Foreign academics in Finland - in the silence of the shadow
Gareth Rice and the anonymous 'International Finnish Academic' are to be thanked most warmly for exposing the truth about academic life here. It desperately needed saying - but is anyone listening? A particular problem is the position of foreign academics who live and work here. These are almost always lecturers; after all, who in power in Finnish universities believes that such people are entitled to anything else but a job (not a career) which subjects them to a punishing workload and deprivation of any real opportunity for job satisfaction, let alone advancement?
When issues of a research career come up, they denied. After all, if a foreigner got such a job, a Finn would miss out and that would never do. They are patronisingly told that there are things to do in research which will help shine up some professor's career (but not their own). They are pointedly excluded in both major and minor ways, academically and even socially. They are denied seniority and even the slightest degree of academic or scholarly responsibility, irrespective of what they might have achieved in the larger academic world. It all means nothing to the Finnish professoriate who call the shots. I'm alright Jack.
They come here under the misleading, not to say fraudulent impression that there will be a career, as at any other university, and are then ruthlessly exploited until they either give up and accept their fate, or die inside from demoralisation. Yes, there are some Finns who end up in this position, but the crucial difference is that all practically foreigners do. Any complaint or protest is met with lumpish silence or complete incomprehension. No explanation of the real position, let alone an apology for it, is ever offered. Now and then you are told that you are being paid a little more, but is that what an academic career is about? It is hard to think of a case of a Finnish professor who would relinquish his or her chair in order to accept a higher salary.
The 'international Finnish academic' mentioned a sense of entitlement, but this was an understatement. It is a God-given truth. Not only are Finns entitled to their opportunities and their professorial careers, while their foreign inferiors rot, but the entitlement is often generations old, and even mothertongue bound. Who does not know the NAMES that litter the history of Finnish academic life, and must perforce be recognised by further entitlement?
It is extremely galling to watch less-qualified Finns rise to professorial rank while you rot. It is also galling to think that you will stay as you are no matter what you do, how much you publish, or what involvement you might have in the larger international world. Whatever you do achieve will be done knowing that those who succeed will have been offered things that for you are unthinkable, such as research assistance, supervision, research funding, post-graduate responsibilities, just simple encouragement and support, and sufficient time to think and write-all impossible or extremely limited for a lecturer. Just go and stand at the back of the queue, please.
R. W. McConchie