A New Agreement Period and Strategy - Reinventing Higher Education as a Vision

Jamk’s agreement with the Ministry of Education and Culture for the next period (2021–2024) was signed in late 2020. It was prepared considerably more thoroughly than previous agreements by both Jamk and the ministry, which is why its drafting also took longer. The Ministry of Education and Culture organised several discussion events and meetings with Rectors in 2020, issued proposals and decisions on degree numbers and strategic funding, and provided instructions for the strategy work. Consequently, the new four-year agreement and Jamk's updated strategy are more closely linked, while the Ministry of Education and Culture has adopted a stronger steering role. The funding model, and the strategic steering and funding, show us what we should focus on and what the concrete objectives of our work are. This way, we can ensure the continuity of funding at a good level also in the future.

Heikki Malinen

Jamk's strategy titled Creating competence, which was completed in early 2020, connects with the strategy work in a clear continuum. Its main elements were also part of the previous strategy. As the preparation of the new strategy started, the old one was found to be more or less up to date. There were two main reasons for this. Firstly, the strategy kept its finger on the pulse as it was updated every year, even if there was no need for major changes of direction. Secondly, Jamk was highly successful in anticipating forthcoming changes. This eliminated any great surprises arising from education policy. We were able to anticipate these changes ahead of time, whereas the pandemic, which started in early 2020, was an unpredictable major change beyond our control that led to a spectacular digital leap.

As the previous strategy was being formulated around five years ago, cutbacks in Jamk's operations caused by such reasons as reduced ministry funding and decline in R&D were a major concern. This is why one of the goals set at that time was reverting the turnover to the previous higher level. While many considered it unrealistic, we achieved this goal. We increased our turnover by approximately EUR 10 million over five years. For this we can thank the good results and those who made them possible, helping Jamk to obtain a slightly larger share of ministry funding each year. This achievement is exceptionally good in the field of universities of applied sciences. Another significant factor in the recovery of our turnover was a rapid growth in R&D activities after a short decline. This boosted us back to the A team of universities of applied sciences regarding the scope of our R&D activities. Education exports and tuition fees also showed a growing trend. As the current strategy was prepared, there was less financial pressure to expand.

For last year’s negotiations, the Ministry of Education and Culture wished to know exactly what the core contents of our strategy are. These contents were also recorded in the agreement between Jamk and the Ministry of Education and Culture, including both verbally expressed and numerical targets. The core content of our strategy includes EduFutura cooperation; bioeconomy, multidisciplinary rehabilitation and applied cybersecurity as Jamk's focus areas; automation and robotics, tourism and innovative learning as emerging fields; and a development programme that implements the strategy. While especially the focus areas include clear-cut choices and profiling, this does not mean that the other sectors should be forgotten. Jamk has a strong intent to also develop education, R&D and service business in other areas. The greatest common goal is a large-scale renewal of our activities aiming to reinvent higher education and, as stated in our mission, to create competence. On the basis of Jamk's strategy and the Ministry of Education and Culture's national programmes, the ministry granted us approx. 40% more strategic funding than at the beginning of the previous agreement period. Consequently, we may conclude that the ministry appreciated out updated strategy and that we got it right in many respects.

The ministry will monitor the implementation of the strategy annually. In strategic planning and implementation, implementation tends to be the weak link, especially in public sector organisations. Jamk’s response to this challenge is the Strategic Development Programme prepared already in 2020 once the strategy had been completed. This programme has six themes: personnel and management, good working life connections, new generation pedagogy, effective RDI activities, quality management and internationalisation. Additionally, service business plays a key role in promoting the effectiveness of the reinvented institute of higher education. The annually updated Strategic Development Programme translates strategy implementation into more concrete terms and will guide the activities of not only the education units but also the administration in line with the strategy over the next few years.

We should say once more that Jamk has good starting points for entering the new agreement period and implementing the new strategy. Rather than happening overnight, this was achieved through sustained and productive work and our excellent and competent staff. Jamk is known in Finland as a strong university of applied sciences with high standards. This is a status we should hold on to. We have excellent prerequisites for responding to the needs of society and our main stakeholders, the students. Let us strive to remain pioneers and show the way to reinventing higher education!