FOR THREE YEARS in a row, Centria University of Applied Sciences has received the best graduate student evaluations among the universities of applied sciences in Finland. Kari Ristimäki, rector and CEO of Centria, claims, however, that being the best is not the main goal for Centria:
“By 2020, Centria aims to be the leading university of applied sciences in Finland. Being the leader,rather than being the best, means that others follow us as we lead the way.”
In many ways, Centria is already a leader. Although the university accounts for only 2% of the applied university education in Finland, its R&D activities amount to 5.6% in the field. Furthermore, Centria’s financial structure is one of the healthiest in the country and its three campuses in Kokkola,Ylivieska and Jakobstad offer state-of-the-art learning environments for their students.
WHILE THE MAIN MISSION of Centria is serving the futures of its individual students, the university also sees a regional purpose to its operations:
“We accommodate the business life of our region. We have plenty of industrial companies here,who mainly export their services and products. The local population is small, so the challenge is to attract more people to our workforce. The needed engineers and business people are often reluctant to uproot their lives elsewhere and relocate. By attracting students to our university, we are able to show how great our city is to study and livein, and hopefully the students will want to stay and work for our companies. Therefore, we seeourselves as part of the recruitment channel of local businesses”, explains Ristimäki.
Mari Emmes, Study Affairs Manager at Centria, agrees:“Research shows that regions with higher education institutions survive in the long run. This region needs us. Lately lifelong learning has been extensively discussed. Not only do companies need new employees with skills and knowledge,but their existing employees also need further training, as working life continuously changes.”
WITH OVER 20 YEARS of experience in international education, Centria is also a leader in educational export. Of its 3,000 students over 20% have an international background and a few are even second-generation international Centria students. Although Finland introduced tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students in 2017, Centria has seen continuous growth in its number of international students.
“When the tuition fees came, some said Centria and similar small universities would suffer the most. On the contrary, however, we have attracted more international applicants now than before and are also able to accept more international students, as they pay for their own education”, says Ristimäki.
Emmes continues: “Yes, the price tag actually tells about our quality and our good reputation has an effect. Our slogan ‘The University with a big heart’ truly materialises in practice. Being small is to our advantage. We have put resources on accessibility and individual guidance counselling and both our local and international students really appreciate it.”
CENTRIA PUTS EFFORT in keeping its graduating international students in the local workforce by, for instance, providing and financially awarding studies in Finnish. One of Centria’s international alumni is the American Lawrence Smith, who initially came to Finland to play football. After graduating in 2017 with a degree in Business Administration, Smith today works for the Kokkolabased software development company Raisoft.
“You can’t play football forever, and I wanted to find a more challenging job than what I had done before. I wanted to get my degree as quickly as I could, because I didn’t have much time between our two kids and football. At Centria they were very open and flexible – you’re on your own and I really like that.”
Centria University of Applied Sciences
Business sector: Higher education, research and development
Location: Kokkola (main campus), Ylivieska, Jakobstad
Degree programmes: 22 bachelor’s degrees, of which 6 are in English; 4 master’s degrees
Turnover 2018: 24.6 MEUR
Projects 2018: 115
Students: 3,000, of which 500 are international