The higher education institutions in Turku area, i.e. University of Turku, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Åbo Akademi University and Novia University of Applied Sciences, organised a joint sustainability event on 19 September 2023. Students, researchers and staff from all universities were invited to participate, discuss and learn about sustainability.
This was the first sustainability event of its kind organised jointly by the higher education institutions in the region. The aim was to bring together local experts and increase collaboration as well as raise awareness and increase the visibility of the sustainability work done in higher education institutions.
The event was opened with a video greeting by futurist Mikko Dufva from the Finnish innovation fund Sitra. Dufva described the multi-crisis in which we already live, including climate change, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, etc. They are not just coming but are happening now or have already happened. Dufva’s message to the seminar participants was that what matters is what we do now and that we work together.
After SITRA’s opening there was a panel discussion on “The role of HEIs as drivers for carbon neutrality and the importance of regional collaboration”. The panellists were the rectors of HEIs in Turku, Vice Rector Eva Sandberg-Kilpi (Novia University of Applied Sciences), Rector Jukka Kola (University of Turku), Rector, CEO Vesa Taatila (Turku University of Applied Sciences) and Rector Mikael Lindfelt (Åbo Akademi University) with Professor Jukka Käyhkö (University of Turku) acting as moderator. The panellists discussed the role of higher education institutions in achieving carbon neutrality and the importance of education, research and regional collaboration in creating a more sustainable future.
The event continued with a series of parallel workshops addressing the following topics:
- Promoting sustainable mobility at higher education institutions
- The role of student unions in reducing the carbon footprint
- Sustainability as an integral part of research and development projects
- The handprint of higher education institutions
One of the main goals of the event was to bring together experts from the universities in the region and after the workshops there was time for informal networking.
“Our aim with this first event was to bring people working with sustainability themes together. We share much of the same goals in our work to advance sustainability, be it in research, education or our practical work, and the vision of our collaboration group is that working together we can achieve more,” says Emma Westerlund, Education and Sustainability Designer from Novia University of Applied Sciences. Novia will take the role of the chair for the collaboration group for sustainability in the Turku region during the present academic year.
The feedback from the seminar was positive and gave direction to the themes of next year's seminar. It will be held in the autumn of 2024 as a webinar. Stay tuned for future actions and get involved!