The University of Tampere (UTA), Tampere University of Technology (TUT) and Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) have offered one shared health technology course for 15 years. A number of initiatives have been filed over the years to launch broader collaboration between the higher education institutions and synchronize their courses in the field of health and technology. These initiatives went unrealized for one reason or another, until Tampere3 injected fresh momentum into the plans a couple of years ago. Funding for the development of education became available in all the three higher education institutions in the spirit of Tampere3 collaboration. Funding was granted – and good things began to happen.
When the project first started, the higher education institutions offered different courses that combine health and technology. Some of them were available to students from all the higher education institutions. However, it was difficult for students to find information on the courses and make consistent progress towards more advanced content. This is why we sought not only to promote the visibility of all the courses available in health and wellbeing technology in the Tampere3 institutions but also to group the courses into larger modules in order to better illustrate the competencies acquired by students. The credits for completing the modules appear on the degree certificates of students in accordance with their higher education institution’s policy.
The funding awarded to our project enabled us to hire a project secretary twice for a fixed-term period to go over all the health technology courses offered in the three higher education institutions. This work culminated in the publication of a document titled ‘Proposed Modules in Health and Wellbeing Technology in the Tampere3 Community’ in autumn 2017. The proposal outlines a vision for the two-stage development of health technology education within the higher education community: the first step is to launch a core module made up of the existing health technology courses and perhaps later on establish an entire master’s programme in health technology with multiple areas of specialization.
When described this briefly, the collaboration between the higher education institutions may appear easy and straightforward. In all honesty, our experiences indicate that translating the strategic into the everyday in the area of education will be even harder than the development of Tampere3-wide administrative processes. The current higher education institutions have different goals for administration as well as education. They have different views about the plans, goals and implementation of education and what good education means. Some people want professionals to present the facts, while others are looking to understand the background and social implications. Others place more emphasis on the importance of educating professionals who meet business and industry needs, while others reflect more on the importance of developing broad-ranging expertise among students from the perspectives of business life and students themselves.
The levels and structures of education and research in the different higher education institutions should not be overlooked. The education offered by different higher education institutions has traditionally differed in terms of theoretical complexity. For example, individual teachers cannot be made solely responsible for adjusting their courses to suit students from all the three higher education institutions. Instead, we need collective and collegial forums that support the renewal of education. We must remember that administrative reforms have a direct impact on the everyday life of students and that the implementation of changes takes time. We also have to understand that it is impossible to foresee all the consequences of organizational transformations. We need to monitor the processes and quickly respond to any unwanted developments.
The strategy of the new university focuses on health, technology and society. Now begins the painstaking process of turning the strategy into reality. Our own project demonstrates that the stakeholders are prepared and willing to work together to develop education and research in health technology. We need to start planning and agreeing on educational content right away. This takes resources; it is simply not possible to create a new higher education community alongside our regular responsibilities.
Jari Pirhonen and Linda Enroth
The authors are postdoctoral researchers in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Tampere and the Gerontology Research Center.