Rural Studies is a network initiative between ten Finnish universities. This paper discusses Rural Studies as an innovative approach for pulling together the limited national resources of academic rural expertise. There are many background factors for the establishment of Rural Studies network, of which two may be mentioned here. First, Finland is regarded to be the most rural country in the European Union, mostly due to its remote position in Northern Europe and very sparse settlement structure. This "rurality" has led to a long tradition of rural research in several disciplines. Second, Finland's EU membership in 1995 consolidated rural policy programming. Networks of rural researchers and planners have been in a key position when rural policy programmes were prepared. The system of higher education in Finland is under the spotlight of many changes, and in this discussion small research areas such as rural studies are not very competitive if they are unable to find new ideas and ways of doing things together. In the future post-graduate education, wider cooperation and creation of rural research programmes, and networking with international rural education and research networks will be focal points in Rural Studies.


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