Recruitment practices for professors should be developed

In its ruling of 1 June (H45/2023), the Labour Court of Finland stated that the tenure track career path system may, in individual cases, constitute a justified reason for making a fixed-term employment contract as referred to in the Employment Contracts Act. According to the Labour Court, the system cannot therefore be regarded as contrary to the Employment Contracts Act as such. Legality must be decided on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the principles of labour law, considering the nature of the sector and its special needs, as well as the special characteristics of the work carried out at universities.

According to the Labour Court, special attention must be paid to the fact that an employment contract may not be concluded for a fixed term in order to circumvent employment security. The ruling states that Tampere University had grounds, under the Employment Contracts Act, to appoint a person to a fixed-term tenure track position as an associate professor for a period of five years.

The Finnish Union of University Professors sees that the ruling means that the tenure track recruitment model used by universities must be reformed. The career path usually has three levels: assistant professors, associate professors, and full professors. As a rule, those recruited for the path are appointed to fixed-term positions for 3–5 years before possible tenure as full professors. There is currently no mention of the tenure track model in the Universities Act.

Over the past ten years, the tenure track, i.e., the career path of a professor, has become an established way of recruiting professors in Finland, and public application procedures are becoming increasingly rare. The Finnish Union of University Professors considers it important that encouraging employment relationships are created for research careers and that professors’ recruitment practices are developed. More individuals should be recruited directly as full professors.

In September 2022, there were 498 associate professors on the professor’s tenure track. Of these, 328 worked on fixed-term contracts. Additionally, there were approximately 300 assistant professors on fixed-term contracts. Tampere University has 70 associate professors and 19 assistant professors (9/2022). The professor’s tenure track is used in all universities except the University of the Arts Helsinki and in several research institutes.

For more information, please contact:
Tarja Niemelä, Executive Director, the Finnish Union of University Professors
Tel. +358 50 340 2725