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President Mari Walls in the opening of the academic year: Research-based solutions for major changes in society

Published on 7.9.2020
Tampere University
Rehtori Mari Walls lukuvuoden avajaisjuhlassa 2020
Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the University’s opening ceremony of the new academic year was organised remotely for the first time. Photo: Jaana Kaartinen
On 7 September, President Walls said in her speech to open the 2020/21 academic year that the first year and a half of the University were a period of constructing the new.

“At the same time as we have strengthened our core operations and reformed our organisational structures, we have built our discussion culture and practices of interaction and collaboration in order to serve our multidisciplinary, polyphonic university in the best possible manner. At the heart of the co-operation agreement – which came into force at the beginning of August – is the development of the University’s operations by mutual understanding as well as enabling the staff to influence the decisions that concern them. By the same token, students also participate in the development of the University’s activities and issues that affect them in our community,” Walls said.

In the coming years, Tampere University will focus on the quality and effectiveness of research and education, strengthening the international attractiveness of the University and its ability to retain international talent, and to building synergies in the Universities community it forms with Tampere University of Applied of Sciences. In addition, the University will implement an HR programme that strengthens the community, increases well-being at work and improves the employees’ competence.

In her speech, President Walls emphasised the role of scientific knowledge in major changes in society.

“With the City of Tampere, Pirkanmaa Hospital District, numerous large and small companies, communities and other partners, we are creating research-based solutions that are ecologically, socially and economically sustainable and globally applicable,” Walls said.

“I hope that our research, education and expertise will be widely used when people in Finland and internationally are looking for a path towards sustainable practices and a sustainable world,” Walls noted.

Professor of Practice Elli Aaltonen: Universities have the need and time for change

Professor of Practice, Doctor of Social Sciences, Docent Elli Aaltonen gave the main speech at the opening ceremony. She noted that several universities have the need and time for change. Administrative silos, thin co-operation between faculties, lack of multidisciplinarity in research and teaching, and weak connection to the external operating environment strain universities and prevent them from analysing and assessing the crises that affect society. Such covertly advancing crises include climate change, inequality and the economic crisis.

“Tampere University is a pioneer of change. It is young and wants polyphony. Its strategic goals are bold as they emphasise interdisciplinarity and partnerships. Technology, health and society have been connected. What can I say about this transformation work based on my own work and management experience? Let the change happen! It is guaranteed to be better than what we had before,” Aaltonen said.

According to Aaltonen, the goal of transformation must be to find internal procedures that support sustainable development because that is also the way to find solutions for societal crises.

TREY’s Chair Annika Nevanpää: Make room for well-being

Chair Annika Nevanpää from the Student Union of Tampere University (TREY) talked about the well-being of students. According to the latest survey, 30% of students have mental health symptoms. The COVID-19 spring with its remote learning made many experience loneliness and stress.

However, no one is alone with their problems, Nevanpää said and hoped that everyone would check their attitudes to their own and other people’s coping.

“If this year has not yet stopped you to think about things that are important to you, I want you to make that calendar entry now. Take your own selfish time to figure out what would increase your well-being and make room for it whether it is building the community in organisations, doing research to solve wicked problems or developing yourself in a manner that suits you best,” Nevanpää said.

In the opening ceremony, the nomination of Prime Minister Sanna Marin as Alumna of the Year was also announced. Marin has graduated from Tampere University as Master of Administrative Sciences in 2017.

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the University’s opening ceremony of the new academic year was organised remotely for the first time. A recording of the opening ceremony will be published on the University’s YouTube channel.

Speeches and Alumna of the Year:
Director of Communications and Media Relations Katja Ayres
+358 (0)40 849 0505, katja.ayres [at]

Opening ceremony
Coordinator Annukka Tiensuu
+358 (0)40 198 1784, annukka.tiensuu [at]