Forced to offer nothing
The university is required to accept exchange students, even if there are no courses available in their major.
”When I came to Jyväskylä last autumn, I received a booklet which contained all of the courses offered to exchange students, organized according to degree program. The program that I was signed up for had hardly any courses. I was surprised.” says Australian student Brigitte Bailey.
A screw-up on the part of the university coupled with poor communication? Not exactly. Foolishness on the part of the student? Maybe a little bit.
The program that Bailey is referring to is Digital Culture in the Department of Art and Culture Studies (TaiKu), which is offered as a Master’s degree. Over the past few years, a new version of the program has been developed which will be implemented in the fall. As it takes time to develop the new programs, subject study courses on offer this year were few. The courses being offered were for the most part meant for students who had reached the end of their studies. Major studies were taking a year off. Despite all of this, Digital Culture took in exchange students.
Professor Raine Koskimaa from TaiKu finds the situation regrettable. He was however on sabbatical up until last August. He doesn’t know what decisions regarding exchange students were made during his absence.
“Taking in new exchange students should have definitely been put on hold for a year”, says Koskimaa.
Bailey studies visual arts in Australia. When she applied to Jyväskylä as an exchange student, she based her study plan on courses on the syllabus from the previous year.
”The courses were from a number of subjects, but most of them were supposed to be Digital Culture courses”, Bailey recalls. Because most of the courses were from Digital Culture, the university’s International Office placed her in the Digital Culture program in TaiKu. Bailey received a pile of paper in the mail, and somewhere in there, the scarcity of courses was mentioned.
TaiKu’s department secretary Juha Teppo sighs and says that all exchange students coming to the department are indeed told that the courses that they have chosen from last year’s syllabus will not be offered. When the exchange student’s study plans come to TaiKu, Juha Teppo marks over the courses which are not going to be offered the coming year. Teppo says that according to the basic principle of exchange programs, there has to be an exceptionally serious reason to reject an applicant, regardless of language requirements.
”The applicants are notified that they are welcome, but that these courses and those courses won’t be offered. We encounter insane situations when we have to say welcome, even though there won’t necessarily be anything offered that the exchange student wanted to study in the first place.”
The International Office at the University hasn’t left Bailey to deal with the situation on her own.
”Tiina Savela from the International Office has been really helpful. She suggested all sorts of different courses to make up for the ones that I couldn’t take. I can’t say that the university didn’t help me”, says Bailey.
She doesn’t worry about her original plans getting messed up. She is now spending her time in Finland taking care of her minor subject studies.
Translation: Willie Lahti