The P&Q Interview: A Dean In Finland Wants His B-School To Go Global 

The P&Q Interview: A Dean in Finland Wants His B-School To Go Global 

Aalto University School of Business is located in Espoo, Finland. The B-school has more than 3,000 students across its undergraduate and graduate programs

Timo Korkeamäki assumed the deanship of Aalto University School of Business in late 2019. Only a few months later, the coronavirus pandemic hit — upending any plans he had for the premier business school in Finland and one of the top B-schools in Scandinavia.

Korkeamäki jokes that the pandemic is why his first 100 days as dean were so productive: Much like the entire education sector, Aalto’s coursework moved completely online as all international travel ceased.

On a more serious note, he says, were the patterns that professors at Aalto saw emerge. Amid the global shutdown, some students watched lectures or did homework in the middle of the night. Korkeamäki says this type of learning wouldn’t have taken place otherwise. Well after the lockdown was over, it continued to inform on one important delivery channel.

“One of the big learnings was that yes, we do provide a lot of value on campus and through social interaction,” Korkeamäki tells Poets&Quants in a recent interview.

“A lot of people talk about how mass lectures are a thing of the past, because you can take that concept and watch it online.” How much information you consume in a lecture hall begins with eye contact, he says, and anyone being in front of a class knows certain things just can’t be replicated.


The P&Q Interview: A Dean in Finland Wants His B-School To Go Global 

Before becoming dean, Timo Korkeamäki served as the head of the finance department.

Before he became the business school’s dean, Korkeamäki taught finance for 11 years. He now sets his sights on growing the Aalto Business student body, hoping to welcome more international students and more women through a re-branding of sort. He wants to market business education as being less of a path to Wall Street and more an as a resource to increase opportunity across all kinds of industries.

“Finland is not in the traffic hub of the world, so to speak. But at the same time, I think Finland has a lot of things going for it. You know, we are big on sustainability and the circular economy,” he says.

Aalto is the leading business school in Finland, based on their rankings and triple-crown status. Thirteen years ago, three Helsinki universities, the School of Economics, School of Technology, and School of Art and Design merged to form Aalto University, which is now divided among six different schools. Focus areas include business, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, engineering, art & design, architecture, and science.

Business programming at Aalto spans full-time over two years and has several concentrations, including core business subjects, such as Finance, Economics, and Business analytics. But there are others concentrations like Creative Sustainability (a smaller program) or a master’s degree for International Design in Business Management, which is also offered at Aalto’s art and tech schools.

Its buildings are on the northern shore in the city of Espoo, bordering Helsinki. Aalto’s tuition costs 15,000 euros or tuition is free to applicants if they are citizens of the EEU, EEA or Switzerland.

Business programming is also marketed to high school graduates. In fact, in Finland it’s incredibly common to get a masters right after getting a bachelor’s degree, the entire ordeal can be completed in five years.

Entrepreneurship is a popular topic on campus right now. Every year startups gather for a huge event called Slush in Helsinki that generates an audience in the tens of thousands.

Korkeamäki says while they are the “clear number-one school” in Finland, he’d like to see the business side grow more. In 2021, the School of Business had 1,905 bachelor’s students and 1,808 master’s students.

“I quite often call us a big fish in a small pond. And we’re working hard to kind of establish ourselves as a decent-sized fish in the global pond,” he says.


Starting out as dean, Korkeamäki noticed there was a shortcoming. He saw only one-third of the school’s population were female, the rest male. Gender equality is something people in the Nordic region talk a lot about, Korkeamäki says, but when he spoke with academic departments about it, he heard a lot of people were saying they felt like they’ve tried everything.

“So, to me, the task has been trying to peel an onion a few layers further and seeing what’s behind these barriers,” he says.

His theory is it’s an issue of communication. Typically, other career paths are more straightforward, such as those of doctors or lawyers. But business can be ambiguous. He thinks a solution lies in communicating all the options a degree in business has to offer, other than the common perception that the field is all about investment banking. Though, it’s his own background, Korkeamäki says he thinks a lot of high schoolers look at Aalto Business and see finance.

“So, they want to apply to us to become the Wolf of Wall Street. We have been learning, particularly for Finnish high schoolers, that image is a very strong among them,” he says.

Korkeamäki says, frankly, when studying the prospective of current students, the university sees a very different picture.

“I am hoping that we have turned the worst over because a couple of summers ago, our intake was at its worst,” he says. “We have been pushing through.”


Aalto is known for its edge in sustainability. The institution follows the triple bottom line sustainability framework. It’s a common business concept founded by John Elkington where  in essence corporate activity is measured among the people, planet and profit, rather than focusing solely on generating profit.

Korkeamäki says during a recent trip abroad he saw how, in my ways, Finland is way ahead of places like the United States. Sustainability is not just offered to business students but provided in programming across other disciplines. A large student demand and the Finnish culture/lifestyle are large contributors to this. The art school is focused on working with sustainable materials, while students studying chemistry are working on projects related to the circular economy.

“The society around us and the students put pressure on us to have sustainability as part of everything we do. We would have a hard time operating if we weren’t listening to that voice,” he says.

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