Celebration speech on the University’s 80th anniversary

Celebration speech on the University’s 80th anniversary

The speech given by Chancellor Jorma Sipilä on the history of the University of Tampere in the spring of 2005:

From the Civic College to studying Finnish society

The history of the University of Tampere strongly reflects the belief of the Nordic societies in the equality of people. This has been especially evident in the effort to make academic studies available to students regardless of their economic and social background.

In order to further the growth of the young nation’s people into citizens, the Civic College was established in 1925. At the time the College was founded, memories of the recent devastation caused by the Civil War lingered in the background. The key idea was that education should support peaceful social development. It was believed that a large proportion of the population and especially young people in the rural areas needed to deepen their civic education.

However, the institution's mission changed even before the institution was established. The original idea of general education was bypassed because of considerations of who was going to fund the new studies. In this situation, the founders’ interest was piqued by the educational demands of municipalities and the press. The Civic College started offering education in the fields of journalism, administration and the management of cooperative organisations.

In 1930, the name change to the School of Social Sciences was justified by the institution’s mission to educate competent professionals to serve society. In the 1930s, the School offered bachelor’s-level training in journalism, municipal administration, management of cooperative organisations, child protection, and public law, plus an adult education degree – a range of qualifications that at the time was thought a permanent feature of the institution.

A three-year programme in social sciences was also introduced from which students graduated with a Master of Social Sciences degree. The fields that the School is the most famous for – social work and librarianship – were not introduced until the 1940s.

The School of Social Sciences moved to Tampere in the autumn of 1960. The City of Tampere enabled the move by offering generous financial support. The new financial base made it possible to increase admissions fivefold in six years. The School became a multidisciplinary higher education institution and that is why it changed its name to the University of Tampere in 1966.

The Civic College has left a fine legacy to this country. It opened up study opportunities for people who were not born of the country’s elite and had not studied at upper secondary school. In particular, it educated professionals for municipal administration, social workers and journalists. Finnish administrators and journalists owe a debt of thanks to the Civic College for their excellent reputation because that was where their professional ethics and basic competence were created.

The Civic College also had a significant impact on the way the social sciences evolved by creating a powerful applied tradition where building Finnish society and solving its problems were essential.

Today, the University of Tampere is still an institution that is strongly oriented to serving Finnish society – both the public and private sectors – and providing vocational higher education. Good teaching is also highly valued and emphasised.

Regrettably, applicants find it difficult to gain admission to the University, as the percentage of those who are not admitted is the highest among the Finnish universities. This is perhaps the result of the fact that anyone, regardless of social background, may think of studying at the University of Tampere. Thus, the University of Tampere is maintaining the good traditions of the Civic College.

As it celebrates its 80th anniversary, the most important strengths of the University of Tampere are its students, who come from a great body of applicants, and the University’s distinct profile, which differs from other universities. The University of Tampere is a Finnish university, as it investigates Finnish life and society more broadly than any other university in the country.

The University of Tampere also has the will to develop into a strong European research university – instead of just increasing the fields of education offered – and to attain a high scientific level in its areas of strength, such as social and health sciences, humanities and education.

The University’s pragmatic management supports research and teaching, which are also sustained by the vibrant physical and cultural community and the University’s location in Tampere, the second largest centre in the middle of the higher education network of southern Finland, a place where it is easy to recruit the brightest students and the best teachers.

The key to the future is internationalisation. The University of Tampere needs good international master's and doctoral programmes in areas with sufficient scientific dynamics and in which Finland can make a special contribution.