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University of Oulu

OULU, FINLAND

One of the northernmost universities in Europe, the University of Oulu is home to 13,000 students and many specialized research units.

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The university

  • The University of Oulu was founded in 1958 in support of the comprehensive development of Northern Finland, a vast area lagging behind the rest of the country in education and industrial development
  • Students and staff of the University of Oulu represent more than 90 nationalities, making it a super-diverse hub of young talent from all over the world.
  • Working in close alliance with societal stakeholders, including the city, towards solving some of the greatest global challenges, including climate change, digitalization and lifelong health.

The city

  • The modern industry in Oulu and its region developed during the first half of the 20th century when pulp mills, chemical and steel industries were founded
  • Nokia Group opened its first divisions in Oulu in 1973 and turned the city to a major stronghold of Nokia’s research and manufacturing. The collapse of Nokia’s cell phone business in the 2010’s had a big negative impact on city of Oulu and its inhabitants.
  • Currently the tech employment is higher than ever mainly thanks to a growing number of start-ups that have taken root in Oulu.
  • Oulu differs from other Finnish towns with its young age structure. Migration brings students and young workers into the town and traditionally the birth rate in the area has been high. Today Oulu is the fifth largest city in Finland. It has also been for several years one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
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University of Oulu and UNIC

The University of Oulu regards the UNIC cooperation to be a great European learning opportunity in setting student-centered learning and an excellent student experience in focus, as well as to develop operating models that facilitate openness and interaction encouraging students and personnel to invent, test and discover new things. We see a great potential in the UNIC’s goal to enhance the challenge based learning approach, as based on the impact by design and in the form of UNIC CityLabs, in order to integrate a university-wide ambition of societal impact in our teaching, research and administration. The University of Oulu is aiming to internationalise the student experience and to encourage our students to virtual or physical mobility. The UNIC Inter-University Campus and the differentiated mobility approaches envisaged in the UNIC cooperation will help us in this strategic development. We believe strongly that the UNIC superdiversity academy and superdiverse classroom, will help us to increase inclusiveness in our university. We see great benefit in the systemic integration of the European Education Area perspective in UNIC, helping us together with the other consortium members to grow even bigger as forerunners among European universities with a societal impact.

The University of Oulu decided to join this alliance as the vision and planned actions of the UNIC Alliance match extremely well with the University of Oulu’s vision and strategy (latest update 20.11.2019, University of Oulu Board). The special strength of the University of Oulu’s is bringing science and different actors of society closer together. We want our research results and expertise to be in active use and to have impact. Our university’s global impact is based on scientific breakthroughs, new technology and world-class innovations. We are pioneers in creating and understanding our digital future. Our 60,000 alumni are participating in society as well-educated citizens and employees in our region, in Finland and around the world. Being part of the UNIC consortium and executing planned actions will help us to learn from other similar minded European universities and catalyse implementation of the University of Oulu strategic development programs, as well as to make sustainable impact on the society around us. Oulu’s special strength within UNIC is bringing science and the different actors of society closer together to have research results and expertise to be in active use. Oulu is also a pioneer university in creating and understanding the digital future which has a clear added value for the future of the UNIC Alliance.

The strategic added value of UNIC for the University of Oulu is very important. We are fully committed to UNIC and believe it to be a great European learning opportunity in setting student-centred learning and an excellent student experience in focus, as well as to develop operating models that facilitate openness and interaction encouraging students and personnel to invent, test and discover new things. We see a great potential in the UNIC’s goal to enhance the challenge based learning approach, as based on the impact by design and in the form of UNIC CityLabs, in order to integrate a university-wide ambition of societal impact in our teaching, research and administration.

We are also aiming to internationalize the student experience and encourage our student to virtual, blended or physical mobility, and the UNIC Inter-University Campus and the differentiated mobility approach will help us in this strategic development. We will also get added value of it when we are developing our online studies and digital learning environments as well as developing the personnel’s digital pedagogy skills. Furthermore, we believe that the UNIC University Campus will help us in developing and expanding competitive study options in order to attract talented students from Finland and abroad.

