2020 may have been the strangest year yet in the history of Arcada University of Applied Sciences. In March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced virtually all activities online, with only a couple of weeks’ notice.
Rector Mona Forsskåhl.
Our IT support and digital pedagogic support exceeded all expectations, and other personnel, as well as our students, all contributed to complete the transition smoothly – which it did. Lectures were mostly arranged using digital channels, most exercises and lab exercises were postponed and only the really essential work took place on campus. Restrictions were somewhat eased in autumn, but reinstated later in the year.
Despite these difficulties, we had a record number of graduates. A total of 507 students graduated in 2020. This was made possible thanks to the invaluable efforts of our personnel, students and donors. We were able to invest in both digital pedagogy, various kinds of support and in infrastructure – both before and after the pandemic. It is a special pleasure to note that Arcada was able, thanks to a grant from Stiftelsen Arcada, in October 2020 to complete and unveil a Donor's wall, displayed as a starry sky that, to everyone’s delight, now lights up the foyer.
The results were impressive: all available places in the Swedish-language programmes were taken without an additional application, and the autumn term began with full student groups.
The summer entrance exam turned out to be a particular challenge. The national entrance exams for universities and applied sciences were completed the week after midsummer under the most rigorous safety arrangements and the Arcada team responsible for planning and implementation did a marvellous job. The results were impressive: all available places in the Swedish-language programmes were taken without an additional application, and the autumn semester began with full student groups. Recruitment to the English-language programmes at Arcada was also a success. We managed to double the number of non-EU students, which means both a contribution to cultural diversity and to our finances. Due to the pandemic, the new students have not been able to travel to Finland, however, and have begun their studies entirely online, and seem likely to complete the whole year this way.
The finances of Arcada were also affected by the pandemic – there was a significant revenue decline, which could not be compensated for by the decrease in expenses. Fortunately, the net interest income served as a silver lining, having been affected by the positive development on the financial market. An increase in value from 18,4 (2019) to 19,0 million and a percental profit of 5,6 per annum, have made it possible to continue the development work at Arcada. During 2020 520 000 euros of the profit was used, enabling among other things the smooth transition online for the UAS.
The increased support we were able to offer our own students with our new Counselling and Student Well-being unit also turned out to be very valuable in the new pandemic routine.
When we found ourselves in this crisis caused by the coronavirus, we wanted to step up our contributions to society. Hence, we were happy when we had the opportunity to provide our health services with medical equipment. Another contribution was to offer the unemployed and laid-off access to all the continuing education programmes at Arcada, free of charge. The increased support we were able to offer our own students with our new Counselling and Student Well-being unit also turned out to be very valuable in the new pandemic routine - and will continue to be so when the most pressing consequences of the pandemic have faded away.
A new strategy
The year 2020 wasn’t entirely about the pandemic and how we coped with it; we can also look back at a number of highlights that are completely unrelated to the special conditions. At the beginning of the year, we set out a new strategy with four ambitious overall goals. The aim is that Arcada in 2030 is a future-driven Swedish-language educator in Helsinki, building Nordic co-operation for global relevance, creating smart solutions for a dynamic professional life and a vigorous Swedish-language culture and offering life-long career support for a rewarding and sustainable life. The new strategy called for a re-thinking of the study plans of all programmes in such a way that the main themes of the strategy were brought together in a competence-based modular structure. The SITRA future competencies, the UN sustainability goals, the principles of open science and various digital tools were also included. The new study plans will be introduced from 2021 and with them a new and broader educational profile in engineering will also be introduced.
Along with the new strategy comes a concrete promise of fostering sustainability in all of its dimensions. Sustainability is to be included in all of Arcada’s operations. This also goes for the investment portfolio, which adheres the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI). Arcada is thus considering responsibility from a holistic point of view. We hold our responsibility as investors in high regard by acting responsibly ourselves and by choosing investment objects and cooperation partners who act in the same way.
Nordic co-operation also continues, and Arcada has concluded a strategic partnership with Mälardalen University in Sweden, where we today have an affiliated professor, Anne Söderlund. Joint research with our partner HEI and professor Söderlund made a promising start with a number of suggested projects in health and welfare.
In one project, the aim was a successful concept for self-managing teams in the care for the elderly, in another a unique bilingual nursing programme was designed and launched together with DIAK, our neighbouring UAS.
Arcada has excelled with smart solutions for a number of years, and 2020 was no exception. In one project, the aim was a successful concept for self-managing teams in the care for the elderly, in another a unique bilingual nursing programme was designed and launched together with DIAK, our neighbouring UAS. Last year we also signed a new partnership agreement with public health NGO Folkhälsan, opening up new areas of co-operation, both in education and in research.
All in all, the year is a source of great pride to me as rector. Arcada has prospered in several areas. The pride is tempered, however, with unease arising from the added strain imposed by the pandemic. Our Finnish society will still need our higher education institutions, our students and our staff for years to come. We must make space for our peace of mind, the flight of imagination and a rewarding life – during and also after the pandemic. More smart solutions are required as well as consideration for each other.
Helsinki in March 2021
Mona Forsskåhl, PhD