Rehtori Jouko Niinimäki

Niinimäki: Now is the right time to invest in the future

The 59th academic year of the University of Oulu began on Wednesday, September 6 with an opening ceremony. In his speech Rector Jouko Niinimäki underscored the time of new possibilities that has emerged in the economy, and the importance of education in the creation of well-being.

Rector Jouko Niinimäki opened the academic year in a spirit of optimism: The Finnish economy is recovering even faster than had been expected.

"Now that the worst is over in the economy we need solutions that will help make it easier to recover from the next economic slump, which will inevitably come, than the one that we experienced now - the lengthy distressing situation that began with the finance crisis of 2008."

Niinimäki called on the government to provide sufficient resources for the expansion and transformation of knowledge and skills at the university. 

"Otherwise the growth potential offered by the structural change will be left untapped, and the strong growth will collide head-on against a shortage of knowledge and skill."

A need to raise the standard of education

As a key issue in education Rector Niinimäki raised the educational level of young adults. About 40 percent of Finns aged 25 to 34 have completed a university-level degree. The percentage is slightly below the average for the OECD and has declined since the 1990s.

A high educational level of the population is a prerequisite for professions requiring a high level of skills and knowledge, and a high level of education is also a safeguard against unemployment.

"Education policy should set a goal that at least half of each age group should have a university level degree.  Having a sufficient proportion of highly-educated people in the workforce also promotes  employment among those with less education - not only for knowledge-intense jobs, but also for the service sector through their purchasing power", Niinimäki  said.

Improving on earlier strengths

Niinimäki went over the phases of the history of the Oulu region from the emergence of a significant concentration of knowledge and skills to its strong growth, followed by the present boom in small and medium sized businesses.

"It is beyond a doubt that the University of Oulu represents the highest level in many areas of research in which the companies of the Oulu region operate.  Whereas the old corporate base mainly comprised telecommunications and technology industries, the new base focuses on services. This puts great pressure on the university to expand its know-how into areas that the new companies will need."

"One thing that we have learned is that in the north it is not possible to imitate others. The only guarantee for success is the unceasing creation of something new."

The 59th academic year of the University of Oulu began on Wednesday, September 6 with an opening ceremony. At the event, the speech by an influential figure in society was given by Heikki Mannila, President of the Academy of Finland, and greetings from the student body came from Joel Kronqvist, Chair of the Executive Board of the Student Union.

Read the Rector's speech

Last updated: 8.9.2017