"Using Multidisciplinary Education to Cross Organizational Borders -- A Finnish Example"


Minna Takala and David Hawk


There is a European trend in education to emphasize crossing boundaries in higher education. Degree programs increasingly cross disciplines while company recruiters search for multitalented graduates. Mixing discipline content requires crossing intra-university borders as well as borders of organizations within and between universities. Many of the problems with this come from organizational structures being typically hierarchical within universities, and co-operation in a university or even a discipline can be even more difficult than is normally anticipated in social organizations. This situation poses significant dilemmas for change.

Universities are being challenged to become more open to their surrounding societies, including industries that rely on the graduates. While industry-university co-operation is widely supported by authorities in both kinds of organizations, and is taking place in both M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree education program, it faces many impediments. Life-long-learning ideology has further complicated the situation by bringing more adult learners with widely varying needs to universities. In some ways this helps change because it is clear that structures need to be modified to accommodate more mature students with extensive knowledge in various subject areas. In addition, new learning technologies have provided an impetus for change via their role as new tools that allow greater efficiencies in certain activities. In summary the challenge for university change is great.

This paper is about a research project that involves two multidisciplinary university units. Both are somewhat unique in that they have a history of constantly crossing organizational borders within and outside their universities. Both feel this has been essential. Their activities have become fragmented over the past seven years thus there is a call for a different form of organization to avoid returning to historic structures. They have many common educational programs with other programs and universities but this has resulted in a quite complicated structure. The result is a design based on emergent activities rather than any use of systematic planning. Both departments now faced common and serious management challenges. Each sees a need to now conceptualize, describe a model their operating system. The project focuses the Department of Music Education at the Sibelius Academy (a Finnish university of music) and the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management at the Helsinki University of Technology (a Finnish technology university).

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Minna Takala and David Hawk, "Using Multidisciplinary Education to Cross Organizational Borders -- A Finnish Example", Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference of the International Society for the Systems Sciences at Asilomar, California, June 27 to July 2, 1999.

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