Project co-operation between Science University and Applied Sciences University

Arja-Irene Tiainen

This article is based on the author’s presentation held on 5th November 2015 in the seminar “Public Health and Crisis Preparedness” organized by DIAK University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki. This article describes the co-operation between Science Universities and Applied Sciences Universities during two projects: ”Improving the Quality of Higher Education in Public Health Sciences I” (2011-2012) and ”Improving the Quality of Higher Education in Public Health Sciences II” (2013-2015). Karelia University of Applied Sciences (Karelia UAS) and the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) were the Finnish partners in both projects. The southern partners in the projects were from Kenya (University of Eastern Africa, Baraton UEAB),   Tanzania (Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences, CUHAS) and Egyptian (Ain Shams University, ASU, Cairo).

Background for co-operation

Karelia UAS had its own HEI ICI project: “Enhancing Western Kenyan HEI’s ( HEI = Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument) future possibilities through equitable partnership with health and bioscience promotion” during 15.8 -15.12.2009. The only partner was Kenyan UEAB Baraton University. The aim of the project was to get to know each other and make an agreement for future cooperation. Very soon after starting the preparations for the project it was discovered that the UEF and Karelia UAS had the same partner (University of Eastern Africa, Baraton, UEAB) and the same content in their projects, i.e. health improvement. In autumn 2009, Karelia UAS had its first meeting with the UEF, discussing their themes in the projects. No overlapping activities were discovered but we shared an understanding that Karelia UAS will concentrate on Bachelor-level education and the UEF on Master-level education at UEAB.

First, Karelia UAS and the UEF intended to make separate project applications for the next project application round. The UEF contacted Karelia UAS and the institutions decided to make a joint project application at the end of year 2010. The UEF was the leader of the project, although Karelia UAS had its own budget, its own objectives and its own plans in the joint application. The UEF had three partners in Southern Africa, but Karelia UAS only had one in Kenya (UEAB).

The preparation process was a significant learning experience. The two HEIs involved in the preparations had different types of practices; e.g. the UEF had 4-5 representatives participating in the common preparation meetings, while Karelia UAS had one. However, other essential parties involved, e.g. the person in charge of budgeting, were to be easily contacted by phone during the meetings. However, practices were mainly similar in both HEIs, including the haste at the end of the preparations.

Experiences from project implementation

Experiences from HEPSH I project implementation have been described in the article Cooperation between the UEF and NKUAS by Tiainen & Miettola (2011). It is stated in the article that “The cooperation between NKUAS and UEF has been fruitful and productive. In practice, the working cultures of these two institutions have more similarities than differences. The institutions learn from each other, making full use of the strengths of both parties in higher education” (Tiainen & Miettola 2011). It was discovered during the HEPSH I project that Karelia UAS should have the same partners in the HEPSH II project as the UEF. During the HEPSH I project, the Karelia UAS participants also got to know some members of staff at Tanzanian (Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences, CUHAS) and Egyptian (Ain Shams University, ASU) universities, and the Nursing Faculties at both these universities were willing to participate in the following project.

Experiences from HEPSH II were as follows. As the academic coordinator in the project, I have been responsible for the share of Karelia UAS during both projects. In this role, I have been leading project activities as regards the development of nursing education. Working in these projects has provided me with significant learning experiences and taught me a great deal on multiculturalism. I learned a lot when working with our southern partners – at times I was in daily contact (e.g. using virtual channels of communication) with colleagues from very different types of cultures. Differences in working cultures and in the ways of working were surprising, but they broadened my perspectives on work. During the project, proactive planning, clarity of planning, and shared understanding between all those involved proved to be particularly important. Based on this experience, I would emphasize the importance of interaction and communication in general as well as sharing of experiences for everyone’s benefit.

Summary of the benefits of co-operation after five years of experience

Going on for expert excursions together with colleagues has given me a safer and a more comfortable feeling, but this co-operation has also increased our professional competence. In addition, understanding of the different practices of HEIs has increased. The results of the project get a more profound meaning and they can be inspected from a broader perspective as they have been reached as a result of co-operation between professionals. All in all, it could be concluded that there is more power in co-operation than doing things alone. Shared brainstorming and shared ideas make the project proceed fluently. Hence, exchange of concrete information and experiences is for the benefit of the project.


Tiainen, A-I. & Miettola, J. 2011. Cooperation between the UEF and NKUAS. NORTH KARELIA UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES NEWS – 2, 22-25.


Arja-Irene Tiainen, Principal Lecturer
Karelia University of Applied Sciences

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