History of MTI
The Multidimensional Tourism Institute, whose work began in 2009, is a pioneer in concrete cooperation between different levels of the educational system.
Created amid an upheaval in higher education policy
The mid-2000s saw an extensive debate in Finland on higher education policy. The number, location know-how and funding of the institutions of higher education was assessed and in a very critical tone. The universities of Lapland responded to this challenge by setting up a joint strategy group to consider the prospects and strengths of and the structural reforms required in higher education in Lapland. The strategy group determined that the institutions of higher education in the region would do well to join forces, with tourism studies being one area in which this would be beneficial. Accordingly, a decision was made on 13 November 2007 to establish the Multidimensional Tourism Institute and with that work could begin on building a strong hub of know-how in the field in Lapland.
Broad-based preparations make for a flying start
The goals set for the Institute were ambitious ones and they key regional, national and international players in tourism were asked, and agreed, to join the planning effort. The Provincial Government and later, following its being discontinued, the Regional Council of Lapland granted project funding for establishing the Institute. The project to this end ran from 1 April 2008 to 30 June 2011.
Principal responsibility for the preparatory work was taken on by the tourism, catering and economic sector at the Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences, the tourism research department at the University of Lapland and the tourism, catering and economy sector of Lapland Vocational College in Rovaniemi, the Levi Institute and in Sodankylä. Regional actors supported the work being done at each school.
From the outset, it was clear that there was no desire or any possibility to compromise on the dual model whereby higher education is offered at universities and universities of applied sciences. However, the model poses no obstacle to cooperation and the pursuit of joint objectives.
The Institute charter defines the scope of its work
The charter signed on 1 August 2009 establishes that the parties to the agreement are the University of Lapland and the Rovaniemi Municipal Federation of Education, two of whose member institutions are involved- Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences and the tourism and catering department of the Lapland Vocational College. The Institute was tasked with developing research and development of tourism studies, education in tourism studies at the tertiary (university, university of applied sciences) and secondary (Lapland Vocational College) levels, as well as development-, service- and innovation-oriented activities.
The charter also defined the system of management and administration at the Institute. A board of directors was formed consisting of the highest-level managers of the parties, as well as an executive committee, which is responsible for operative management.
At the same time, it was agreed that the employment status of the staff would not change. The staff of the Institute was and still is employed at one of the three background organizations. MTI agrees annually with the background organizations on its operations and on the required resources, with the particulars set out in performance agreements. In addition a joint budget is compiled for the Institute for shared expenses such as the director’s salary and operational expenses. One important decision made with regard to the future of the Institute was to concentrate the operations of the university-level institutions involved in shared facilities in Viirinkangas. This later proved instrumental in creating a team spirit.
The next step after the signing of the charter was approval of the rules of procedure. These set out in officially the Institute’s mission, objectives, position, administration and organization, the composition of its board of directors and how its members are chose, as well as the responsibilities of the board and the director. The rules of procedure were approved on 1 September 2009 and a revised version was approved on 1 January 2011, when the work of the Institute had become better established.
Opening ceremonies at the Institute were held in Viirinkangas in Rovaniemi on 1 October 2009. Following the festivities it was time to start work and the day-to-day operation of the Institute.
Professor Markku Vieru of the University of Lapland was appointed temporary director of the Institute. The year 2009 also saw the start-up of a project geared to the Institute becoming more international, the focus being to create an international network of partners. Another facet of the project for setting up the Institute was creating a visual image and planning how the space available for its facilities would be used.
At the same time, efforts were begun to recruit a permanent director. From the very outset, it was clear that for its work to succeed, the Institute would need a director who had a very strong record of performance, extensive international experience and experience and visions as regards the development of all levels of educations. Just such a person was found in Sydney, Australia, at Macquarie University. Dr Johan Edelheim began work as director of the Institute in September 2011. The first things he did was to update the Institute’s strategy, which was completed in 2012.
Organizational changes in the background organizations
In autumn 2011, the Rovaniemi Municipal Federation of Education decided to detach its educational programmes in tourism for its other offerings and make the subject a performance area in its own right within the Federation. In the process Lapland Vocational College was divided into two components and Lapland Tourism College was created on 1 November 2011. At the beginning of 2014, the Rovaniemi and Kemi-Tornio Universities of Applied Sciences merged to become the Lapland University of Applied Sciences.
Thus the names of the parties who established the Institute have changed along the way but for the most part the actors involved are nevertheless the same. At this writing, the parties to the Institute charter are Lapland Tourism College, the department of tourism, catering and economy of the Lapland University of Applied Sciences and the tourism research department of the University of Lapland.
MTI becomes a household word
Today MTI has firmly established its position. It is an expert organization on tourism of considerable scope and depth, working in Lapland and engaged in genuine cooperation between different educational levels. Its work has become known to a large number of people in the region and it is an important player day and day out in the work of the schools involved.
The pedagogical planning which the Institute has done to create courses suitable for both the tertiary and secondary levels can be considered pioneering. Moreover, in the area of services and research, the staff of the Institute have succeeded in creating genuine, concrete cooperation that benefits all parties.