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University of Helsinki [2011年12月05日(Mon)]

With Ilkka Niiniluoto, Chancellor of University of Helsinki

University of Helsinki

The Sasakawa Ryoichi Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (SYLFF) that has been established at 69 universities across 43 countries has to date graduated more than 14,000 excellent students.

University of Helsinki is the oldest and the largest multidisciplinary university in Finland. It was founded as Royal Academy of Turku in 1640 when Finland was under Swedish rule, by Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689). When Finland became the Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire in 1809, it was renamed the Imperial Academy of Turke. With the independence of Finland in 1917, it was renamed as University of Helsinki.

On my recent visit to the university to deliver a speech at the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the SYLFF program, I was able to spend a pleasant time chatting with Chancellor Ilkka Niiniluoto.

“Am I correct to understand that the university chancellor is an honorary position served normally by the president or the prime minister of the country, and does the rector usually do all the work inside of the university?” I asked.

To my question, Chancellor Niiniluoto answered:
“During the days of the Russian rule, there were times when the Czar became the university president at the age of two, but what could a two year-old do? so…. I am in charge of acquiring the budget for the university and negotiating with the government, and I leave it to the Rector to take care of university matters. Queen Christina, an intelligent woman, founded the predecessor to this university, the Royal Academy of Turku, at the age of 14. When she was 23 years old, she sent that famous philosopher Descartes 3 personal letters asking him to be her tutor and he finally accepted after the third letter, and it is said that she went to fetch him on a warship. The lectures started from 5 a.m. in January of 1650. It was an ordeal for Descartes who had a habit of sleeping in late, and he died of developing pneumonia from a cold he had in February.

By the way, we hear of news of famine in Somalia these days, and we have about 10,000 Somalians living here in Finland. It was the safest and the cheapest way for Somalian refugees to escape via Cairo to Russia, and these people then came into Finland.

Mr. Sasakawa, how do you measure the level of democracy in each country? I judge by the height of the raised knees of the soldiers in a military parade.”

“Yes, we have a neighbor whose soldiers in their military parades raise their knees higher than anyone else in the world. By the way, Chancellor, how do you look at the Arab Spring?”

“I would wish it to succeed, but I think confusion and chaos will continue as there is no established system to accept the dissidents even after their success in ousting the government.”

“An Arab intellectual that I met in Prague the other day said, “Please don’t call it the ‘Arab Spring.’ Spring in Arab is nothing but a desert storm. Call it Arab Illusion.” ”

“I see.”

We went on talking from one subject to another like this. The Chancellor was a big-hearted man of fine humor.

Historically, Finland has been tossed about by Sweden and Russia before gaining independence in 1917. But she has continued to be troubled by the existence of Russia. Finland is a new country, but the educational system is attracting world-wide attention and I have been told that there are quite a number of Japanese visiting Finland. Master’s degree is required also for kindergarten teachers, and although the salary is low, there are many who wish to become teachers for the high social standing of the profession.

University of Helsinki has 38,000 students of which 3,000 students come from 115 countries. Today, when every university suffers from the effects of low interest rate in their financial administration, but UOH is an exception. In its early years, the University received a gift of a chain pharmacy from the royal family which today enriches the university with sales of 4,000 Euros (approximately \4 billion). The endowment fund is operated at a special 6% interest rate. As a result, UOH is free of all worries in today’s world of low interest rate, and can select excellent students as their scholarship recipients. It is indeed one of the best universities in Europe where the operation of the endowment is successfully implemented.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)