University and research funding and the appreciation of academic staff needs to increase

4.7.2018

University and research policy objectives in the elections

The Finnish Union of University Professors and the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers have published their shared objectives in the elections and for the government programme: Research builds the future. 

The objectives are based on an analysis of the key problems facing the university and research sector. The first of these is related to funding: public funding is insufficient, a trend that has continued for too long, and there are many other problems related to research funding. Secondly, the university community has fewer opportunities to participate and have an influence. Thirdly, appreciation of higher education and research is not evident in political decisions.

- At their party conferences this summer, both the Coalition Party and the Centre Party promised more support for higher education and research. It is high time for this, although the negative trend could have been reversed during this government term. The unions point out that cutting the resources of universities is a rare phenomenon in international comparison.   

Return to growth in funding

The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers and the Finnish Union of University Professors propose solutions to the problems of university and research policy. The crucial step to take with university funding is to stop the cuts in the university index. Right now, it is frozen until 2020. Funding must also be made more predictable, and the share of tendered public funding cannot be increased further.

- The fragmented nature of research funding creates difficulties for research, reducing the amount of basic research. This decreases the quality of the Finnish university sector and the entire country.

The unions want to increase the percentage of research, development and innovation (RDI) funding to at least 4 per cent of GDP. Achieving this requires notable increases in R&D funding, both in the public and private sectors. 

We are the university – the university community makes the profit, we must respect our experts

Improving the working conditions at universities is another way of changing the course of university and research policy. The share of temporary employment contracts must be reduced, and the research period system must be established at universities. Talents leave Finland to pursue a career in countries that offer better prerequisites for research. Our current account of expertise has a severe deficit.

The two assessments of the Universities Act reveal that the university community has fewer opportunities to participate and have an influence than before. This means that the Universities Act should be specified further. A sense of community supports creativity and improved productivity at universities. Opportunities to have an influence and a sense of community have been compromised recently, particularly in Tampere where the new university is being prepared. 

“It is regrettable that the temporary board of the university has systematically disregarded the university’s autonomous bodies and principles. Moreover, this was done while the legality of the new university’s regulations and appointments made by its main bodies were still open to discussions and official reviews. The university staff and the unions that represent them can under no circumstances compromise their requirement to implement the autonomy of universities, as specified in the Constitution of Finland and the Universities Act,” says Petri Koikkalainen, Chairman of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers.

Active connection between research, education and society as Finland’s strength

The Finnish Union of University Professors and the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers want to make the active connection between research, education and society as Finland’s strength more clearly. The connection between research and teaching must be preserved in all universities. The development of universities and universities of applied sciences must be based on current legislation. 

Decisions must be more firmly based on research. The Finnish science barometer reveals that Finns have an extremely positive attitude towards science and research.   

“The positive attitude should also be reflected in political decisions. Furthermore, this would not cost extra,” says Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto, Chairman of the Finnish Union of University Professors.

 

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto, Chairman (Finnish Union of University Professors), +358 (0)45 657 5757;

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

Johanna Moisio, Executive Director (Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers), +358 (0)40 087 4135;

Tarja Niemelä, General Manager (Finnish Union of University Professors), +358 (0)50 340 2725