Celebration speech on the University’s 90th anniversary
Vice-rector Pertti Haapala’s speech at the University’s 90th anniversary celebration in the spring of 2015:
Throughout the world, there are many different kinds of universities with many fine origin stories. The very first universities were founded by the church, kings or aristocrats, and later came universities established by states and companies. The University of Tampere, however, was founded by citizens. The fund-raising for the new university started on the eve of the Finnish Civil War in January 1918, an inopportune moment in Finnish history.
However, seven years later, a new kind of Civic College – the precursor of the University of Tampere – was established in Helsinki. It was later renamed the School of Social Sciences, and it moved to Tampere in 1960. At that point, government aid was needed, but crucial to the project’s success was the atmosphere in Tampere and the city’s willingness to invest in education. The will to succeed came from politicians, citizens and young people, only a small minority of whom had the opportunity to study at universities at the time.
The lecture halls of the white “glass palace” erected on top of the Kalevanharju ridge accommodated larger than usual numbers of students who came from the countryside or had working class and lower middle class backgrounds. The University of Tampere educated particularly large numbers of administrative officials and first generation higher education students. The University of Tampere spearheaded progress and provided a true example of the things a modern society is capable of delivering. This was a novel idea: because society was changing so rapidly, a whole new army of social scientists was required to design and manage it.
New faculties and professorships were established, such as the one in computer science, which recruited its first professors from the Nokia Cable Factory. Rector Paavo Koli wanted to establish an international university in Tampere, an arena for opposite worlds to meet, but that vision turned out to be too ambitious for the time.
The University of Tampere is still young and finding its place in the world. As we have now educated Finland’s sons and daughters and made the world ready several times over, we should next educate citizens of the world, people who do not seek the safety of existing boundaries, but who can think outside the box. We are a pluralist, multidisciplinary and international University, but we could be all of these things on a larger scale. National responsibility is now international responsibility.
Breaking the boundaries of knowledge is the key to discovering the new information that may be waiting just around the corner for us to find. The idea of the good society has not disappeared, either: the task is more challenging than what it was 90 years ago, but our opportunities are even greater.