“Arctic attitude” meets Global South scholars

September 19, 2022
Elina Lehtomäki, Jarkko Saarinen, Markku Hokkanen, Eero Kajantie. University of Oulu

The University of Oulu representatives take over the Anniversary blog this month, to highlight its efforts in advancing cooperation with the Global South, and recognizing that UniPID continues to be a vehicle for participating in the wider development discussions for successful university cooperation.

UniPID’s task of advancing sustainable development with the Global South offered us a good frame that brought several scholars together to discuss the university’s standpoint in terms of sustainable development.

University of Oulu was one the 11 universities that established the UniPID network 20 years ago. An important root reason for joining the Network was the active cooperation with the University of Namibia. Initial collaboration was mainly based on teacher education and tourism and conservation geography. Soon the collaboration expanded on information studies and medicine, for example. In addition to the active scholars, also the university rector, who was an enthusiastic birdwatcher, formed long-standing collaborations.

In the beginning, shared research interests and development of study programmes in response to needs identified by scholars and partners in Namibia guided the cooperation which evolved to institutional cooperation. This is the case, for instance, in the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Namibia in 2010, in which Oulu professor Olli Vainio and colleagues played a key advisory role1. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs North-South (later North-South-South) collaborative framework together with UniPID connections provided fruitful platforms for deepening and expanding cooperation.

In sustainable tourism and nature conservation area studies research and educational collaboration have extended to Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Key topics are linked to climate change adaptation, resilience, nature-based and cultural tourism and community-based natural resource management. In addition, an ongoing project co-funded by EU’s Erasmus+ Programme focuses on strengthening university-enterprise cooperation in South Africa to support regional development by enhancing lifelong learning skills, social innovations and inclusivity with a special focus on tourism and hospitality sectors.

In history, collaboration with scholars and institutions in Malawi and Tanzania has recently focused on health, medicine, healing and urbanization in Academy of Finland and STN-funded projects. Recently, the University of Oulu joined the SAFINET-network aiming to foster collaboration between Finnish and Southern African higher education institutions.

In education the long-term collaboration has evolved from teacher education and mobilities to joint research and professional development initiatives. In addition, the University of Namibia and the University of Oulu jointly designed a project on early childhood education in connection with the Global Innovation Network for Teaching and Learning (GINTL). Both universities contribute to GINTL and UniPID co-coordinated dialogue among partners on partnerships.

In UniPID’s 20 years University of Oulu has benefited from the participation in the wider development research community and from the Networks’ possibilities for raising issues important in successful university cooperation. The intensity of our participation in activities has depended on individual scholars and their cooperation networks. Gradually UniPID has become more known in our university community through students who have taken virtual studies, staff who have contributed and more recently, university leadership who have realized the interconnectedness/interdependence of Global North and Global South. Still, we may be asked why and how can “science with Arctic attitude” (university’s motto) meet Global South scholars and contexts.

UniPID’s task of advancing sustainable development with the Global South offered us a good frame that brought several scholars together to discuss the university’s standpoint in terms of sustainable development. Our conclusion was that the University needed advice and suggestions -- which we shared with the university community, including faculties’ leaders, staff, and students, and after wide consultations proposed to the university leadership. The main issue was to include sustainability and responsibility in the University’s strategy built on “science with Arctic attitude”, and to develop a programme to guide further development in teaching, research, and social interaction.

Our interpretation of the Arctic attitude has meant increasing understanding of how geographical and geopolitical positions in the peripheries, whether in the North or in the South, cause vulnerabilities and the need for co-creating context-relevant knowledge while recognizing shared concerns, and for finding mitigation and adaptation solutions. Thus, the Arctic/North does not seem that far from the Global South, due to the global climate change in the Anthropocene. Yet the Global South worldviews and knowledges also challenge the Arctic attitude, the global North knowledge systems and traditions.

UniPID has succeeded in representing Finnish universities, sharing knowledges, and increasing the participation and representation of the Global South partners in sustainable development dialogues. UniPID’s work on ethical guidelines for cooperation with partners in the Global South has extended the Finnish academia’s approach to research integrity measures and promoted open science. UniPID’s coordination unit has efficiently supported the members’ work -- the ways in which UniPID continues, depend on us, partner universities.

Let’s celebrate UniPID’s 20 years!


1 Duodecim lääketieteellinen aikakauskirja (2017) 133(18):1672-3, https://www.duodecimlehti.fi/duo13901


Photo credits: Field work course in 2008 with students of University of Namibia, University of Botswana and University of Oulu