Dean Minna-Riitta Luukka: A new year – a new beginning!

Similar to other universities, the University of Jyväskylä has taken measures to enhance its areas of strength and restructure its organisation. The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences is playing a key role in this renewal work because most of the recent structural development has taken place here.

At the beginning of 2017, the social sciences and humanities faculties were combined to create the only joint faculty of humanities and social sciences in Finland. The faculty now has a stronger and more visible presence in both fields. The question is about more than an administrative overhaul, however. We believe that the reorganisation can further expand research and education in human sciences.

In comparison to other University faculties, the faculty’s number of employees is the second largest and the number of students clearly the largest. Almost one third of the students at the University of Jyväskylä study in our faculty. In addition, all our departments operate in at least one or two of the core fields defined in the University strategy. This strengthens the position of the faculty within the University as well as in Finland.

Applied language studies have already received funding from the Academy of Finland for strategic profiling, and we are currently waiting excitedly to see if we will receive funding for a second profiling area focusing on crises and social change processes. We are also excited for the centres of excellence selection process, in which our researchers are participating in as many as four projects that have been chosen for the second application stage.

The union of social sciences and humanities is a natural one because in Jyväskylä both fields have long featured a similar orientation. The fields in the faculty have addressed common research themes related to, for example, culturally and linguistically diverse societies, social change processes, culture and ways of life in the past and present, wellbeing, learning and competence, children and adolescents, interaction, and technological operating environments.

During the autumn term 2016 we prepared for the integration and already now we are seeing new initiatives and partnerships in both research and teaching. However, there is plenty to do in creating common practices and in collaboratively planning and implementing the shared future.

In addition to the faculty integration, we have renewed department structures and created larger units. The Department of Language and Communication Studies and the Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies started operation at the beginning of 2017. An even bigger change than these internal integrations may be the transfer of research and education in language subjects from the University of Vaasa to Jyväskylä. This structural renewal is significant also on a national scale and helps both universities to strengthen their profiles.

While many other universities seem to be decreasing their focus on languages, the University of Jyväskylä has boldly chosen language research as one of its profiling areas. This solution is in line with years of systematic development in applied language research.  

In recent public discussion as well as in science and higher education policies, there has been pressure to cut back on education and research in the fields of humanities and social sciences. Nevertheless, it is absolutely clear that the need for knowledge and understanding of humanities and social sciences is increasing in modern society. Human sciences are important for anticipating global development trends and societal changes, solving problems and managing large amounts of information. Our new faculty wants to ensure that the University of Jyväskylä will continue to be known as a university that promotes human sciences and socially relevant themes as its core fields.

Minna-Riitta Luukka, Dean