Mari Kiviniemi, the new Chair of the Board: “The focus of the coming years will be on internationalisation”

Mari Kiviniemi
The University of Vaasa is well placed to achieve its ambitious goals in internationalisation. The university is moving in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to be done, says the new Chair of the Board of the University of Vaasa Mari Kiviniemi.

Mari Kiviniemi, who started as the Chair of the Board at the beginning of the year, is full of motivation and enthusiasm for her new position of trust. She has served as the Managing Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation for three years now, and she also has energy for work outside her day job.

– Chairing the Board is demanding and time-consuming. However, I’m happy to be involved in developing the University of Vaasa into an internationally successful and influential university, Kiviniemi says.

Born in Jalasjärvi, Kiviniemi studied economics and graduated from the University of Helsinki as a Master of Science in Political Science. She has a long political career behind her. She served as Member of Parliament for the Centre Party from 1995 to 2014. She also served as Prime Minister, Minister for Public Administration and Local Government as well as Minister for Foreign Trade and International Development.

After her political career, Kiviniemi served for four years as Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD.

– At the OECD, I had a lot to do with research data. I was also already familiar with the University of Vaasa, since I served as Member of Parliament for the constituency of Vaasa for three terms. The first things that come to mind are the university’s agility and ability to keep up with the times.

Nice progress in developing the university

Kiviniemi thinks that the new Board is very well placed to start its work. The previous Board made important initiatives that the university management has taken forward.

– The new Board doesn’t need to start out by thinking about what should be fixed or reformed.

The university has a fresh strategy, which in Kiviniemi’s opinion has aptly plotted the steps to make the university internationally successful and influential.

– The Board’s task is to ensure that the strategy is put into practice and to support it. We must also be able to update the strategy if necessary, seeing that it extends all the way to 2030.

The content and offering of education at the university are currently being reformed. Large investments have been made in research.

– These are all good things that we are now focusing on strengthening. It is good to continue from here together with the Rector, management group, staff and students. In order to succeed, we must all support and participate in the process.

A good start in internationalisation

According to Kiviniemi, the biggest challenge and opportunity for the university is internationalisation. This will be a cross-cutting theme in both education and research in the coming years.

– Our goal is that by 2030, approximately 35 per cent of our degree students will have a foreign background. This is a demanding but necessary goal, with the number of Finnish students decreasing as the age groups decrease. We also need to attract more foreign researchers.

– These issues have already been nicely addressed, but we need input from the entire university community in order to succeed. Partners like the City of Vaasa are also important, not forgetting connections to Kokkola and Seinäjoki.

Kiviniemi finds it wonderful that the university has close relations with the region’s business life, for example in the energy and environment sector. The university is also a valued partner in national and international innovation ecosystems.

Kiviniemi is a person who truly knows the significance of networking. She hopes that her extensive domestic and international network will also benefit the university.

– I am available as a link to various parties in matters belonging to the Chair. Operational matters are, of course, in the hands of the Rector and the management group.

The university’s funding must be secured

One of the things on the new Board’s desk will be a performance agreement to be negotiated with the Ministry of Education and Culture, which will outline the guidelines for the university’s operations in the coming years.

There is also a campus development project aimed at turning the campus into a vibrant and attractive meeting place.

– It is essential that the university’s funding is in order. Political decisions have a key role to play here.

Kiviniemi welcomes the fact that all parties in the parliamentary working group have committed themselves to increasing the funding for research and development. However, it should be sufficient in the long term and also focus sufficiently on basic research.

– There is a question mark over funding for education in the coming years, as there is a great need for savings in the state budget. For its part, the University of Vaasa strives to be efficient and productive, says Kiviniemi.

Text: Matti Remes, Photo: Finnish Commerce Federation


Board of the University of Vaasa 2022–2025

  • 11 members, five of whom come from outside and six from inside the university community
  • Chair of the board: Mari Kiviniemi, CEO of the Finnish Commerce Federation
  • Vice-chair of the board: Juha Kytölä, Chief Technology Officer from Wärtsilä
  • The other members of the board: Mervi Airaksinen, future CEO of Microsoft Oy, Timo Aukia, CEO of Timo Aukia Oy and Jaakko Aukia Oy, and Markku Stenborg, Financial Advisor at the Ministry of Finance, Professor Marko Kohtamäki, Professor of Accounting and Finance Timo Rothovius, Professor of Business Mathematics Tommi Sottinen, Supervisory Education Coordinator in Administrative Sciences Marja Vettenranta, Post Doc Researcher Susanna Kultalahti and University of Vaasa student Aleksi Sandroos
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