"The University of the Arctic is truly a university without walls, an institution true to the special spirit that unites the peoples and places of the Circumpolar World.”
The Rector of the University of Lapland, Esko Riepula, said those words during the University of the Arctic’s (UArctic) launch in 2001 in Rovaniemi, Finland. For Riepula, the launch had a special meaning for him for a few reasons. The Rector had been involved with UArctic since he first heard of the idea in 1998. Additionally, UArctic’s International Secretariat had also found a home at ULapland located in Rovaniemi.
“I’m proud to have played a part in this process and hope that you all share this sense of ownership,” he told the crowd during that day, which included several important officials and politicians from across the Circumpolar North. “The University of the Arctic is, as we Northerners like to say, in the North, for the North and by the North.”
Five years after the launch, UArctic’s International Secretariat still has a home at ULapland. It also appears it will continue to do so for many years to come. Last April, Finland’s Ministry of Education agreed to give stable funding for the Secretariat until 2009.
“My hope is that UArctic will continue to benefit this organization and the two or three other institutions in the area that are involved,” says Riepula, who recently retired as rector of ULapland.
Along with housing the International Secretariat, ULapland is involved with many UArctic programs including the Circumpolar Studies Program (BCS), the north2north student mobility program, and UArctic’s latest mobility program GoNorth. Riepula says it’s important for academic institutions, such as ULapland, to get involved with organizations such as UArctic.
“Every country, especially northern countries, needs north-south south-north connections,” he says. “It’s very important to have these sorts of networks.”
Riepula first heard of the idea for the UArctic during the Circumpolar Universities Association (CUA) Conference in Luleå Sweden in 1998. At that time, he was the chair of the CUA.
“I remember that was the first start of these activities and they went really rapidly,” he says.
Riepula says that UArctic has accomplished a lot during its short existence, exceeding the expectations he had five years ago. However, he says looking ahead the organization needs to figure out a way to combine the European and American post-secondary systems so students can benefit.
“I hope students have more flexibility to pick up more studies and different universities,” he says.
As for UArctic’s future, Riepula says he believes in the next few years, even more institutions will get involved with UArctic. He also feels the organization will play an important role in finding solutions to having courses online.