17.08.2023 | Blog

Blog: Why do we need higher education, wouldn’t you like to know?

I was part of a distinctive hyperlocal discussion event, “Why do we need higher education? Being a student in Finland, Estonia and Latvia,” which seamlessly merged participants from diverse cities through cutting-edge technology, fostering an immersive pan-European dialogue. The primary aim was to cultivate open and respectful communication, aligning with the core values of the Timeout Foundation. Collaborating with Miltton Events, the event facilitated dynamic discussions, setting the stage for the upcoming Hybrid European Democracy Festival scheduled for 2024.

As a panellist, engaging in profound exchanges with fellow participants from various cities allowed for a deep dive into the profound significance of higher education. This experience was incredibly enriching, enabling valuable connections and shedding light on how important education is in our countries. The event also acted as a precursor to the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 program, effectively embodying the mission of the Timeout Foundation in fostering constructive conversations that transcend local and international challenges.

Our panel explored why people choose higher education in different countries, sharing a variety of stories that showed how culture and personal dreams connect. For example, I pursued a nursing degree in Finland, while others aimed for career growth in Estonia or pursued journalism and leadership in Latvia. Some even boldly followed their passions for philosophy and cinema against the odds. These stories revealed the unique journeys that brought us to higher education.

The discussion about challenges in higher education in different countries highlighted various concerns. In Finland, we faced pressures for quick graduation due to funding issues, and the lack of teaching staff was also noted. In Estonia, there is a struggle with speciality-specific course offerings and challenges in student-led learning. Meanwhile, in Latvia, there is the task of finding balance between work, studies, and limitations in social opportunities. These shared perspectives helped us find effective strategies to address these challenges. The power of community, collaboration, and student activism emerged as key factors in achieving positive change.

During our discussions, the profound impact of higher education came into focus, encompassing both personal and professional spheres. Journeys from refugee to citizen and the transformation of hesitation into activism underscored the transformative power of education. Our conversations further delved into the intricate link between education and democracy, underlining the importance of engagement and a nuanced understanding of systems.

The discourse brought forth a wealth of insights that transcended borders, highlighting the unity within diversity. It underscored the significance of striking a balance between innovative tools like online teaching and the irreplaceable value of in-person engagement and community. Audience questions shed light on the impact of student activism and the interplay between education, civic participation, and technology. Overall, the event not only deepened my understanding of education’s role but also empowered me to contribute to a larger discourse aimed at shaping the future of higher education. The seamless functioning of the advanced technology further impressed me, with only minor connection issues.

Writer: Adel Rizvi, SAMOK board member