December 11, 2017 - Northern Ontario is currently home to ten post-secondary institutions – 4 universities and 6 colleges – that provide a range of innovative programs to students across the North, and from other communities in Canada and abroad. But beyond Northern Ontario, much has been done to develop institutions that service communities in northern and remote settings. This blog is a part of a series entitled A Northern Education, the content of which has been adapted from a recently released NPI paper, “A University for Timmins? Possibilities and Realities”. Each week we profile institutions in Canada’s northern regions, or in other northern communities around that globe, that might provide some lessons for Northern Ontario when it comes to delivering postsecondary education in northern regions.
This week we focus on institutions in Northern Sweden and Finland: Umeå University, Luleå University of Technology and The University of Lapland.
Sweden has an expansive and comprehensive post-secondary system, with significant contributions to the northern and remote regions. The main institution in the North is Umeå University. Founded in 1965, it has more than 30,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The institution is, like Tromsø in northern Norway, designed as a key national university. In addition to the full range of standard undergraduate programs, the university has advanced expertise in Sámi studies, forestry and forest products, environmental sustainability, and technology. Umeå is well connected internationally, and is funded as a major Swedish research institution.
Luleå University of Technology was created as a technological college in 1971 and made the transition to a university in 1997, with both steps part of a government-led effort to encourage northern Sweden’s transition from a resource-dependent region to a competitive high-technology-based economy. The technology-focused institution has its main campus in Luleå and specialized research centres devoted to emerging economic sectors. Kiruna, one of the most important mining sites in Europe — close to Sudbury in significance and impact — hosts an active space science facility. There is also a unique facility devoted to teaching and creative work in Piteå. Luleå University is strongly connected to the economic strategies of northern Sweden, and has played a significant role in attracting global high-technology firms to the area and promoting inclusive and innovative mining development.
Most northern universities follow traditional lines, offering standard undergraduate programs and occasional regionally specific offerings. When the City of Rovaniemi, located immediately south of the Arctic Circle and with a population of more than sixty thousand, petitioned for a university, the Finnish government resisted the effort. A new model emerged, with the University of Lapland (established in 1979) developing programs of national importance, including art and design and law, together with degrees that respond more specifically to regional concerns, including education and social sciences. It is not a “traditional” university or a standard regional access point. It has attracted close to 5,500 students. The University of Lapland has also established a significant circumpolar presence. The Arctic Centre is one of the world’s most important northern research and outreach operations, routinely hosting major international conferences and circumpolar meetings, as well as the offices of the European Union’s Arctic Information Centre. The University of Lapland is also closely tied to other Finnish post-secondary institutions. It participates in the Lapland University Consortium with the Lapland University of Applied Sciences, which originated from a 2014 merger of the Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences and the Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences.
Read last week's installment of this series here.
Dr. Ken Coates is Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan campus.
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