade practices and practical processes was valued, together with the ability to acquire information. In this area, the replies were similar regardless of the field or the size of the company. In many interviews, it was pointed out that there could be problems in recruitment, particularly if the company was situated outside Joensuu. On the other hand, if the company was known as a good brand the location of the company had no relevance at all.

Language, culture and communication are challenges in international business. Language competence is considered to be extremely important in international business and particularly important in building successful relationships. If there is no common language between business partners, companies could fail to understand the true meaning of business. As a result of the liberation of world markets, requirements related to language competence have diversified. Employees who are competent at several languages are needed. According to the staff and educational survey carried out by the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) in 2009, English, Swedish and Russian are the most important languages needed for working life in Finland. The position of English will remain strong and will be even more important in the future. As the significance of Asia and Southern America is set to increase in international trade, more speakers of Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish will be needed in the future. (Elinkeinoelämän keskusliitto 2010.)

This survey also found English to be the most important requirement in recruitment. However, finding a person with versatile language competence, e.g. also with a knowledge of German, French, Russian or Spanish, is extremely difficult in North Karelia. Despite the fact that North Karelia is a neighbour to Russia, not very many people have a good command of the Russian language.

In addition to language skills, cultural competence is required in international business communication. Sometimes, the role of culture is over‐emphasised: in Europe, business people can get along very well if they are true to themselves and take other people into consideration in an appropriate way. However, the world is rich in habits and culture: for example, in the case of Asia it is good to have cultural knowledge, since habits and values differ from those of ours. One of the companies interviewed had organised a course on Chinese culture for its staff, because China was a new business partner for the company. It is also worth pointing out that personal experiences are important in learning culture.

4 Aims for internationalisation in the future

“Internationality is a lifeline for our company.”

Aims related to internationalisation in the future were examined by asking companies about: a) international business as a target for development, b) expansion by international business and c) the company’s position on the world‐wide markets.

The results show that almost half of the companies were willing to face the challenge of global markets and wanted to invest in internationalisation. 41 % of the companies felt that internationalisation was an important target for development during the next three years; similarly, almost half of the respondents felt that internationalisation was a way to expand the company’s growth (43 %); and as many as 51 % of the companies intended to become among the best companies in the world.

More than half of the companies in the areas of industry, tourism, accommodation and ICT felt that internationalisation was an important development target and was a way for them to expand. Correspondingly, more than half of these companies wanted to be among the best companies in the world. In the field of retail trade, companies were not so optimistic: only about 25 % of the companies here felt that internationalisation was an important target for development and a way to expand. On the other hand, however, 40 % of the companies in retail business still wanted to be among the best companies in the world.

The companies were asked whether they intended to expand their market areas. 29 % of the companies (N=85) gave a positive answer. The compani s in industry had the greatest expansion plans (49 %), whereas the companies in the retail business had the least expansion plans. Expansion plans were directed mainly towards Europe, but Asia was also clearly an area of interest. As for individual countries, Russia was of the most interest, followed by Sweden, Germany, the Nordic countries, Germany, China and Japan. Related to their plans for expansion, the companies were asked whether they had plans to develop new products or services to meet the needs of foreign customers. The results show that 37 % of the companies intended to develop new products or services.

One significant characteristic in the globalisation of North Karelia is its location as Russia’s neighbour. The close vicinity of growing Russian markets gives Finland a competitive edge. This kind of advantage is not, however, be taken for granted. Instead, a lot of determined work is required. In order to succeed in business with Russia, companies need to have knowledge about Russian business, culture and legislation as well as business manners (see Korhonen, Sivonen, Kosonen & Saukkonen 2008). Over 40 % (N=129) of the companies felt that their knowledge about Russian business was not sufficient. Expectations towards doing business with Russia in North Karelia are huge. The interviews revealed, however, that markets in Russia are not easy and surprises can always be anticipated. For example, Russian legislation and language barriers make business rather complicated. Also on a national level, companies felt that the missing common language was an obstacle in developing business between Finland and Russia (see e.g. Elinkeinoelämän keskusliitto 2010).

Not all of the companies interviewed were interested in Russian business: some did not need Russian cooperation, as they did not have suitable products or just did not want to work in Russian markets. Some companies pointed out that North Karelia was perhaps rather too Russia‐oriented
and that Russia was emphasised too much in public spe ches. Some companies stated that they did not want to take a risk concerning Russian business, but instead chose less risky markets. Also, shortages in knowledge about Russia could present a clear obstacle.

