An alternative Government Programme for policies regarding universities and research: Stability, long-term strategies, industrial peace

26.4.2019

Bring back the university index, stabilise basic funding, and make definite plans for increasing research, development and innovation funding to 4% of the gross domestic product. Main objectives of the alternative Government Programme regarding policies related to universities and research were listed in the spring seminar of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers and the Finnish Union of University Professors.

Press release. Free for publication: 26 April 2019 at 12:15 p.m.

“Finland’s competitiveness is built on high expertise.” This is a statement included in the 1st chapter of the Strategic Programme of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's Government (2015–2019). Nevertheless, the annexes of the programme indicated that the university index was to be frozen for the entire duration of the Government term and that other modes of funding received by universities and researchers were to undergo significant cuts. 

The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers and the Finnish Union of University Professors published their election and government programme objectives in June 2018. Since then, representatives of the Unions have discussed with dozens of politicians and other policy-makers. Active campaigns have taken place also in social media, supported by the Tiedevaalit (Science Elections) campaign.

“We have invested heavily in ensuring that the budget cuts present in the 2015 programme will not be included even in the annexes of the new Government programme,” said Maija S. Peltola and Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto, the chairpersons of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers and the Finnish Union of University Professors, in the opening ceremony of the Unions’ spring seminar on April 26.   

Key objectives outlined by the Unions include: 

Valid university index for the entire Government term

“The original purpose of the university index as defined in the Universities Act was to ensure that universities received appropriate funding even in the worst economic situations. However, as soon as the situation deteriorated, the index was first halved and then frozen altogether. The time has come to comply with the Universities Act once more. Fortunately enough, the discussions we have held with different parties regarding putting an end to the index cuts have been encouraging,” said Maija S. Peltola, Chairperson of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers.

Increased level of basic funding 

“Universities cannot handle their ever increasing number of duties without a significant increase in the level of basic funding. The political programmes of nearly all parties highlight the importance of life-long learning and support the goals of the Vision for Higher Education and Research to increase the portion of people with higher education degrees up to 50% of the cohort. Additional funding is required in order to achieve these goals,” said Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto, Chairperson of the Finnish Union of University Professors. 

Reliable consistency of funding through a new funding model

The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers and the Finnish Union of University Professors have drawn up a proposal for a funding model of universities. In comparison to the new funding model by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the unions’ model would increase the stability of funding and self-imposed profiling of the universities. The combined weighted value of these factors is 24% in the suggested funding model. The portion of stability funding is 20%, the amount of which would depend on the average funding received by the university in the five years preceding the year in question. This funding would be complemented by the indicator of the development of the educational profile of the higher education institution with a weighted value of 4%. The Ministry of Education and Culture would then decide on the indicators to be included in the process, and the university would be able to select from these indicators the ones it wants to apply.  

“Adapting the model prepared by us would signal a change towards more consisted funding and a new kind of trust. We demand stability and industrial peace instead of inconsistent funding and projects of unacceptable proportions,” outlined Maija S. Peltola, Chairperson of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers.   

A detailed plan for increasing research, development and innovation (RDI) funding to 4% of the gross domestic product

The roadmap of the Research and Innovation Council and the Vision for Higher Education and Research in 2030 defined by the Ministry of Education and Culture state that investments made in RDI should be 4% of the gross domestic product by 2030. This was also the message voiced by the political programmes of nearly all parties. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before this goal is achieved as the current percentage is 2.7%. Even with modest increases in the GDP, increasing the level of public funding would mean an annual investment of €150–200 million for the state. 

“The new Government must commit to observing the policies outlined by the Research and Innovation Council and the Vision for Higher Education and Research and lay down definite steps for achieving the goal of 4%. This requires both public and private funding. Increasing the portion of public funding has been extremely difficult without the long-awaited reform in corporate subsidies,” noted Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto, Chairperson of the Finnish Union of University Professors.

Realising the full potential of the expertise of researchers in society

“Much debate about the false promises made to international researchers arriving in Finland has taken place in the forums of public media recently. Their expertise plays a key role in the success of universities and the entire country. Finnish researchers also need more consistent conditions in universities as well as other work environments. The corporate sector should consider hiring more doctorate holders,” Maija S. Peltola said in the opening ceremony of the spring seminar in late April.  

Realising the full potential of the expertise of researchers is connected also to promoting the significance of researched and evidence-based information in policy-making processes.

“Establishing an atmosphere that supports research does not cost anything,” added Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto. 

  

The Towards stability, freedom and responsibility – a funding model proposal for universities (in Finnish) memo is available on the websites of the Unions.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT: 

Maija S. Peltola, Chairperson (Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers), +358 (0)400 645 497; 

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