Interview with Prof. Paul Ilsley

Prof. Paul Ilsley

Prof. Paul Ilsley, you have experience in supervising many doctoral students around the world in Finland, US, Estonia just to name few countries. What are the special characteristic about Finnish university system and supervising the international students in Finland?

Advisement is a cultural phenomenon, and of course in Finland it has also unique routines. There are not enough structured doctoral programs, and international scholars are left to survive alone. In Finland, we also look for the internationalization too much as an out-going than in-coming activity which leaves many international scholars to feel that they are not much valued in the system. Finnish faculty members are rewarded for the publishing not the quality of teaching and supervision. I think that the big issue especially in the faculty of Education is the low percentage of the students who actually finish their doctoral thesis.

How would you improve the situation?

International doctoral students’ will have better opportunities to graduate if they have clearer idea of how they can finance their studies, if their research skills are developed and supported during the study process, and if the faculties would exercise more inclusive strategy in orientating students to the studies and opportunities to participate into faculty activities. Doctoral students need to be provided enough courses in English, assistance positions, and opportunities to teach and assist in research projects. Now many students are left to survive alone without even sufficient supervision for their research.

International scholars should be seen as resource people with a role to play in the Finnish society. They can also be demanded more involvement into the Finnish language studies and activity in the Finnish society. It has come as a surprise to me that many international students in the teaching training department have never visited one single school in Finland. Students need to be supported to learn how to contribute, to adopt a sense of mission, to contribute to Finnish society, to be an academic ambassador.

“Maybe we cannot reach the stars, but we can guide our ships by them.”