HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences

What Is a University of Applied Sciences?

A university of applied sciences refers to a university-level institution that has a focus on the needs of working life. In other words, through close contact with businesses, the students get an education that provides up-to-date knowledge and practical skills for entering business-life. For businesses, it forms a supply of future employees who meet the current demand.

Discovering the Downtown Specials

As a partner in Helsinki’s World Design Capital 2012 year, HAAGA-HELIA has joined the task of improving the business circumstances for shops in the downtown area. In the fight for customer attention, many boutiques need to find new ways to appeal to their clientele.

In the squeeze between malls and large supermarkets, smaller shops are having a hard time in the downtown area. Undoubtedly, there is a demand for such specialty items and valuable goods like jewellery and watches, designer clothes and footwear, and musical instruments. The strength of these businesses is their unparalleled level of service, but their weakness is communicating with customers.

A study conducted by HAAGA-HELIA found that the main source where people look for information on these shops is the internet. Other sources include newspapers, friends and direct marketing. Unlike the common assumption, many do not find the location inconvenient – the main reason for not utilizing these shops is lack of information.

Together with the City of Helsinki, HAAGA-HELIA is helping the entrepreneurs to strengthen their active advertising and customer communication. For instance, students have planned walking routes with themes ranging from women’s fashion to local design. The routes are promoted to visitors that come to Helsinki, encouraging them to take a look at a unique selection of products.


Business Skills Served to Taste

Presentation is everything, not only in fine dining but in selling any product. That is why the students at HAAGA-HELIA learn sales and service skills as a central element of every program. Both students and staff benefit from the school’s international network of true-life businesses, all within a top-notch education system.

– One of our goals is to prepare cosmopolites. The graduating students should not only know about other cultures but to be able to function within them and posses all the necessary tools starting from language and cultural know-how, says Vice President Paula Kinnunen.

That’s were HAAGA-HELIA’s staff comes into play. Lecturers that come from different cultures, regardless of the subject that they teach, always bring a different cultural aspect to the classroom, passing on their way of thinking and doing. In the case of Fulbright grantees, a year at HAAGA-HELIA is an opportunity to form a long lasting, mutual collaboration that continues far beyond the visit.

Got Service?

HAAGA-HELIA leans on the element of business. While half of the 10,500 students are getting a degree in some field of business, the rest also gain a strong understanding of it in their specific field, whether it’s hotel, restaurant and travel management, sports and leisure, journalism, management assistance, vocational teaching, or information technology.

– Within the School of Business, we offer many orientations: sales and service, finance, human resources, financial management, and marketing. The programs include courses on what we call responsible business; how to handle employees in an ethically correct manner as well as considering the natural environment, says Kinnunen who is also in charge of the Business Education Unit.

The school naturally supports students who are interested in entrepreneurship: every campus has a StartUp School were business ideas turn into real businesses.

Skills Beyond Graduation

HAAGA-HELIA accepts about ten percent of all the applicants annually. Thus, the students form a selected and highly motivated group, majority of which is currently involved in working life.
– Many of our students already have work experience. The challenge for us is to make the education so appealing that the students feel the need to arrange their careers around the classes. Because of their strong motivation the students are a pleasure to work with, says the Managing Director and President of HAAGA-HELIA Ritva Laakso-Manninen.

In addition to producing cosmopolites, HAAGA-HELIA wants its graduates to have strong competence in digital know-how.

– Technology advances at a rapid pace. We want our students to be aware of the different ways to take advantage of the latest technology when they enter working life, and therefore it needs to be used in creative ways in all learning scenarios, Kinnunen explains.

All the learning methods are related to real-life business in a way that involves the students, which also promotes their ability to actively debate and participate in their future work community.
Discovering the Downtown Specials

Active Research

Research at HAAGA-HELIA takes the form of development projects. Acquiring scientific data goes along with learning, as students have an active role in the projects under the supervision of specialists. All the research is based on the needs of actual companies, and the campuses are naturally located at the heart of business-life.

Let’s, for example, look at a process of developing a global brand for a company. The university uses its widespread international network to promote the brand, and the students learn through their involvement in every step of the process. To top it off, information on how such global brands are built in different cultures is attained for future reference.

– This type of process has been acknowledged as a scientific method, and it’s often called the action research perspective, Kinnunen defines the method.
Development projects range from conceptualizing the design and services at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport to different sporting events, and advancing the physical, virtual and social aspects of future conference hotels.

Our Network at Your Fingertips

The Head of International Services Sirpa Holmström points out that the opportunity to network in Europe is one of the top perks for Fulbright grantees at HAAGA-HELIA. It all starts with the atmosphere within the school. Ten percent of the students are international, and the permanent staff is made up of numerous nationalities, including the United States. Language will not become a hindrance, since everyone speaks good English.

According to Holmström, the international mobility in terms of student and lecturer exchange programs is very active.

– We host about three hundred exchange students every year, and we are used to receiving lecturers from other countries for short and long visits, she adds.

As far as the surroundings go, adjusting to Helsinki is made effortless. The country’s capital is safe and clean, and commuting is easy thanks to the good infrastructure. Those who arrive with a family get to experience the world-renowned school system from the perspective of their children, not to forget about the four unique seasons in Finland.

Read more at www.haaga-helia.fi and Fulbright-HAAGA-HELIA Scholar Award.


Text and photo: HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences
Published in the Fulbright Center News 1/2012