Former Finland Prime Minister and Vice-President of the European Commission recalls ‘life-changing’ year at Leicester

Posted by pt91 at Jul 17, 2015 03:55 PM |
University of Leicester honours former student

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 17 July 2015

“The time I spent here at Leicester changed my life entirely– I would not be where I am today had it not been for that time that I studied here.”

Jyrki Katainen, Former Prime Minister of Finland and Vice-President of the European Commission

Contact pressoffice@le.ac.uk to request images.

A former student who rose to become Prime Minister of Finland and Vice-President of the European Commission has recalled his happy time at Leicester

Jyrki Katainen returned to the Leicester campus, where he spent a year as an Erasmus student between 1995-6, to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Mr Katainen toured the University’s state-of-the-art £42 million Centre for Medicine which is currently under construction. The Centre for Medicine is the largest investment in medical teaching and research by a UK University in the last decade. This comes at a time where there is a clear need to fight the growing threat of chronic diseases and improve patient safety and care. The facility will allow increased collaboration between clinicians and leading academics to address these challenges and transform the training of tomorrow's doctors.

The European Investment Bank and Barclays plc have helped finance the development of the building, as well as other campus projects and improvements.

Mr Katainen said: “The new Centre for Medicine is really impressive- it is a piece of art in the sense that there is a lot of new technology and it is so energy efficient. It demonstrates what innovation is all about – not just in terms of technology but in terms of design, architecture and build.

“It is wonderful to be back here at the University of Leicester.  The time I spent here changed my life entirely– I would not be where I am today had it not been for the time at Leicester. We concentrated on European politics and political history and this has had an enormous impact on my choices later.

“I have lots of lovely memories of my time here. I enjoyed the small group discussions we had with the academics- but I also have to say that I studied life and this changed me as a person. It has also been nice to go back to see my former residence.

“It is a big honour and privilege to get this honorary degree.  My message to students is to go abroad- at least for a year.  Erasmus gives you a chance to widen your perspective and creates opportunities.

“I was an Erasmus student myself at Leicester in 1995-1996. This was my first experience of what it meant to be part of the EU, with the freedom to travel, study and work in other Member States. In my political career I have always pushed to make sure that the next generation of young Europeans have the same opportunities I did to make the most of their potential. We need a fresh start in Europe – the Commission's € 315bn (£220m) Investment Plan will be a key to that I am looking forward to meeting up with students and University staff, as well as local business leaders, to hear what they think.

“Twenty years on I am greatly honoured to be returning for this degree ceremony and I look forward to discovering how the University and the City have changed in that time."

Mr Katainen is currently responsible for implementing the European Commission's € 315bn (£220m) Investment Plan to boost the European economy by supporting strategic investments in infrastructure, education, research and innovation, as well as risk finance for small businesses. He will be meeting local businesses at Leicester's National Space Centre to discuss the Plan and other EU issues.

Mr Katainen also met with some postgraduate students working on an EU funded innovation project, the Innovation Research Support Accelerator (IRSA).   IRSA helps small businesses collaborate on R&D with the University of Leicester to accelerate the development and exploitation of new products, services, technologies, processes and markets cross the East Midlands.  Professor Paul Monks the Director of IRSA said: “It was great to showcase the innovative work that the university and businesses are doing on topics as widely varied from the public house experience to river restoration.”

Mr Katainen is a current Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. He joined the Commission in July 2014, as then Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the euro.

Before that he served as Prime Minister of Finland (2011 – 2014) and Minister of Finance (2007 – 2011). He was Member of Finnish Parliament 1999 - 2014 for the National Coalition Party.

Mr Katainen has an MSc in Political Science from the University of Tampere, Finland (1998).

His hobbies include running, cycling and tennis.

Ends

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