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Safety and security as part of the social responsibility of universities of applied sciences

A successful and dynamic higher education institution acts responsibly by comprehensively ensuring its safety and security. In order to achieve this, the entire higher education community must be taken into account from the perspective of students, staff and other stakeholders alike. Safety and security cannot be outsourced and fragmented. It requires systematic leadership and management and, before all, seamless cooperation.

News 10.10.2018

Authors: Soili Martikainen, Senior Lecturer, and Tiina Ranta, Director, Safety and Security. The authors have edited a publication series on everyday safety and security work. In this series, they have reviewed safety and security at higher education institutions. Since 2016, altogether nine publications have been published in the series.

According to Maslow, safety and security constitute one of people’s basic needs. The concept of safety and security is broad, and it can be defined in many ways and from many different angles. According to dictionaries, ‘safety’ means being protected from harm and ‘security’ means being free from danger or threat.

Many global trends as well as changes in Finnish society are reflected in safety and security. These trends and changes also affect universities of applied sciences. In addition to positive effects, many threats have also been identified. Polarisation, for instance, increases security threats. Society may become wounded by the fragmentation of the values of society, as this increases differentiation and, consequently, conflicts. (Sisäministeriö 2017, 30–32.)

The concept of corporate social responsibility is very suitable for universities of applied sciences because of their social undertakings. According to Juutinen (2016), the concept of corporate social responsibility covers social responsibility, corporate responsibility and sustainable development. This also includes responsibility in business operations by grasping opportunities and minimising risks.

Ensuring safety and security is one of the duties of universities of applied sciences. The minimum level of safety and security is specified in law, assigning both rights and obligations to the employees, students and employer. Law requires the employer to identify and assess work-related risks. On the other hand, law also provides employees with the obligation to look after the safety and security of themselves and others.

Higher education institutions also need a security management system

Security management should be part of the normal management of universities of applied sciences. Security management aims for a situation in which any risks concerning people, the environment, assets, knowledge or reputation are under control and any damage has been prevented. What is challenging with regard to security management is that the safety and security of an organisation is a dynamic state.

A security management system refers to a structured and documented system with which the personnel can efficiently implement the organisation’s safety, security and environmental protection programme. Every organisation, also higher education institutions, needs security management.

The Security Strategy for Society 2017 government resolution focuses on a cooperation model for comprehensive security, which provides a framework for collaboration. Contingency planning according to the cooperation model for comprehensive security will be extensive and engaging in nature. Preparation for future security challenges and their prevention is supported through anticipation, which is a material part of the contingency planning process. (Turvallisuuskomitea 2017.)

Schools and higher education institutions are, for their part, also responsible for the implementation of this strategy in cooperation with different stakeholders. This is because the emphasis is expressly on risk-based contingency planning that is carried out together by all the different actors in our society. 

Already during the preparation of the strategy, the question of psychological resilience came up. It has been defined as follows: ‘Psycological resilience means the ability of individuals, communities, society and the nation to withstand the pressures arising from crisis situations and to recover from their impacts. Good psychological resilience facilitates the recovery process.’ 

Universities of applied sciences also have the opportunity to participate in the implementation of measures under the Security Strategy for Society 2017 in order to enhance collaboration and reinforce their psychological resilience. Also the Act on Universities of Applied Sciences obligates contingency planning; higher education institutions must make contingency plans and preparations to ensure that they can continue to attend to their duties as efficiently as possible also in exceptional circumstances. By carrying out systematic development of security management, universities of applied sciences can have means for reinforcing their psychological resilience. 

Security level at universities of applied sciences

A recent doctoral study (Martikainen 2016) states that, according to the results of the study, security management at audited universities of applied sciences was statistically significantly more advanced compared with audited elementary schools. However, there is still room for improvement in elementary schools and universities of applied sciences, as the approach to safety and security management was fragmented. It can be assumed that the majority of Finnish universities of applied sciences and elementary schools do not probably reach the basic level of comprehensive, risk-based safety and security management. 

The need to be safe is particularly emphasised in school environments, which, unfortunately, are often referred to as scenes of extreme violent acts. Therefore, in many school environments, there is great concern about the possibility of these extreme but very unlikely deeds, while schools do not have adequate resources for the implementation of security management and risk management in everyday life. 

The need to be safe is one of people’s basic needs. Therefore, safety and security constitute part of the social responsibility of universities of applied sciences. Universities of applied sciences need adequate human resources that are specifically allocated to ensuring safety and security. In addition, they need expertise in comprehensive, risk-based security management, and the entire higher education community must be engaged in the security work. 

It can be expected that higher education institutions that are committed to security management and improvement of safety and security will appeal to future applicants as the safest and, at the same time, most attractive school environments. In the future, a reliably safe learning environment may, also in Finland, be a criterion for students when they are choosing a place to study.  

Certainly everyone of us would, now and in the future, like to study and work in a higher education environment and community in which systematic security management would at once convince us. Finnish higher education institutions are fully capable of being such environments – if not today, hopefully tomorrow. 


Juutinen, S. 2016. Strategisen yritysvastuun käsikirja. Helsinki: Talentum Pro.

Martikainen, S. 2016. Development and Effect Analysis of the Asteri Consultative Auditing Process – Safety and Security Management in Educational Institutions. Acta Universitatis Lappeenrantaensis.  Lappeenranta: Lappeenrannan teknillinen yliopisto.

Sisäministeriö. 2017. Hyvä elämä – turvallinen arki. Valtioneuvoston periaatepäätös sisäisen turvallisuuden strategiasta 5.10.2017. Sisäministeriön julkaisu 15/2017. Viitattu 25.7.2018.

Turvallisuuskomitea. 2017. Yhteiskunnan turvallisuusstrategia 2017 hyväksyttiin hallituksen strategiaistunnossa. Viitattu 20.7.2018.

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