Pirjo Raitanen worked a total of 30 years at the City of Espoo Education Department. As planning director, she participated in, for example, the preparation, launching and development of comprehensive school in Espoo. In the mid-1990s, she played an instrumental role in the chequered early stages of the joint Espoo-Vantaa Polytechnic (EVAMK).
The Act on Polytechnic Trials entered into force in the spring of 1991, when Vantaa and Espoo applied for a trial permit for the establishment of their respective polytechnics. Vantaa was among the first to be granted a trial permit for the starting of polytechnic operations, with the Vantaa Temporary Polytechnic opening in the autumn of 1991.
In Espoo, the trial permit for establishing its own polytechnic was first applied for by the Joint Authority in Education in the Espoo Region in 1991. The next year, Espoo Business Colleges were also included in the trial permit application. This group also applied for a trial permit in 1993 and 1994, but did not have the desired result.
City of Espoo Education Department planning director Pirjo Raitanen was closely involved in polytechnic development in Espoo. She later served as chairman of the planning group for Espoo's own polytechnic as well as Vice Chairman of the Espoo-Vantaa Polytechnic management group.
- At that time, the prevailing idea in Espoo was that a region its size - second only to Helsinki - should have its own polytechnic, says Raitanen, recalling a discussion held nearly thirty years ago.
- In Vantaa, the preparations for launching its own polytechnic trial were, however, much further along than in Espoo, which was repeated denied a trial permit.
In Finland, there was a great deal of enthusiasm for polytechnic trials in the early 1990s, with scores of trial permit applications being submitted all over the country. Borrowed from a Central European example, the model of combining practical and theoretical instruction was widely considered the way of the future.
- Despite the interest, many people were sceptical of the reform and some resistance to it was encountered. Many people thought it was just a little too high-minded to change all education into a polytechnic format, says Raitanen.
Espoo and Vantaa join forces
Major steps toward the establishment of a joint university of applied sciences were taken in 1995. The Ministry of Education required the establishment of a regional polytechnic in Uusimaa, and Vantaa actively sought partners for its polytechnic project from central Uusimaa, Hyvinkää, Porvoo and Lohja. Espoo was also courted.
- As Espoo was the biggest actor in the region, it was absolutely vital that it be included in the project. A regional polytechnic without Espoo would have been like a body without a head, states Raitanen.
Read the whole article in the latest issue of Forerunner Magazine here.