Regional and Structural Policy through Education
Education and research are of interest within the sphere of politics at the moment. Before the parliamentary elections, Center Party, the National Coalition Party and the Finns Party each conveyed their interest in the portfolio of Minister of Education. At the moment of writing this text, the information concerning who receives this post is not yet available. What we have, though, are the general definitions of policy by these three Parties.
Innovations and economic growth are sought through education and learning, but there is also a more straightforward reason for this interest in know-how: structural and regional policies. In addition to health care and social services, education and research constitute the most expensive services within the public sector. The manner in which these are arranged has an effect on many people in various areas.
Many of those who voted for the Center Party surely wish that the Party would support the provinces. Center Party's views on the provinces does have differences with the views of the National Coalition Party, for instance. It is presumable that the Center Party will want to secure a regionally comprehensive network of Universities.
The National Coalition Party has proposed that a sum as high as one billion euros would be used for additional capitalization of Universities as a counterpart to private donations. It is no secret, that those Universities that are important to the economic life of large cities have won the competition for private funding.
It may well be that the 'balance of terror' in the science policy of the future will settle itself somewhere between the views of the center Party, which is concerned about the provinces and the National Coalition Party, which acts in favor of centers of growth. The views of the Finns Party on regional equality and stable basic funding are interesting, but have not yet been implemented.
The colour of the Minister's party card is of importance now. For instance, the experiments dismantling the dual model of Universities have been received with more frowns in the National Calition Party than in the Center Party. The Minister of Education does not make all the decisions, however, as science policy is in the process of becoming more tightly connected to the strategic guidance of the government. This development brings with it operators such as Ministry of Employment and Economy and the renewed Research and Innovation Council.
To what extent will the adjustments of the public sector be directed at Universities? Some people think that it is mainly the networks of high schools and Univesities of applied sciences that will become targets of cuts this time. Others have heard complaints about Universities not having been sufficiently active in the economic endeavors so far.
Be that as it may, the public research funding in Finland has no longer developed in line with the competitor countries in recent years. Also, the cuts directed on the University index have in practice reduced basic funding. Activities have been adjusted to the economic situation and there have been employee cooperation negotiations. According to the new salary registers, there has already been negative development in the salaries of some jobs. It seems that this is due to the fact that new employees are nowadays paid less than before.
The continuous calling on of risks does not help anyone, but it seems evident that there is some kind of lack of ideas in Finland. The industry has difficulties in exporting their products. According to some indicators, the level of science in Finland has also fallen during the 2000s.
In the minds of many researchers, the years during which science is said to have suffered are precisely the years of continuous organizational turmoil. Could these matters be connected to each other?
Lots of leverage has been used to create great changes, but the matters of a single employee are easily left in a bad way. People are jumping from one job to another and manufacturing applications for funding. The beginnings and ends of projects become entagled with one another. Under these circumstances leadership and management also become demanding. Unemployment or the threat of it are a burden to the self-esteem of many employees. Can a machine that is put together of these kinds of components have a good operating efficiency?
Good science does not require new organizational manglings or the measuring of people with new indicators. Nor does it demand the subjugation of research by industrial policy. It merely needs a sufficient amount of funding, enough peace at the work place and gradually developing self-confidence — and, following these, also new ideas and innovations.
Chair, The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers