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  • Seppo Sainio
    Chair, The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland (YLL)


    A Year of Adjustments Ahead – Again?

    The economic misery is not showing signs of calming down. Where does the reason for the prolonging of the depression lie? There have been speculations concerning poor productivity, high costs per unit and inadequate competence in marketing as well as product development. Also trade unions and universally valid agreements have been blamed. Even the Prime Minister has criticized the Nordic tradition of consensus that has become firmly established in Finland.

    What is often forgotten in these conversations is how surprisingly stable and reliable society Finland is, when entrepreneurship is concerned. The praise for this belongs largely to the public sector, and especially our educational system, which produces equality, competence and knowledge in myriad lines of business. Trade union confederations have twice consecutively reached an agreement on moderate increments in salaries and also decided on the renovation of the pension system. Single trade unions have been there to support these processes.

    From the decision makers, however, we receive the message that working as before is not enough. This message is vague: for many people, working as before means that the work is performed conscientiously, matters are managed via telecommunication from home even in the evenings and people commit themselves to what they are doing. At times, however, it feels that us academics should also carry bad conscience because of inadequate productivity and too high costs per unit.

    Proper education and research are the result of the work of academic personnel and students. The quality of work is created by contribution to work and personal competence, but there is also added value that has an influence on our output. This comes from networking, but also from the support of the university for the fulfillment of its basic duties (databases, services, management of the teaching in general). In addition, an important factor influencing quality is academic freedom. Good teaching, for instance, is based on the independent authority of each teacher over the consistent execution of the study plan. This includes the methods used in teaching, the use of various teaching environments and assessment.

    In any case, something is now expected of us. The Ministry of Education and Culture is currently performing a survey, which examines the requirements for improving the Finnish educational system in relationship to those of Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland and the Netherlands. In the background lies the view that Finland should enhance the levels of academic education, performance, competence and the level of science in general. This should be achieved faster than the above competitors, to enable economic growth and the appearance of new jobs that demand high level of knowledge and competence.

    It is easy to go along with this view, but, unfortunately, it has a flip side to it. The duty of the University Institution in the contemporary society is to produce economic growth. Growth is no longer the gateway to all-round education and rich intellectual and spiritual life, but it has become a guarantee for hacking it in the global competition.

    The various degrees have been continuously renewed after the Bologna-process. The next thing expected of us is the profiling of scientific fields. At the same time, the personnel is in many places burdened with uncertainty concerning the continuation of their own training programs. The chance on concentrating on producing results has become secondary compared to the new renovations and adjustments.

    —In Tampere, three universities have began to contemplate on the deepening of the co-operation with each other. Reforms requiring the efforts of the whole University community will have to be especially well justified. The goals of these reforms will have to be made understandable, and the personnel, who are to implement the changes in practice, will have to be properly committed to the goals and execution of these reforms. And the creation of this commitment requires skill.

    An atmosphere of uncertainty does not produce the optimal spirit for working on study plans and for making decisions in the departments. One of the central aims of the renovations for the year 2015 should, accordingly, be the restitution of serene and unhurried working environment and the elimination of the continuous state of uncertainty.

    Seppo Sainio
    Chair, The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland (YLL)

    • Painetussa lehdessä sivu 36