Haaga-Helia awarded the quality label of a top athlete-friendly higher education institution
When sport becomes a profession, planning a career after sport may not be the top priority. Now, a network of top athlete-friendly higher education institutions is being built in Finland to promote dual careers for athletes.
The Finnish Olympic Committee has developed an evaluation model to assess how higher education institutions respond to the requirements of education that supports top-level sport. The model aims to identify higher education institutions that meet the quality criteria of a top athlete-friendly higher education institution.
The first HEIs in Finland to be awarded the status of a top athlete-friendly HEI are Haaga-Helia and Savonia University of Applied Sciences, which were awarded the quality labels on 21 September 2023.
Guidance and flexibility important for athletic students
Haaga-Helia has more than ten years of experience in building study paths for athletes and coaches. The University of Applied Sciences was praised by the Olympic Committee's audit team in particular for the quality of its guidance and e-learning offer.
Athletes studying at Haaga-Helia can apply to become members of the local sports academy, which enables, among other things, enhanced study guidance.
– We received positive feedback from the audit team on a number of issues. High quality guidance supports the well-being of student athletes and the planning of their studies. Our wide range of online courses enables a smooth transition to university and helps to combine studies with a career in sport, says Martina Roos-Salmi, a lecturer at Haaga-Helia who has been involved in the development of dual careers for athletes from the very beginning.
Haaga-Helia's versatile sports expertise supports the creation of a favourable study environment for athletes. Another positive aspect is that the Urhea and Vierumäki training centres, which meet the requirements of elite sport, create a functional dual career environment for athletes.
Haaga-Helia trains a large number of professional athletes
The audit team also praised Haaga-Helia's Sports & Study study pathways, which enable athletes to train. More than 60 athletes are currently studying on these pathways, most of them footballers and ice hockey players. Many of them are aiming to go on to graduate studies.
Leo Väisänen, a footballer who has played for the Huuhkajat national team and at the highest level in Sweden, has been satisfied with the athlete's study path, where he started in 2022. Väisänen says that the study path is a good balance between the everyday life of an athlete and the amount of study.
– Studying has been the perfect complement to my sporting career, and it's nice to be able to sharpen my brain, so to speak, while studying for a long time.On the other hand, a sporting career is not a long one, so I try to make the most of it. After that, I'll have time to do other things and make the most of my studies in working life, says Väisänen.
Promoting top-class sport and studies is in the interests of universities
A total of 12 universities of applied sciences and four universities in Finland have already applied for the status of top athlete-friendly universities. Haaga-Helia was audited in spring 2023.
The quality label is awarded by the Steering Committee of the Olympic Committee on the basis of a comprehensive audit process and is valid for five years. Experts from the National Evaluation Centre for Education (Karvi/FINEEC) have helped to build the evaluation model.
The quality work will improve the conditions for Finnish top and professional athletes to enter higher education without compromising the objectives set for sport.
– Sport is a great first profession. It is great that it is also possible to combine higher education with it, says Roos-Salmi.
Main image of the article: Football player Leo Väisänen is studying on the Sports & Study study path at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. Source: Palloliitto.