Are you familiar with the concept of ”academic freedom”? It is one of the core values of our University, and the student’s freedom and responsibility over the development of their own thinking and world view. In the more common sense of the word, it refers to the student’s freedom and responsibility of planning and performing their studies. Unlike in the lower levels of school education, personalising one’s degree into a unique unit is possible at the university. This, to me, is the greatest feature of university.
There are as many study paths as there are students, but some paths are more beaten than others: some fields of study may offer a more straightforward degree with little freedom in terms of choosing the optional studies. In some fields of study, the spectrum of optional studies is huge, which then again presents the student with the difficulty of choosing the best suitable units. Though in many speeches the students are encouraged to pick boldly and to cross the traditional subject boundaries, it is easy to feel pressured to choose a beaten path.
Dear student, I would want to encourage you to try different kinds of paths. Though the familiar and safe option might feel like an easy choice, it is actually the unexpected places and situations that yield the greatest ideas, encounters and insights. The pivotal challenges of our times may be solved in ways that we cannot even think of, which is why strolling beaten paths is not always enough.
Experimenting, curiousness and creativity are delicate processes. One of the new Tampere University’s values is the student-oriented attitude, and I truly hope it shares the Student Union’s core value: that the student is in the centre of everything. Teaching, whether it means lectures, exams, study groups or seminars, should always aim at developing the thinking of the students. Whereas the student’s responsibility is to work for their studies, the University’s task is to enable each of us to proceed on the path that we have chosen.
Experimenting doesn’t necessarily mean completing a large study module or a whole degree; it can also mean organisational activity, an internship or studying abroad. Everything that you purposefully do for developing your own competences also increases your human capital. It also – or at least I believe so – helps you grow to a better person. If you find friends, a profession or a way to help the world on your way, that just adds to your resources.
Whether you were a newcomer or a more advanced student, observing your path is never out of place. Even though you would have already strolled on a certain path, you can always surprise yourself and leap onto another one, and this is truly the best feature of our University institution. Vivat academia!