Dean’s review

The Faculty weighed, measured and found not wanting

The year 2019 was a year of assessment for the Faculty, as the education provided by the Faculty was subjected to a European assessment in the field of veterinary medicine, while its research activities were assessed as part of the research assessment carried out at the University of Helsinki. We passed both assessments with flying colours. In addition to highlighting a number of successes, the assessment panels also provided us with plenty of good development suggestions.

Field-specific assessment in veterinary medicine is in Europe as well as in a broader international context carried out through European System of Evaluation of Veterinary Training (ESEVT) assessments, which are organised by the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (EAEVE) together with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE).

The assessment is carried out by a group of eight individuals, composed of specialists in veterinary education, a practicing veterinary surgeon and a student member. A highly detailed self-assessment report is drawn up for the assessment, which the group carefully reviews, in addition to paying a week-long assessment visit to the Faculty. During the visit, the information included in the report is verified with the help of interviews and by tours of the facilities and equipment. Peer assessment by colleagues delves deep into content associated with the subject matter as well as pedagogical techniques and quality systems associated with education. Particular emphasis in the assessment is given to the qualities and quantity of the clinical patients used in teaching, as well as the facilities.

The assessment process is laborious and requires commitment from both students and staff. Ideas for development were raised already at the time of drawing up the self-assessment report. Together with the observations included in the assessment report, they provide useful material for the further development of education. An international accreditation for the education provided by the Faculty was a wonderful acknowledgment of the staff and students’ substantial contribution.

The accreditation demonstrates that we meet all of the requirements pertaining to the content of education set by EU directives. Furthermore, the accreditation is evidence of the high quality of our education and the strong commitment of our staff and students in developing this education and in meeting our shared goals.

The number of first- and second-cycle graduates, which is excellent from year to year, is a good indicator of success in education (see the statistics section Information about the Faculty).

In the research assessment, the research activities at the University of Helsinki as a whole were grouped under 39 assessment units, which were assessed by four international assessment panels. Research at the Faculty was assessed by the Life Science panel, whose positive findings were pleasing. Although this evaluation too was based on self-assessment, bibliometric assessments on publishing were also utilised. Research at the Faculty is focused under the One Health theme, a strategic choice that was highlighted as a particular success in the faculty-specific assessment included in the final report. The international panel found the scientific quality of the Faculty to be very high and its societal impact to be excellent, in addition to which the research infrastructure and unit viability were also considered excellent.

The launch of the Helsinki One Health (HOH) network and assistant/associate professorship recruitments infused the Faculty’s year with additional positive activity. The PROFI4 funding awarded by the Academy of Finland to HOH and external funding granted by businesses and foundations helped the Faculty hire seven new professors on the tenure track, some of whose positions are shared by the Faculty of Pharmacy, the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, the Faculty of Medicine and the Finnish Food Authority. Filling of the eighth position was left to be completed in 2020. In addition to the posts above, the Faculty was able to recruit a tenure track professor, a need that has long existed for the equine field. These new positions are a further boost to the Faculty’s research activities and education.

New innovations are expected from the University for the benefit of society and business life. During the year, one such business collaboration reached a significant milestone. In the discipline of pharmacology at the Faculty, a research group operated by Juhana Honkavaara, Marja Raekallio and Outi Vainio innovated a new use for an existing pharmacological molecule, which further increases the safety of safe animal sedation. The related research was supported by the Vetcare Oy company, and in the past 10 years or so, 11 related doctoral dissertations have been or are about to be completed, while several dozen international publications have been released on the topic. The molecule is about to receive a marketing authorisation on the American and European markets under the trade name Vatinoxan®. It is very rare for pharmacological agent discoveries made at universities to reach the markets. This success would not have been possible without the collaboration between Vetcare Oy and the Faculty.

In 2019 the University as a whole was kept busy with drawing up a new strategic plan for the term 2021–2030. The ten-year strategy period matches the strategy of the Ministry of Education and Culture, which extends to 2030, but in place of the previous four-year cycles this longer term represents a new approach. The core duties of the University – the accumulation of research-based knowledge, the provision of research-based education, interaction with the surrounding society and the education of students to serve their country and humanity at large – are permanent, and ten years is not a long time for their implementation.

In 2019 the long-awaited renovation of the Product Animal Hospital at the Saari Manor location in Mäntsälä finally commenced after a previous delay that caused a great deal of grief. The renovation will be completed in 2020, providing the education offered in production animal medicine with appropriate facilities. The small animal clinic in Saari will also gain new facilities at the end of the old clinic building.

The dean and vice-deans of the Faculty were reinforced with the addition of Professor Maria Fredriksson-Ahomaa who started serving as the vice-dean in charge of international and bilingual affairs. Maria has also previously held this position, and her return afforded the leadership a welcome colleague with whom to share the workload.

The successes of the past year would not have been achieved without the commitment and considerable contribution of the staff and students. A big thanks to you all!

Antti Sukura

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
University of Helsinki