Telecoms first for Finns

March 12, 1999

Finland's first fully-fledged degree course taught in English begins in September when the Helsinki University of Technology launches a two-year master's degree in telecommunications.

The course, which is aimed at foreign nationals, comes with the promise of a three-month stint in one of the information technology firms around Helsinki. It also comes with the prospect of landing a job with one of the leading telecommunications companies in the world.

Although the course is the first of its kind, the concept of foreign-language programmes is already fully integrated into higher education in Finland.

The number of courses taught in English has mushroomed in the past three years but until now they have either formed part of a degree programme or been offered as specific postgraduate modules.

The new degree course is the result of a continuing skills crisis in information technology, especially in telecommunications. Finland's exports-led economy relies heavily on high-tech products that require experts and specialist staff at graduate level.

Despite turning out a larger number of graduate engineers per capita than any other European country, Finland still finds it hard to meet the growing need for information technology staff.

Nokia, the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturer and a major contributor to Finland's economy, already soaks up nearly all newly qualified engineers directly from college but it still needs to recruit heavily abroad to maintain its high level of innovation and product development. Other firms, including Tieto and the Novo Group, find themselves in a similar position.

The programme, organised by the department of computer science and engineering, offers the option of specialising in either telecommunications or radio communications.

Applicants need to have a good first degree worth at least 120 credit units. Degrees from one of the Finnish polytechnics, set up a few years ago to complement the programmes offered by the traditional universities, are not considered to be of sufficiently high level.

Raimo Kantola, the course leader, says the course is aimed at high-achieving, well-motivated applicants and has the objective of attracting top talent into a rapidly developing industry.

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