5 Cooperation between companies and educational institutions

“Important activities”

Only 8 % of the respondents had cooperated with educational institutions in relation to international activities. Most cooperation had taken place with North Karelia University of Applied Sciences in the following fields: students’ theses, international trainees and staff training. Cooperation related to students’ theses had been carried out with larger companies. According to the respondents, there might be more opportunities for cooperation in the field of theses, but it would require more activity from companies as well as information and activity from North Karelia University of Applied Sciences. Some companies had also cooperated with the University of Eastern Finland, North Karelia College, the North Karelia Adult Education Centre, Joensuu normaalikoulu and Niinivaara comprehensive school.

As a result of English degree programmes and exchange activities in the University of Eastern Finland and North Karelia University of Applied Sciences, companies had been given the opportunity to hire an international trainee. North Karelia University of Applied Sciences arranged work placements for 270 foreign trainees from 1993 onwards. Trainees came from different countries, mainly Belgium, Germany, France and Poland. (Kohonen 2010.) In this survey, 41 companies had taken trainees from EU‐countries, Russia, China, Turkey, Korea, Japan, Israel and the Ukraine. Industry and the retail trade had been the most active in hiring international trainees. Approximately the same number of companies was also interested in hiring a trainee in the future.

6 Conclusion

The aim of the survey was to study internationalisation in companies in the region of North Karelia. 309 companies were involved in the study. The survey provided good and extensive information on internationalisation in North Karelia: international business competence, aims related to internationalisation in the future and the cooperation between companies and educational institutions.

International business means new challenges for a company as well as new risks. The results obtained in this survey are similar to those in previous research (e.g. Larjovuori, Laiho & Talonen 2004): SMEs lack many of competences needed in international business. Internationalisation, however, is for many SMEs a necessity rather than a choice. International business offers new dimensions but, on the other hand, more competence is required from staff than that required in domestic trade. The results of the survey show that there were shortages in international business competence. When recruiting personnel for international roles, communication skills, language and communication skills, negotiation and cooperation skills as well as salesmanship, turned out to be the most important requirements. English was the most important language, but people with a command of other languages would also be needed.

The companies had significant aims for the future: almost half of the companies stated that internationalisation was an important development target during the next three years and believed that internationalisation was a way to expand the company’s activities. More than half of the companies questioned intended to be among the best companies in the world in the future. However, only 30 % of the companies were planning to expand their marketing area, only 16 % had an internationalisation strategy and only 37 % intended to develop new products or services. Thus, it seems that aims related to internationalisation would remain abstract aims and not turn into concrete actions. Developing new, competitive products or services is very important, because they have a key position in the growth of the national economy and thus, in employment. On a national level, Finnish companies, particularly early‐stage and established entrepreneurs, also do not have high growth expectations (Global entrepreneurship monitor 2010).

Promoting internationalisation is of vital importance for North Karelia’s future. Promoting internationalisation is one of the major topics in different regional strategies. For example, according to the strategy of North Karelia 2030, international level competitive business life and reinforcement of expertise and employment are among the main foci (Regional Council of North Karelia). International business offers new dimensions but, on the other hand, more competence is required from staff compared to that required for domestic trade. As North Karelia is a rather small region (about 166 000 inhabitants), close cooperation between the business sector and educational institutions is needed to increase the international competence of staff. At the same time, the global competence of students is being developed, thus ensuring a qualified labour force for regional needs.

Based on the results of the survey, the following actions are recommended: 1) Training and education, e.g. professional education, short courses and seminars for companies to increase the level of business competence. It would be important for local educational institutions and regional development companies to discuss how each of them could promote the internationalisation of the region and furthermore, to agree on the distribution of training and education. Modern technology should to be utilised effectively in training. 2) To develop the availability of international trainees for companies. The cooperation of companies with international trainees has been shown to be valuable. Therefore, it is desirable that this kind of cooperation continues. 3) A language skills survey in companies to find out the current and future language needs of companies. The previous language skills surveys in North Karelia date back to the early 2000’s (Airola 2004 and Airola & Piironen 2005), therefore, a new survey is required. This kind of survey would help both companies when planning their staff’s language training as well as educational institutions when they are developing language studies.


Anneli Airola, PhD, Planning Specialist, anneli.airola(at), North Karelia University of Applied Sciences (NKUAS)

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