”I want to promote the internationalisation of the University of Vaasa”


I have been a professor of business mathematics at the University of Vaasa since 2008. I have also served as a vice dean and a dean at the former Faculty of Technology. Before coming to the University of Vaasa I was an associate professor of financial mathematics at the Reykjavik University. Before that, I worked as a university lecturer of financial mathematics at the University of Helsinki. I defended my thesis of applied mathematics at the University of Helsinki in 2003. I have also held many positions of trust in the Finnish Union of University Professors; last of which was a shop steward at the University of Vaasa.

When the new Board of the University of Vaasa was forming, I thought it would be a good idea to have a shop steward there. This was the reason I put forward my candidacy. It turned out that a shop steward cannot be a member of the university board. Therefore, I had to let go my position as a shop steward.

Working in a university board is new to me. I have benefitted a lot from the initiations organised for us.

The beginning of our work in the board has mostly involved the campus reform. Now most decisions related to the campus reform have been done and the board can concentrate on other topics.

Matter of Life and Death

In the Board of the University of Vaasa I want to promote internationalisation. This is natural given my background in the team of Mathematics and Statistics at the School of Technology and Innovations. Our team is very international: two university lectures, one post doc and one doctoral student are foreigners. The team itself is small: 10 persons in total including the emeriti. I have supervised two Ph.D. thesis in the University of Vaasa.  Both candidates were foreigners. My current doctoral student is also international.

The internationalisation of the University of Vaasa is a matter of life and death for us.  Still for a couple of years the cohorts of incoming students increase, but after that there will be a dramatic decline in the cohorts. We need international students, preferably students who pay tuition. That way we could get streams of income others than the Ministry of Education and the Finnish government in general. The leaders of the University of Vaasa have already taken big steps toward internationalisation. For example a Vice Rector Martin Meyer has been hired to improve international relations. There is a great consensus among the board that internationalisation is of great importance to us.

Internationalisation will also help teaching.  We already have many foreing researchers and teachers.  While it would be desirable that they would learn Finnish as soon as possible, it is realistic to assume that we have to give teaching in English. This could, however, also benefit the students: the graduating masters will live in an increasingly international world. In Vaasa region there are many international companies where the working language is English. As far as I know the only limitation in adopting English as the working language in the University of Vaasa comes from the Ministry of Education who insists that our Finnish degree programmes must be able to complete in Finnish. For a small university such as us this is a very restrictive boundary condition. One natural solution would be to implement courses bilingually (Finnish and English). I have myself adopted this approach in my courses and in my opinion, it works well.

To internationalise our research, a sabbatical system with research visits would be most beneficial. Also funds for inviting research collaborators to Vaasa would help a lot. For example I have 25 different collaborators from 10 different countries. Many of these collaborations have unfortunately ceased due to COVID. Now, after COVID, a sabbatical system would help me to raise my international collaboration to pre-COVID level. I believe that our university is full of researchers that are in the same situation.

The administration of the University of Vaasa is still solely in Finnish. This limits the integration of our international staff. Therefore I humbly suggest that the our administration would be bilingual: all the materials would be both in Finnish and in English. This will increase the administration’s burden, but I think it would still be worth doing.

Tommi Sottinen
Member of the Board of the University of Vaasa
Professor of Business Mathematics, University of Vaasa


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