(Writen by Vice Rector of Helsinki University of Technology originally for TKK news)
As the summer draws to a close, and we get ready to launch into the new academic year, the words of an unknown thinker written a long ago on a wall in Kruunuhaka come to mind: ‘Why the rush?’ I certainly do not have an answer to that one, but the question itself is very thought-provoking. Despite the rush, hopefully all of you will have a nice and peaceful autumn.
Early in the summer, the National Union of University Students in Finland published its most recent report on the Finnish universities as seen through the eyes of the students (In Finnish, ‘Opiskelijan yliopisto 2008’, available in Finnish at www.syl.fi, under asiakirjat – julkaisut). In the very near future, we will go through the report together with the faculties and students as usual.
The report ranked TKK rather low: we were awarded an average grade for many areas and rated above average in others. The poorest areas included, for instance, guiding international students and collecting of feedback from them, recognising previous studies, evaluating study attainments and our dedication to teaching. Granted, all universities have some – and often similar – aspects that need improvement, but I would still rather see TKK ranked high by students, too.
On a related note, I attended the annual SEFI (European Society for Engineering Education) conference in Aalborg, Denmark this summer. The themes addressed by the guest keynote speakers and discussed in the parallel sessions and workshops can by summarised as follows: it is worth doing research on engineering education in order to find out how we can best reach learning objectives, broaden the students’ expertise and give them the skills and knowledge they need as professionals.
In the sessions, we discussed problem- and project-based teaching as well as the organisation of multidisciplinary cooperation. Those interested in the development of teaching would probably like to read the conference programme at www.sefi.be and also to know that the following conference will take place in Rotterdam on 1 to 4 July 2009.
For a variety of reasons, the poor coping of new students has raised concerns at TKK. For instance, they have earned credits at a much slower pace than we had hoped. Furthermore, when problems accumulate, the general wellbeing of the students is suddenly at risk.
To ease the situation, the Rector and the TKK committee on academic affairs have allocated additional resources for projects focused on problems arising during the first years of studies. So far, changes have been made to the teaching methods used for courses of mathematics and computer science, but we will see similar projects launched by other departments in the future. While some of the planned improvements will be implemented later and take effect in the long run, we aim to notably improve many areas as early as during this autumn.
In addition to these measures, it is also important to simply care about the new students. I am sure all of us commit to our work and feel well, provided we understand the nature and purpose of our work and feel that our contribution is respected by the rest of the community. All in all, we want to have a sense of being in control of our lives. Dear teacher colleagues and others, in the spirit of the University of Love and Education (* enjoy life, constantly learn new things and work hard to care about others, like they care about you.
*) A name that was suggested for the new university but did not get selected..