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Helka Kekäläinen

Helka Maria Kekäläinen (previously Mäkinen)
Born February 2, 1967, Kankaanpää

Master of Arts 1993 and PhD 2001 (theatre studies), University of Helsinki

Head of Unit, Finnish Education Evaluation Centre
Secretary general 2008–14, Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council (FINHEEC)
Senior Advisor in university sector 2005–2008, Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council (FINHEEC)
Planning and administrative posts 2001–05, University of Helsinki
Acting professor of Theatre Studies 2000–01, University of Helsinki
Research associate in theatre studies 1998–2000, University of Helsinki
PhD student 1995–98, National Doctoral Study Programme in the Performing Arts

Dissertation: Elli Tompuri – uusi nainen ja punainen diiva (Elli Tompuri – the New Woman and the Red Diva)

Photo: Matti Kajaste
Written by Helka Kekäläinen (Olli Siitonen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Work with higher education

I work as the head of the higher education evaluation unit at the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre. The task of our unit is to produce evaluation information on Finnish higher education institutions and develop the quality management of higher education in Finland. We are responsible for our part of the implementation of the requirements of the Bologna Process in Finland.

The FINHEEC secretariat on a fact-finding trip to Austria: Matti Kajaste, Kalle Holm and Mafi Saarilammi. Photo: Matti Kajaste

When I started working with the evaluation of Finnish higher education at the FINHEEC secretariat, we were a dynamic young working community who never ran out of ideas. The evaluation council was responsible for decision-making, and that was where the best minds in the development of higher education worked. Those FINHEEC years were marked by excellent collaboration between the council, the higher education sector and students. In development days held jointly with the council, we set ourselves the strategic goal of becoming international forerunners in the evaluation of higher education institutions. It was great to work towards a clear target.

My work became even more international when I was elected to the board of the ENQA (European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education) and was chosen as its vice-president. Over a period of seven years, I actively participated in the work of the board and represented the ENQA in numerous events around the world. The European higher education sector is not limited to EU countries; rather, it stretches to the Caucuses, Kazakhstan, and in the case of Russia all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

We organised the General Assembly of the ENQA in Finland in 2010. I competed with my good friends and colleagues Fiona Crozier (UK) and Josep Grifoll (Catalonia) for the position of vice-president. Photo: Matti Kajaste.

The insights into different cultures offered by working with the development of higher education are inspiring. In Japan I was the keynote speaker in a seminar which addressed student participation in the quality assurance of higher education. During a break, local researchers came to apologise for the audience’s reluctance to accept the idea and assured me that their resistance was unconnected to me as a person; rather, their professors were simply unwilling to give up their position of authority voluntarily.

We represented the ENQA together with the organisation’s president, Padraig Walsh (Ireland), at a meeting of ministers of education in Yerevan where the new Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area were approved. Photo: Maria Kelo


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