Image: Alvar Aalto, the old Arabia factory that houses the University of Industrial Arts, Helsinki and the current Rector Yrjö Sotamaa, TaiK
In a pathbreaking move the Ministry of Education in Finland has decided to merge three existing Universities under a common banner of The Innovation University that is now renamed as the Aalto University after the great Finnish architect and Furniture designer, Alvar Aaalto.
The legislation and the system of funding the three Universities are being reworked and it is planned to launch the new University by August 2009. I met the Rector of the University of Art and Design Helsinki (TAIK) at the just concluded Helsinki Design Lab that brought together 80 design thinkers and professionals from around the world to explore the emerging boundaries of innovation in a very interesting workshop format.
The three Universities that are to be merged are as follows:
University of Art and Design Helsinki (TAIK)
Helsinki University of Technology (TKK)
Helsinki School of Economics (HSE)
The initiatives are backed by both the Government of Finland as well as the local industry that has found it useful to support education and research since they have been looking for global leadership rather than just following the lead of other players in their field.
Image: Classic products by Alvar Aalto, a Tea Table in bent laminated wood and a glass vase
Design is to play a central role and from being focused on Art and individual expression the move is to bring in collaborative creativity and innovation by locating the emphasis on the bringing together of design , technology and business within education at the University level.
While there are many skeptics to this move it was perhaps the most open and transparent process possible with over 8000-contributions and arguments made on a year long exchange platform that offered access to all stakeholders along with a multi-stakeholder process of committees and task groups. The participants were drawn from all three Universities and included Administrators, Teachers and Students.
Image: Prof M P Ranjan at Hotel Katajanokka which is an old jailhouse that has been repurposed for use as a hotel
I do think that we need to re-examine our University structure and objectives in the light of these experiments taking place in Finland and with NID being considered for a Deemed to be University status can we think forward and see how the technology and business areas can be brought to focus on innovation in the days ahead. We are all in our own mental jails till we get liberated by an imaginative thought that can change our belief. I came here to participate in the Helsinki Design Lab and found that the organisers were thinking far ahead with the Innovation University and new education paradigms.