The development of Finland’s universities requires a clear policy

22.4.2016

BULLETIN
22 APRIL 2016

  

Professors and Researchers published the ‘Universities for the benefit of Finland’ vision

The development of Finland’s universities requires a clear policy

A clear policy is necessary in order to develop our universities. The Finnish Union of University Professors and the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers have joined forces and drafted their vision entitled ‘Universities for the benefit of Finland’. The vision was published at the unions’ spring seminar ‘Oy Suomen yliopisto Ab’ held on 22 April in Helsinki.

“Societal discourse is filled with objectives and proposals for the structural development of the universities and the improvement of their quality. Unfortunately, this discourse rarely leads to anything concrete. Amidst budget cuts and efforts to save, the suggested objectives often have an unrealistic, even paradoxical, ring to them.”

“Professors and Researchers offer the discussion a vision of a Finnish university that is completely within the current limitations, yet still a clearly improved institution,” stated Kaarle Hämeri, Chair of the Finnish Union of University Professors, and Petri Koikkalainen, Chair of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers, at the opening of the spring seminar. 

The second evaluation round of the Universities Act, which entered into forced at the start of 2010, is currently underway. The aim of the unions is to ensure that the autonomy of the universities is better taken into consideration in the development of the Universities Act and governance models. In the ‘Universities for the benefit of Finland’ vision, the university community has more influence in the planning of university operations.

The budget cuts have been too prominently directing the university discourse. University funding should be more predictable, and basic funding must be sufficient for the successful implementation of universities’ core tasks. The decisions already made regarding State funding must be upheld. The funding model of the universities must also be adjusted to demonstrate better the diversity of the universities’ tasks. The new funding model is set to enter into force in 2017. The unions are worried that the share of the strategic funding will increase accompanied by greater political control.

The unions’ vision calls for efficient support for quality research and efforts to advance the career development of talented young researchers. While researchers are striving to achieve significant results, there should be less bureaucratic competition that ties up resources. 

“The mechanisms for steering and funding science and research must be rationalised to become efficient and appropriate. We must move away from futile work and precarious employment relationships toward sustainable employments and labour market harmony. This requires efforts both within the national steering and funding system as well as from universities as employers,” the union Chairs emphasise.

University education shall be inherently linked with current research. The unions state that teaching merits must be considered to a higher degree when recruiting for university positions. Students shall have opportunities for full-time studies. 

“The educational task of the universities is the soul of true influence. The universities’ most precious ‘product’ is a well-educated, competent and regenerative expert.”

The unions want to encourage researchers to take an active part in the current discourse. Social impact should be a visible factor in university funding. Research data should play an even more prominent role in decision-making.

The ‘Universities for the benefit of Finland’ vision views personnel policies as a competitive factor for universities. A good personnel policy and employment relationship structure shall be taken into account in the performance-oriented steering of the universities. A change security programme will be implemented in order to deal with possible personnel reductions. The researcher-teacher titles will be nationally and internationally valid and comparable. The position of grant researchers will be regulated by a national agreement that ensures equitable treatment.

----

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Kaarle Hämeri, Chair of the Finnish Union of University Professors, +358 (0)40 568 4487;

Petri Koikkalainen, Chair of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers, +358 (0)50 544 7442;

Tarja Niemelä, Executive Director of the Finnish Union of University Professors, +358 (0)50 340 2725;

Eeva Rantala, General Manager of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers, +358 (0)40 750 8284