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The third task of the universities stresses the social significance of teaching and research

Third task is a way to examine the universities’ activities from the perspective of their economic and societal impact.


Press Release 16 April 2004 The universities’ third task is not a task in the ordinary sense of the word but rather a way to examine the universities’ activities from the perspective of their economic and societal impact. This the message of Sitra’s latest publication Yliopistojen kolmas tehtävä? (The Universities’ Third Task). The book is based on the Sitra project aimed at extending discussion of the universities’ third task and contributing new ideas to the debate. The project was carried out in the form of expert seminars attended by sixty experts and decision-makers in the field. The role of the university as a producer of new knowledge and mediator of teaching based on it has brought the universities to the fore of the information-based economy. Interest in society has increased the interaction between the universities and the surrounding world. In addition to the universities’ traditional duties of doing basic research and offering advanced teaching people have begun to talk about the universities’ third task – to support the development of the surrounding community. “The university’s societal task is nothing new; rather, it is a factor that is built into the origin and evolution of the entire university institution. The question is how and to what extent this task has been and is being carried out,” says one of the writers of the book, Erkki Kaukonen of the University of Tampere. Many expectations and interests are directed towards the universities and what they do. The increase in externally funded research and in different service functions has resulted in the setting up of different units, centres and institutes within the universities. The simultaneous and balanced development and handling of the universities’ different activities requires a more strategic grasp than at present, note the authors of the book. Companies expect the universities to provide them with skilled personnel instead of innovations. The universities’ prime societal responsibility is to guarantee a high standard of teaching. Spearhead companies expect the universities to provide high-level, strategic basic research. Numerous Finnish and international examples indicate that research and teaching of high quality and active commercialisation of the results of these strengthen rather than weaken each other. Details of the publication Yliopistojen kolmas tehtävä? (The Universities’ Third Task) Kari Kankaala, Erkki Kaukonen, Pirjo Kutinlahti, Tarmo Lemola, Mika Nieminen and Jussi Välimaa. Sitra 264. ISBN 951-37-4195-8, ISSN 0785-8388 (Sitra). Edita Prima Oy. Helsinki 2004. Price €22. Further details: Sitra, Timo Hämäläinen, tel. +358-50 502 4900 Professia Oy, Kari Kankaala, tel. +358-50 351 3020