In the spring 2021, the University of Turku will establish the Faculty of Technology. The new degree programmes of Mechanical and Materials Engineering will support the University’s multidisciplinary field and prepare experts for the changing needs of professional life.
The Faculty of Technology and the expansion of engineering education is an important reform for the competitiveness of the economic area of Southwest Finland and Turku region. Vice Rector of the University of Turku and the Director of the TechCampus Turku Mika Hannula reminds that Southwest Finland has been the second most important exporting province in Finland.
The area is lacking technology experts and such start-up businesses where expertise in technology is central.
– This is a matter of sustainability and capacity across Finland. Due to the expansion of education engineering, we will have more expertise needed by the entire country, not to mention regional needs, describes Hannula, who pilots the expansion.
One of the most important features in the expansion is the determined increase of co-operation with the businesses in the region. Mechanical and Materials Engineering responds to the need of expertise.
Materials Engineering can observe the type of needs businesses have for equipment or planning energy systems. Mechanical Engineering, on the other hand, can cover many sectors from the business products and services to factors of production, or focus on the function of a singular equipment or system.
Hannula states that business collaboration is necessary for education and research in technology.
– The University of Turku cannot be a high-quality university of technology if we do not collaborate with businesses and other research facilities. Businesses are typically the ones who apply new technology.
The expansion of engineering education is built in a way that businesses can be incorporated in the education since the first year of the studies.
– There will be visiting lecturers, practice assignments, summer work programmes, and opportunities to do a diploma work at a company, not to mention research collaboration and partnerships, Hannula lists.
Head of Education Sari Stenvall-Virtanen together with the rest of the Faculty's management are in charge of developing education in the expansion process as well as in the future Faculty of Technology. She reminds that the expansion of engineering education is the result of long-term collaboration.
– The background of the reform is in intensive collaboration between higher education institutions in Turku, City of Turku, and the businesses in the area.
The decision for the expansion was made in July 2019 when the Ministry of Education and Culture gave the educational responsibility of mechanical and materials engineering to the University of the Turku, in addition to the previous responsibility of biotechnology, computer science, and information and communications technology.
The Departments of Life Technologies, Computing, and Mechanical and Materials Engineering are included in the new Faculty. There are six degree programmes; four Master’s degree in technology (Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Biotechnology, Computer Science, and Information and Communication Technology), and two Master’s degree programmes in science (Information Processing and Biochemistry).
Multidisciplinary Field Inspires Collaboration
The future Faculty of Technology works together as a team with the other faculties. Teamwork is essential when the studies in mathematics, physics and chemistry included in the software engineering programme are done in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, while expertise in business and trade is taught in Turku School of Economics.
– Without the inter-faculty collaboration we cannot produce high-quality degrees in technology. As a multidisciplinary university, the University of Turku has great potential for collaboration that reaches beyond the faculty borders, Mika Hannula says.
The professors of the new degree programmes agree on the importance of collaboration.
– The aim is to build a regional, national and international networks around the Faculty’s teaching and research. The University of Turku is a world-class multidisciplinary university that supports interdisciplinary action. At the borderline of different sciences and disciplines, new and surprising inspirations will evolve, summarises Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jussi Kantola.
Professor of Materials Engineering Kati Miettunen says that, for example, Physics and Chemistry are natural companions alongside Mechanical and Materials Engineering. In addition, collaboration is planned between Industrial Physics, Materials Research, and Biodiversity Unit.
– Research has alreadybeen conducted in Physics and Chemistry on surfacing silicon and the catalytic materials of solar cells. New experts are the piece in the puzzle that takes the research one step further towards technology. I cannot wait to see what we can do with natural sciences in technology.
Collaboration has also a crucial role within the Faculty of Technology. Miettunen emphasises that the new professors with their expertise fulfil the themes of previous research.
– When new professorships are established, combinations will increase. If we get energy experts in Mechanical Engineering and experts of industrial materials in Materials Engineering, we can create interdisciplinary links.
Head of Education Sari Stenvall-Virtanen says that during the planning process there was a will to reform the already existing degree programmes in Biotechnology, Computer Science, and Information and Communication Technology.
– We feel that we have succeeded in reforming the content of the education, build interdisciplinary links and borderlines, and make consistent degree structures. Mechanical and Materials Engineering have shared basic studies and the technology disciplines have shared studies in, for example, smart systems and health technology, says Stenvall-Virtanen.
According to Mika Hannula, the aim is to overlap the expertise at the University in a way that collaboration between other higher education institutions and organisations is as fruitful as possible. The partnership with businesses and other universities will be developed systematically.
– In the new Faculty, interaction with the rest of the society is particularly important.
Entire University Community Involved in Reform
Since the beginning of the expansion process, the voices of the students have been heard in project. The person taking care of the communication between the students and the rest of the working group is Jeremi Nyyssönen. He was originally a representative of the Student Union of the University of Turku and now works as a project worker in the education expansion. Nyyssönen is a link between the expansion, the Faculty of Science, and the Academic Affairs Specialists of the Student Union.
– I have been in contact with the organisations and they with me, with a low threshold. I give presentations to the departments that move to the new faculty about how the arrangement works and how they can be involved in the Faculty’s affairs.
Nyyssönen himself is a student of health technology in the Degree Programme of Computer Science. According to him, it is important to ensure that decisions related to students are not made without hearing their voices.
The student organisations in the current Faculty of Science and Engineering were asked to give statements at the beginning of the planning process about what their opinion is on the possibility of a new faculty. The umbrella organisation of science and engineering students Hybridi, and the Student Union gave their statements as well.
From the students’ point of view, it has been essential to ensure, for example, the practicality of taking minor subjects across the faculty borders. It has also been made sure that completing compulsory studies between different faculties is straightforward. Furthermore, changing major subjects will have to be effortless within the Faculty, as well as from one faculty to another.
Nyyssönen estimates that the expansion increases the feeling of a multidisciplinary university community in the students.
– Mathematics, natural sciences, and technology are all pieces in a multidisciplinary university puzzle that forms a functional, full picture.
More Engineering Student Activity on Campus
Freshmen in Materials Engineering Linda Broere and Mechanical Engineering Tatu Hanski represent the new generation of engineering students in Turku. Broere, who comes from Espoo, passed her matriculation exams in the spring 2020 and started her university studies in the autumn.
– Chemical technology interested me and materials engineering is a part of it. I have been pleased with my choice of studies.
Hanski previously studied physics at the University of Turku and this year he applied to Mechanical Engineering.
– Physics and mathematics interested me for the most part, but then engineering studies started to sound tempting. The commercial side is interesting, too, and there is a good link here between the commercial side, physics and mathematics.
Broere and Hanski want to actively participate in organisational activities and they eagerly wait for the founding of the new guilds of engineering students. Both of them have already joined the committee that is in charge of ordering the student overalls.
– I like to be a part of organisational activities because then I can make a difference, Hanski describes.
– Starting a student organisation is exciting, and it is great to see how it turns out, adds Broere.