UniPID – We miss You in JYU!

February 9, 2022

"We believe there are reasons for JYU to take some pride of the establishment and nurturing of UniPID, in a way that it has already reached its adulthood with the 20th anniversary"

Just before writing this blog, I facilitated a PhD seminar session in Development Studies in the University of Jyväskylä, JYU. The ten enthusiastic members of the online seminar originated from and resided in six different countries in diverse constellations. There were Ghanaians and Ugandans living in Finland and Finns residing in Tanzania, alongside with Zimbabwean living in Zimbabwe, and perhaps not surprisingly, also Finns currently residing in their home country.

The PhD seminar is a good example of our everyday North-South academic collaborations, in the discipline of development studies, and in JYU in general. Along the years, JYU has implemented several HEI-ICI initiatives, Academy of Finland Development Research projects, and most recently, actively engaged in the global networks.

Such everyday globalization could not have realized without special efforts and zeal by committed individuals, especially in the early 2000s. This was during the times when collaboration with African universities was not among the most popular trends in Finnish academia and sustainable development was merely a concern of a few. These individuals believed in the importance of global connections and multidisciplinary approaches to development, and tirelessly advocated for them. Their ideas were supported by the University leadership that enabled new initiatives to emerge.

Therefore, as indicated in the UniPID timeline, JYU played an important role in its establishment, and eventually, hosted the UniPID coordination unit until 2020. In JYU, the innovative effort to bring together Finnish Universities around issues of development was closely related with the introduction of a new international, multidisciplinary Master’s Degree Programme in Development and International Cooperation in 2004.

Due to multiple external and internal changes introduced in JYU, in 2019, the programme was reformulated into Development, Education, and International Cooperation, conducted in collaboration with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Education and Psychology. By today, we have welcomed more than 200 students from about 50 countries, among them four of the participants in today’s PhD seminar. Both the Master’s and PhD programme, which has only run for a couple of years, offer an everyday platform for interactions over the global North-South divide. The taken-for-granted ideas are continuously challenged, when those aspiring to “do development” and those having been subjects to “development” for their entire lives, discuss in the same classroom.

Alongside, for many years, the coordination unit of UniPID stayed in JYU and grew stronger, not least due to efforts of programme Professors Liisa Laakso and Jeremy Gould, who were active figures in the UniPID network as well. Therefore, we believe there are reasons for JYU to take some pride of the establishment and nurturing of UniPID, in a way that it has already reached its adulthood with the 20th anniversary.

Today, every time we walk past what used-to-be the “UniPID-room” in the department, we miss you and your contributions in our everyday globalization. However, we are happy for the new steps the coordination unit is able to take with the support of the University of Helsinki, to continue to strengthen the efforts to support the global collaborations in Finnish Universities, JYU continuing to be one among them.

Tiina Kontinen
Associate Professor in International Development Studies
Chair of the UniPID Board

Photo credits: Hanna Salomäki