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We need more universities in the integration of asylum seekers

Pia Polsa encourages Finnish universities to launch initiatives for integrating the asylum seekers in Finland.

According to the Finnish Immigration Service, more than 32 000 asylum seekers were registered in Finland in 2015. These people come for peace, a new home and new possibilities. Why should the universities engage and what do we stand to gain?

The large numbers of asylum seekers offer a chance for Finland to learn from countries and cultures we have not traditionally been closely connected to or integrated with. Now we have the opportunity to diversify. I believe that innovation springs from different and sometimes even conflicting ideas and views that meet. This is where universities should come into the picture. Our role is not only to deliver information, but interact with the surrounding society and being at the forefront of knowledge. Thus we should not only interact with asylum seekers but strive for mutual learning and understanding.

As Hanken is the only stand-alone business school in Finland, we are often able to be more agile and grab new opportunities faster than larger institutions. Recently we have launched a course about Finnish Business Culture to support asylum seekers to understand and learn more about Finnish business.  With our expertise on different aspect of Finnish business life, we can help the asylum seekers, who are interested in doing business in Finland or with Finnish people, to integrate into Finnish society.

Even if all of the course participants would stay in Finland only temporarily, they will learn about the Finnish way of conducting business, which gives them the tools and knowhow to better business with Finns based anywhere in the world. Our target group is English-speaking asylum seekers with high school education, who are ready to challenge themselves and get to know Finland and our culture as well as find beneficial ways of cooperation.

Ideally, more universities would launch similar initiatives in their field of expertise. In perfect world the business community in Finland would also get involved. Asylum seekers can at best be gateways to their countries, i.e. to new markets that Finnish businesses would otherwise have less of an access to.





Pia Polsa
Ph.D. associate professor, department of marketing, Hanken School of Economics