The health and social services reform requires higher education in the field to become more working life and customer-oriented

Higher education suvialatalo
Sosiaali- ja terveysalan opiskelija.

Higher education in social and health care produce wide-ranging competence that corresponds to the needs of working life. The education provision of degree programmes and continuous learning offered in the field is extensive and varied. However, the Finnish social services and health care sector is currently undergoing major changes that will require education to become more working life and customer-oriented while also taking current societal phenomena into consideration. Responding to future competence needs will require cooperation between universities and employers.

In 2020–2021, the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) carried out an evaluation of higher education in social services and health care. The evaluation focused on the competencies produced by degree programmes, the relevance of the education in terms of the needs of the working life and higher education, and continuous learning. The evaluation also examined the strengths and development needs of educational provision in social services and health care. The evaluation encompassed nearly all Finnish universities offering education in social services and health care and a total of 238 degree programmes.

Educational provision in social services and health care offered in Finland is

The evaluation showed that the education provision in social services and health care offered in Finland is geographically extensive and that there are many different degree programmes available. The continuous learning offered by higher education institutions is also varied, and there are plenty of different methods available for developing one’s own competence.

However, there is room for enhancement regarding the national coordination of the education provision and the related the responsibilities of different higher education institutions. The evaluation team recommends that higher education institutions increase their interaction with each other and agree on nationwide key policies. Student transitions between two higher education sectors and degree levels should also been promoted.

Higher education in social services and health care produces wide-ranging competence that correspond to the needs of working life

Higher education in social services and health care comprehensively develops both the generic competences and specialised sector-specific competences. To ensure that degree programmes also respond to future competence needs, the evaluation team recommends that special attention need to be paid to ethical competences, digital competences, multiprofessional and multidisciplinary competences, multicultural competences and strengthening sustainable development competence. The evaluation team also recommends that competence development should be carried out in cooperation between the representatives of higher education institutions and working life.

“Developing competence through traineeships and other employment cooperation is an important part of students’ professional growth. Dialogue and effective cooperation structures between the representatives of higher education institutions and working life that promote high-quality guidance practices and familiarity with key competence requirements, for example, are important for students,” emphasises Jyri Niemi, the student member of the evaluation team.

Greater emphasis on customer orientation and consideration of working life and societal changes are required in the future

The working-life relevance of higher education in social and health care is good and it is supported in different ways in the degree programmes. The most important methods for ensuring working life relevance are traineeships and the participation of employer representatives in curriculum planning. To support the changes in the sector, the evaluation team recommends that the degree programmes in the field must be implemented in an even more working-life oriented and customer-oriented manner, paying attention to the current phenomena in society increasing the working life and customer orientation.

“The appropriateness and relevance of degree programmes and continuous learning in terms of regional and national development need to be assessed as part of education planning – without forgetting the international dimension,” emphasises Miia Tuominen, the vice-chair of the evaluation team.

Alongside project-bound forms of cooperation, the evaluation team considers it is important to strengthen permanent cooperation structures in the social services and health care sector both within and between higher education institutions and with working life.

“We encourage developing education in a way that increases the visibility of multiprofessional and multidisciplinary social services and health care competence, which is more than the sum of its parts,” says Riitta Konkola, the chair of the evaluation team.

Inquiries and requests for interviews

Chair of the evaluation team Riikka Konkola, tel. +358 (0)50 570 0628, riitta.konkola@metropolia.fi

Evaluation report (in Finnish) 

Sosiaali- ja terveysalan korkeakoulutuksen arviointi [Evaluation of higher education in social services and health care], the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre. Publications 14:2021.

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