Fulbright is a Valuable Partner in Internationalization Efforts

Increasing international connections at all levels of education is an important strategic goal for Finnish education and science policies. The Fulbright program plays an important role in our efforts to achieve this goal.

From the very beginning, the Fulbright program has been a pioneer in developing relations between Finland and the United States. By enhancing academic and cultural cooperation between our countries, the program has enabled students and scholars to build networks, especially personal ones. From its inception, the Fulbright partnership has provided new opportunities for strengthening the interaction between our countries.

The program has aged gracefully, yet is continuing to expand. Over the years, the importance of Fulbright grantees for the Finnish scientific community and the training of researchers has been widely recognized, even by corporate management and political leadership.

For example, more than half of all professors at the University of Helsinki in the 1990s were “Fulbrighters”. The Finnish alumni community of the Fulbright program consists of more than 3,700 scholars and students and includes experts in scientific and cultural fields of study. Among the alumni are two winners of the Finlandia Literary Prize, and even a Nobel Laureate in Economics. It is clear that Fulbright alumni are making an impact in science, the arts and other sectors of society both in Finland and in the United States.

Over the decades, the Fulbright Finland Foundation has grown an active network of hundreds of alumni also in the United States. In 2017, the American alumni network, Friends of Fulbright Finland, launched a project called Centennial Ambassadors. This initiative is now a permanent part of the Finnish higher education marketing actions in the United States.

Finnish Fulbright grantees are well-known ambassadors of Finland’s higher education system and research institutions abroad. They have played an important part in supporting Finnish educational and research cooperation and the export of Finnish knowledge, expertise and educational innovation. In the strategy “Policies to Promote Internationalisation in Higher Education and Research”, drawn up by the Ministry of Education and Culture and Finnish higher education institutions, the existence of such networks is recognized as an asset that needs to be actively fostered.

In fall 2018, Finland will post a permanent “ambassador”, who is an expert in education and science policies, to Washington, D.C. The expert will be part of the newly launched global Team Finland Knowledge network of educational experts. He or she will promote Finland-U.S. cooperation in the field of higher education, research and science and raise awareness of Finland as a country of high-quality education, research and innovations. This is an excellent new opening to build contacts.

The Finnish ASLA-Fulbright Program was founded as early as in 1949. This means that next year marks the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright cooperation. I do not think there were many people back in the 1940s who could have imagined that Fulbright activities would grow into what they are today: a broad transatlantic bridge between Finland and the United States. However, that is exactly what has happened. This bridge has served us well and has provided a safe and solid route for many Finns and Americans to take part in educational exchanges overseas — and I am convinced that it will continue to do so also in the future. 

Sanni Grahn-Laasonen
Finnish Minister of Education

Published in Fulbright Finland News 1/2018