The second application round of Team Finland Knowledge -programme opens possibilities for cooperation and mutual learning with Southern Africa and Latin America

Programmes Higher education Team Finland Knowledge Internationalisation

The purpose of the TFK funding programme is to create and strengthen cooperation between Finnish higher education institutions and the selected TFK target countries as well as to design new operating models. The programme funds educational cooperation between higher education institutions through cooperation- and mobility projects.

In 2022, TFK programme will primarily fund cooperation with Southern Africa and Latin America. Funding can also be applied for projects with China, Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and India. The budget for the 2022 application round is about €1,800,000, of which 2/3 is reserved for cooperation with Southern Africa and Latin America. Target countries and possible priorities may vary in the future application rounds in different ways.

As part of the 2022 application round region-specific webinars on Southern Africa and Latin America were organized in collaboration with the TFK-specialists in order to discuss what kind of issues should be paid attention to when planning cooperation in different target areas.

Cooperation with Southern Africa should be built on the basis of initiatives and needs coming from the region

According to TFK specialist Iina Soiri the 16 eligible partner countries in Southern Africa form a large, growing and diverse region that offers high quality partners interested in cooperation. Finland as a good reputation and previous cooperation in the area. Soiri encouraged projects to choose their partners wisely, to consider less known options and to discuss with old partners about the possibility to invite new partners from the area. When considering continuing old partnerships, one should take into account the rapid changes in the area, for example the completely new higher education network in Mozambique.

Soiri underlined that principles of the cooperation should be discussed thoroughly with partners and target country’s partners should be involved in all aspects of the project. The purpose is to build projects where everyone feels involved actively. The initiatives and interests coming from Southern Africa as well as the needs of the region should be paid attention to.

Potential fields of cooperation in the region are productive industries, mining, green recovery and energy, social sciences and future skills. Fields related to energy, new materials and climate change as well as humanistic fields and pedagogies are fruitful options for cooperation as well.

It is noteworthy that despite the rapid digital transformation the connections and infrastructure in the area can be fragile and for example data is very expensive. You should also remember when planning the cooperation, especially joint double degrees, that higher education is very centrally controlled in the region.

Inequality in the region needs to be taken into account as well when planning projects, Soiri reminds. When it comes to safety, Soiri ensures that all you need is common sense, good insurance and proper training and that higher education campuses are safe places to move.

Digitalisation, renewable energy, mining and education technology potential fields of cooperation in Latin America

According to TFK specialist Emilia Ahvenjärvi, equal partnerships are expected in Latin America as well and it is important to involve everyone in the projects. The pandemic has led to a leap in digitalisation and development of online teaching in the region. Ahvenjärvi recommends cooperation in Latin America since the region has very committed, enthusiastic and innovative students and researchers.

Finland is known in the area for its high-quality basic education, but challenges for cooperation might be that otherwise Finland can be quite unknown and considered far away. The cooperation can be built through European countries that already have close relation to the region, such as Spain, France and Italy. Lessons learned in cooperation with southern European partners can also be valuable when building cooperation with Latin America.

Potential fields for cooperation in the region according to Ahvenjärvi are among others digitalization, bio-economy, renewable energy and mining. With Argentina possible field are also for example maritime technology and food industry. In Uruguay teacher education and national curriculum framework are being renovated which offers possibilities for cooperation with Finland. In Columbia Potential fields are education technology, circular economy and cleantech, health and wellbeing. Creative industries such as design, film-making and videogames, have interest in cooperation. In Mexico interesting fields are manufacturing industry, metal and machinery and cybersecurity. Finland can also find similarities in climate and geography despite the distance with the southern cone of Latin America.

Argentina is leading countries in higher education in the region. Finland has already existing partnerships with private universities but public science universities should be considered as partners as well, thanks to their good quality. Chile’s private sector has a very important role in education, and although scholarship systems have evolved, unequal opportunities to enter education and carry out studies remains. In Colombia the access to higher education studies is very unequal, even if students with lowest income level can study for free. Hierarchic decision making should be taken into account in cooperation in the region as well.

Skills in Spanish and Portuguese are an asset in cooperation in the region. Ahvenjärvi highlights that in order to build close cooperation and trust one should pay attention to getting to know partners.