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Anita Lehikoinen

Anita Irmeli Lehikoinen
Born April 27, 1959, Riihimäki

MA 1987 (English Philology), University of Helsinki

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC), 2013-
Director general at the Department for Higher Education and Science Policy in the MEC, 2012–2013
Various duties with higher education and science policy in the MEC, 1989-
English teacher, both hourly and at adult education centres, while attending university

Author of multiple national and international MEC working group reports

Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Joe McVeigh

The University Cultivates the Individual

The University of Helsinki was an obvious education choice for Anita Lehikoinen. She had always been interested in languages and chose English Philology for her major.

– In the beginning I was very fast-paced in my studies, completing plenty of courses and getting credits. Then suddenly, I was just a very confused student. I remember some English Philology lectures in Porthania where I would realise that I understood absolutely nothing, not even enough to make notes.

As for her minors, Lehikoinen was not as set. At an early stage in her studies she had a teaching job in English at a vocational education centre in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Lehikoinen describes the experience as broadening her views since it made her realise that she would not want to be a teacher for the rest of her life.

– I chose Political Science and Journalism as my minors. I also studied Comparative Literature. Then I started to worry about my future job opportunities with this combination of studies. English lecturer Ritva Leppihalme encouraged me by saying that I might end up having a job that there is only one of in Finland. I will always remember this because it’s exactly what happened to me.

Anita Lehikoinen’s memories of her university years sound like a rather common student’s “path”. Sometimes studying feels great and then you panic about what you are going to do with all the information and what studying was all about.

– It took me a long time to grasp what studying actually is about. It’s about learning to contextualise things in general, not just making notes and excelling at exams. Then at some point I had a moment when I realised that what went on at the university was a great lot more intelligent than I had thought as a concerned student.

According to Lehikoinen, the university as an institution has plenty more to offer than just the academic knowledge and production of new research.

– In my opinion the university is a cultivator. I see that as its constant task regardless of societal changes. But I can’t deny having later on regretted straying from my studies for too long a time. I would definitely have benefited from stricter control in the progression of studies.


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