By Professor Rector Mauri Ylä-Kotola. Photo by Jussi Leinonen.
Erkki Salonen, Secretary General of the Finnish Cultural Fund, was one of those who conceived of a university of Lapland in the early 1970s, before any such university existed. Salonen’s vision was not confined to Finnish Lapland: the institution he envisaged was to serve Norwegian, Swedish and Russian Lapland as well. It was to be a university for the North Calotte, located in Rovaniemi. Finland’s president at the time, Urho Kekkonen, opposed Salonen’s idea, and when the University of Lapland was founded in 1979, it was as a regional and national institution.
Although the University of Lapland was founded as a regional institution, its character has changed over three decades to become the national hub of education and research that it is today. Fewer than four per cent of the Finnish population lives in Lapland, but the University educates 25 per cent of the country’s lawyers and 33 per cent of its art graduates.
Finnish society has opened up to the outside world with the advance of economic globalisation. Large and medium-sized Finnish companies engaged in foreign trade internationalised the country in the 1990s. The University, too, has had to rise to the challenge of going international.
The Alaska University Consortium has established a profile for itself as America’s Arctic university, and Russia has merged the universities in the Archangel region into a Russian Arctic university. In a natural extension of this trend, the University of Lapland will define itself in the near future as the European Union’s Arctic university.
The new strategy of the University gives prominence to research alongside the institution’s established focus on the Arctic and research in tourism. The themes through which the University will make a name for itself in international research and artistic endeavour are service design, northern wellbeing and changing work, as well as sustainable development, law and justice.