With the majority of students gone for the summer, the campuses of the Tampere3 higher education institutions are unusually quiet. However, the Tampere3-wide development of curricula continues throughout the summer. The degree programmes in electrical engineering are a prime example of the power of collaboration.
“Collaboration in the field of electrical engineering demonstrates that the scope of cooperative education is broad and offers exciting opportunities for both students and education providers,” says Vice President for Education Petri Suomala of TUT. He chairs the Preparation Group for Education in the Tampere3 project.
The three higher education institutions have a long history of collaboration in electrical engineering. Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK), Tampere University of Technology (TUT) and the University of Tampere (UTA) launched a joint 50-credit study module titled ‘Renewing Energy System and Society’ in autumn 2017. New joint modules, for example, on electrical qualifications, power electronics and building services are already in the pipeline and will be available to both current and new students. The new curricula will be officially adopted in autumn 2019.
Pirkko Harsia, principal lecturer at TAMK, is heading the curriculum development project along with Professor Pekka Verho of Tampere University of Technology and Professor Ilkka Ruostetsaari of the University of Tampere. The establishment of the new higher education community means that Tampere becomes the largest hub of expertise in electrical engineering in Finland.
“We have reviewed the content of electrical engineering programmes and looked into the courses, modules and learning environments that are available in the three higher education institutions. While there are overlaps between the bachelor’s programmes in electrical engineering that are offered by TUT and TAMK, the expected learning outcomes of the two programmes are slightly different,” says Harsia.
The Tampere3 partners have already implemented joint research projects on electrical energy systems. For example, the Academy of Finland's Strategic Research Council is funding the collaborative EL-TRAN project (”Transition to a Resource Efficient and Climate Neutral Electricity System”). The Centre for the Promotion of Electrical Safety STEK has sponsored a project to develop future urban energy solutions and related education.
Collaboration ensures that the particular strengths of all the higher education institutions in terms of teaching, learning materials and learning environments are fully exploited.
“For example, staff at TAMK possess a broad range of special expertise in electrical safety, the electrification of buildings and lighting technologies. TUT enjoys a strong reputation for expertise in electricity markets, high voltage engineering, energy systems, electric cars and power grid simulation, whereas energy citizenship and energy policy are counted among the strengths of the University of Tampere in this area,” adds Harsia.
Degree programmes in electrical engineering offered by a university of applied sciences typically place special emphasis on the application of skills and knowledge and include a wide range of practical exercises and laboratory assignments. Universities place more weight on mathematical expertise, simulations and the development of in-depth understanding of the underlying principles of the field. The intermediate studies available to electrical engineering students at TUT and TAMK explore somewhat similar content, but the pace is typically quicker at TUT when students are introduced to more practically oriented knowledge. However, university students will have the opportunity to gain further insights into the practical side of electrical engineering by attending individual courses at TAMK and vice versa – TAMK’s students will be able to complete individual BSc-level courses at the new Tampere University to expand their knowledge.
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“In simple terms, engineers who graduate from a university of applied sciences plan and implement practical solutions using equipment and systems that are developed by university graduates, but in reality both have a broad range of available career options.”
Students seeking a degree in electrical engineering will continue to enrol in a bachelor’s programme either at TAMK or the new Tampere University. The expected learning outcomes of collaborative study modules will be the same. Students will be able to choose whether to complete the courses that are available for cross-institutional enrolment at TAMK or Tampere University. Collaboration allows the partners to tap into the Tampere3-wide pool of expertise, ensures that students have flexible options for choosing courses that are counted towards their degree, and offers students access to diverse learning environments, such as laboratories and special software. A further goal is to develop new project-based courses that enable students to collaboratively explore electrical energy systems from a broad perspective. For example, the development of a local energy solution for the new Hiedanranta city district in Tampere represents an important pilot project in this area.
The new higher education community opens up new opportunities for students: they will have more options to follow an individual path towards graduation. The quality of teaching will be further improved, as the learning environments available on the different campuses will be effectively used and courses and learning materials will be increasingly developed in collaboration between teachers.
“Learning materials are as valuable as crown jewels. Teachers spend a great deal of time preparing materials, assignments, exam questions and practical exercises. It makes sense to systematically share and develop them. With the world of learning changing and e-learning going mainstream, the importance of high-quality assignments and learning materials is growing rapidly.”
Text: Sara Riihimäki
Photo: Mika Kanerva