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Doctoral degrees conferment of at Helsinki University of Technology 2008: A celebration of Knowledge!

Dear Promovendi,

April 2, 2008 will mark the 20th conferment of doctoral degrees ceremony at Helsinki University of Technology, TKK. It was exactly one hundred years earlier, on April 2, 1908, that the Tsar of Russia granted university privileges to what was then the Finnish University of Technology. This authorized the granting of degrees of Doctor of Science in Technology. To date, some 2,000 Doctors of Science in Technology and Doctors of Philosophy have completed their degrees here, and we have also awarded 132 honorary doctorates. The upcoming conferment of doctoral degrees will also be the first occasion at which TKK will recognize Jubilee Doctors, i.e. doctors who received their degree 50 years ago.

Knowledge has been Finland's most important resource ever since the mythical ancient history of the Finnish people. The archetypal Finnish folklore hero, Väinämöinen, was an “age-old wizard”. The first reading primer or ABC book in Finnish was written by Mikael Agricola in the 16th century, opening the door to education in Finnish, first through catechetic tutorials and peripatetic schools and later, from the 19th century, through permanent primary schools. Technical education was launched in Finland at Helsinki Technical Realschule in 1849. Today, Finland's strong international competitiveness, social wellbeing and contribution to global cooperation are the logical products of our grand knowledge-based national strategy.

Universities are at the forefront of knowledge. They generate and disseminate new scientific information and educate new experts, scholars and teachers. There is a strong sense of belonging between alumni and their alma mater. In medieval Europe, when a journeyman passed his master’s examination, he was accepted as a full member of his guild in a solemn ritual. The same principle was carried over into the conferment ceremonies developed at the universities of Paris and Bologna in the 13th century: the conferment ceremony marks the formal acceptance of a graduate into the academic community. The first university of Finland, the Academy of Turku, was founded in 1640 and held its first conferment ceremony conferring Master’s degrees in 1643. Renamed the University, it was moved to Helsinki after the Great Fire of Turku (1827), and the faculties of medicine and philosophy held their first conferment ceremonies after relocation in 1832.

Helsinki University of Technology received the rights to give out doctoral degrees in the year 1908. Since then, conferment ceremonies have been organized, but only for conferring doctoral degrees. Initially, it was rare for anyone to complete a degree of Doctor of Science in Technology, and at the time of the conferment ceremony held in 1949 the total number of doctors graduated at the university until then was only 57. Today, some 300 new doctors graduate every two years, and other universities and departments of technology in Finland increasingly award doctorates, too.

Although the number of doctors has thus increased hugely, a doctorate is still a uniquely demanding and prestigious project which requires not only intelligence, creativity and enthusiasm but also stamina and determination. Most of you have already celebrated the completion of your great effort after defending your dissertation. At the conferment ceremony, a century of learning and tradition at TKK will be celebrating together with you, past and present. The ceremony will include professors and friends, Doctors honoris causa and Jubilee Doctors.

The conferment ceremony at TKK will last for one day. The day’s festivities, with processions and performances of music, will culminate in the Ceremonial Conferment of Doctoral Degrees, at which the Conferrer will place doctoral hats on the heads of the Promovendi. The conferment banquet and Ball Dancing in formal dress, with old dances, inspiring speeches, toasts and music, will contribute to an elevated yet cheerful mood. The orchestras and choirs of TKK will help forge a unique sense of community, creating a moment in which to take time out from our busy lives and enjoy ourselves on this historical occasion.

The Latin verb promovere means to move forward, to promote, to elevate. At this conferment ceremony, TKK will be transferring the finest traditions and values of its scientific community to a new generation of doctors to give them spiritual support in their careers and to advance technological sciences in general, whether it involves traditional academic research and teaching or activities in other areas of society. The recipients of honorary doctorates bring unique social and global scientific networking to the TKK scientific community, and the Jubilee Doctors give us a valuable sense of perspective.

A degree will be conferred on all doctors of technology or philosophy completing their studies at TKK, whether attending or absent. I hope that as many of you as possible will attend this 20th conferment of doctoral degrees at TKK, to experience and create the unique sense of community and to celebrate, in the finest academic traditions, the centennial festivities of our own TKK, Finland’s first university of technology.

Yours sincerely,

Riitta Smeds

Professor, Master of Ceremonies