December 19, 2021

Diversity and inclusion as assets for a better future

In the end of 2020, we all looked forward to a relief in the pandemic and the exceptional conditions in which universities were forced to carry out their daily activities. True, some relief was gained, but the situation is currently rapidly worsening again. Fortunately, we are now better prepared, and we have learned to operate in these special conditions.

However, the way we work and study, and the well-being of our students and staff, has to have a high priority in these exceptional times. Remote studying and working affect people differently. Some are doing fine and actually enjoying the remote mode, while others are seriously suffering due to a lack of social interaction. The majority of us, I believe, are looking forward to combining remote work and study, and physical presence on campus. Thus, we should talk about multi-locational work and study – not only during the pandemic, but as a permanent mode to operate.

International co-operation, international degree programmes and research collaborations are as important as ever today. And they are even more important at times when physical travelling is not possible. Students will be studying, and scientists will be doing research, despite the lack of physical presence.

In Finland, the labour shortage, and especially the shortage of workers with a university degree, is evident already now, and will get worse in the coming decades. Thus, international recruitment of students and staff is of crucial importance to our economy, and to the well-being of our society.

Overall, internationalisation is an important part of the wider concepts of diversity and inclusion. Diversity is definitely a real asset for our society and making progress in this area requires that we recognise our subconscious attitudes and preconceptions. We tend to work with and rely on those similar to us, while we should aim at an operating culture that is open to all and gives everyone equal opportunities to be full members of our society. Each and every one of us has a responsibility for it.

Jukka Mönkkönen
University of Eastern Finland

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