Finland’s ULapland offers glimpse of an Arctic university
Founded in 1979, ULapland now has 5,000 students
ROVANIEMI, FINLAND—You can touch the white ice floes made of flat white felt and the leads between them will light up.
Or you can try on the “Breaking of the Dawn” jacket, with its reindeer-leather trim and heat and light sensitive sensors. Or you can dabble your hand in the water emerging from plastic ice, creating changes in the light.
It’s all part of the display called Vaana, or sparseness in Northern Saami, an impressive interactive space produced by art and design students at the University of Lapland.
And, as you walk around the university’s campus in Rovaniemi, which lies at roughly the same latitude as Iqaluit, you can try to imagine that you’ve stepped in the Nunavut Arctic University of the future.
Founded in 1979 when Rovaniemi, now with a population of about 62,000, had about 40,000 residents, the university, which started mainly to train teachers and social workers, is now divided into four faculties: art and design, education, law and social sciences.
In addition to these faculties, there’s an Arctic Centre as well, which is devoted to Arctic studies and research and offers a certificate program in Arctic studies.
Education, law and social work pull in the highest number of students from Finland’s northern region, according to information from ULapland.
But the university also sells itself abroad, by offering international students an “Arctic adventure” that includes ice fishing, winter cycling, skiing and “Arctic way of life,” in addition to an English-friendly atmosphere.
Right now, the university has about 5,000 students and 600 staff—but, even at that size, the university feels small and is looking to team up with other Arctic universities.
Last week, during the Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit conference, representatives of the five universities of Arctic Europe—ULapland, Luleå University of Technology, the University of Tromsø, The Arctic University of Norway and the University of Oulu—met to form a new coalition, which they’re calling the Arctic Five, to broaden co-operation in the region and open new doors to research, education and outreach related to Arctic interests.
Co-operation is also the strategy Nunavut plans to adopt towards while working towards a Nunavut-based university, but it would take a while for Nunavut to catch up with ULapland and the other Arctic Five universities.
Currently, there is not even a brick-and-mortar university in any of Canada’s three territories, although the Government of Nunavut commissioned a feasibility study in 2016 to determine if Nunavut had the resources and market potential to create its first university.
But the report, prepared by the Toronto consulting firm KPMG, found the territory wouldn’t be able to meet the criteria set out by Universities Canada to fund and operate its own institution in Nunavut because the university wouldn’t be able to attract enough students.
The KPMG report suggested that a joint-venture partnership between Nunavut Arctic College and an established university could work.
“After careful review of the feasibility study, this government decided to pursue a joint venture/partnership with an established university,” Paul Quassa told MLAs last June, when he was the territory’s education minister. He’s since become Nunavut’s new premier.
“A joint venture/partnership would allow us to deliver quality education here in Nunavut and meet Universities Canada criteria through the sharing of expertise and staff from a partner university,” he said, because “partnering with an existing university would also help us meet the full-time student and academic staff requirement.”
A Nunavut Arctic College University would likely expand on its current partnerships with other Canadian universities, like Dalhousie University, the University of Regina and the University of Prince Edward Island.