We see international students and university staff as an integral part of our university community. The number of adult students is growing because of the needs arising from the changing post-industrial working life setting continuous and Open University education firmly on our agenda, much more so than in the past. Smart ways of dealing with increasing diversity is one of the urgent issues that the university and its surrounding society needs to tackle. We believe strongly that we will get added value of the UNIC Superdiversity Academy and Superdiverse Classroom, in order to increase inclusiveness in our university, our city and its surroundings.

The University of Oulu is also committed to participate actively in national and international research and innovation programs and in building innovation networks.  We are striving to exhibit goal-oriented work in international pioneering networks and being an active influencer in the EU as part of our modus operandi. Therefore, we see great benefit in the systemic integration of the European Education Area perspective in UNIC, helping us together with the other consortium members to grow even bigger as forerunners among European universities with societal impact

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Aims and Activities

The following key aims and activities of the University of Oulu are directly relevant to the further development of UNIC:

  • We are a founding member of the Oulu Innovation Alliance (since 2009). OIA is made up by the University of Oulu, the City of Oulu, the Oulu University of Applied Sciences, the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT), the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District, the Oulu Region Joint Authority for Education, Natural Resources Institute Finland, and Technopolis Oyj. OIA seeks to strengthen Oulu as an international urban area, which is a top spot for business growth and new openings. The knowledge and experience gathered in this regional/national ecosystem will be used to strengthen the further local, regional, national and EU development of the UNIC Alliance and its partners.
  • A recent organizational reform for supporting the Oulu innovation ecosystem is the establishment of University Innovation Centre, which is based on the acknowledgement of collaboration between companies and universities being a critical driver of the innovation economy, and builds on success and experiences from the past and existing collaboration networks and partnerships. This innovation ecosystem will be used as a good practice to further develop the UNIC University under WP2. The University Innovation Centre closely links the offering and competences of Oulu University with the Oulu University of Applied Sciences, making it easy for local ecosystem actors to access those. It makes impact by (1) turning research to business, which includes patenting and other IP activities as well as student and staff entrepreneurship, and (2) connecting business to research by offering research-based knowledge in its many forms for other local ecosystem actors as well as national and global actors. This expertise from Oulu will be used in WP4 CityLabs.
  • The modus of co-operation and societal impact shows in our curricula where the preparedness to deal with the changing working life and increasing interaction between education and working life plays a big role. This includes increasing options for continuous studies for adult learners. The culture of curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit of students and researchers is strengthened by offering courses in entrepreneurship as optional studies, by organizing innovation challenge events and by supporting the rise of new businesses. Within UNIC we aim to develop operating models that facilitate openness and interaction and to encourage students and personnel to invent, test and discover new things.
  • Tellus will be an important aspect for the impact and sustainability of the UNIC Alliance. Tellus is a concept that combines a physical space and co-creation together. The University has taken an active approach in a creating a “platform” and an “atmosphere” for entrepreneurial and innovative initiatives to be catalysed and nurtured. Tellus is a physical space in both of the campuses that offers meeting rooms, stages for events and workshops, café areas, exhibitions spaces, spaces for quiet and group studies. During the past three years, Tellus has become a vivid hub with 20-30 000 thousand monthly visits per site, which creates possibilities for marketing and integrating strategic themes into the physical environment and pool activities for a wide audience. Within UNIC, Tellus will be used on a European level.
  • Oulu has a strong position in flagship funding “disrupting for the digital future” and is a leading university in the development of 6G internet and 7G internet. The knowledge and expertise of Oulu in regional innovation system building has a clear added value for the university-city cooperation within UNIC.
  • As Oulu is a pioneer in creating and understanding our digital future, our goal is to be the pioneer within UNIC in the digital breakthroughs of work and education, utilizing online and blended learning methods and other flexible learning opportunities. Our digital learning environments and the diverse spaces on campus (like the new hypermodern learning spaces that will be taken into use in 2020) will support actively the UNIC learning, student-centred approaches and working together.
  • In Oulu, the city of Oulu will open a collaboration hub called Business Asema which will not only provide a home-base for the CityLabs in Oulu, but also provides with FabLab facilities and a platform for associate partners, students and academics to collaborate.