Education in 2020: The pandemic restrictions took a toll on students, rise in applications and degrees conferred

Tampere University provides education that is based on the latest research knowledge and active interaction with society and the working life. At the core of our education activities lie our proflle areas technology, health and society, and their novel multidisciplinary combinations. Together, Tampere University and Tampere University of Applied Sciences comprise an international and diverse university community made up of more than 30,000 students.

Students in laboratory with facemasks

As set out in the University’s strategy, confirmed in February 2020, our educational development activities will focus on quality and impact over the next few years. We are set to further strengthen the integration between research and teaching, launch degree programmes and modules that generate expertise across disciplinary boundaries, help students improve their employability skills and connect with employers, and introduce alternative admission routes. All our students will receive a grounding in sustainable development and other themes relating to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In addition, we will develop our academic advising and guidance services and other student support to enable students to make effective progress towards their degree, encourage the development of teacher identity and support the expansion and upgrading or pedagogical competencies among our teaching staff, and develop our learning environments into open and increasingly digital hubs of learning.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the public authorities, our campuses were closed in March 2020. The sudden switch to remote learning and working, which was to continue throughout 2020 and still does in the spring of 2021, was a massive undertaking and accomplished at short notice in a matter of days. It has been possible to hold only essential in-person classes on the campuses. The majority of entrance examinations were also moved to an online environment at short notice in the spring of 2020.

Owing to the transition to remote teaching and learning and the implementation of the new student information system Sisu, created as a collaborative effort between six Finnish universities, 2020 was an exceptionally challenging year for both teaching staff and students. We conducted several well-being surveys among staff and students, and the results demonstrated that the extended period of remote learning took a particular toll on our student population. Throughout 2020, we invested in offering enhanced support to teaching staff and students.

In 2020, Tampere University awarded 4,289 degrees in ten fields of study. Master’s degrees made up 2,237 and scientific doctoral degrees 192 of all the degrees conferred. The fields of engineering (711) and social sciences (494) accounted for the majority of master’s degrees. A total of 176 students graduated with a degree in medicine or health and welfare. What highlights the scale, impact and multidisciplinary nature of our education is the fact that there were also several other fields of study where the number of conferred master’s degrees fell in the 100–200 bracket. Overall, the number of master’s degrees we awarded increased from the previous years. The target graduation rates agreed with the Ministry of Education and Culture were best achieved in the master’s degree category.

The number of first-choice applicants seeking admission to our degree programmes grew by more than 1,000 from the previous year, illustrating the attractiveness of our education. Applications to our English-language programmes rose significantly following the introduction of the new multidisciplinary Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Sustainable Urban Development, implemented in collaboration between three faculties.

The new Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC) at Tampere Universities was launched in the autumn of 2020. TLC brings together pedagogical expertise and the services for teachers and offers them training and pedagogical support throughout their careers, thereby fostering a sense of community and the opportunities for networking among teaching staff. Learn more about TLC.

The University has a five-year project underway to carry out a continuous learning reform. In 2020, the focus was on developing digital learning materials and devising a regional model for continuous learning.

In 2020, Tampere University was closely involved in the activities of the ECIU University as one of the 12 members universities of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU). The ECIU University is one of 17 university alliances funded by the European Commission. ECIU’s members are currently conducting a pilot project to develop a pan-European model for challenge-based education as opposed to a conventional degree-based approach. The challenges to be addressed are related to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. In the spring of 2020, we signed an ECIU-wide Erasmus mobility agreement, which allows for the exchange of students between the ECIU member universities. The pilot phase of the first challenge-based courses offered by ECIU was completed in the autumn of 2020.

Tampere University is in a good position to continue developing its education, related interaction with society and the delivery of impact. Because of changes made to the funding model for Finnish universities by the Ministry of Education and Culture, which will take effect in 2021, the University will need to make clearer strategic choices, take impactful measures and monitor their effects. Among other things, the University will need to improve graduation rates and enable a larger share of students to complete their degree in the target time.