The internationalisation of universities is a common agenda for many countries. This year in Finland, the Ministry of Education and Culture published the “Better Together for a Better World” document, which includes policies to promote internationalisation in Finnish Higher Education and research in 2017—2025. Various university rankings emphasize the international outlook of universities, which can be defined as the proportion of international faculty or international-to-domestic staff ratio.
In the Finnish universities’ core funding model, universities will get more money for their operation based on the amount of Master’s degrees awarded to foreign nationals and also based on the amount of international teaching and research personnel. Through these two measurements, universities are getting more than 50 million euros annually. Previously also the amount of doctoral degrees was taken into account, but that element is now missing from the latest core funding model. So there is a need to know who works at universities.
Normally, we would be able to use Vipunen - Education Statistics Finland, which is the education administration’s reporting portal. However, we have encountered problems when trying to analyse the amount of international staff by using the Vipunen portal. The problem can be located to dual nationality issues. The Vipunen portal uses the information received from the Population Register Centre which, after a person has been granted Finnish citizenship, classifies a person as Finnish.
From the point of view of internationalisation statistics, this is problematic. It can easily be argued that these international academics who have applied for and been granted the Finnish citizenship and thus have a dual nationality haven’t lost their connections to their previous countries of origin. However, after getting the dual nationality, the interpretation of the statistics of the Vipunen portal is that they have lost all their international experience. They are no longer foreigners and when calculating the international-todomestic staff ratio, they are no longer international. So the international comparisons may be disadvantageous to the Finnish higher education system. Currently, we do not know how big the issue is.
However, we have anecdotal evidence that the differences can be quite substantial. We compared doctoral degrees awarded to foreigners in one year in one university by using the information from the university’s student register and the information from the Vipunen portal. There were 25 % more foreigners in the university’s register than in the Vipunen portal. The difference was explained by dual nationality. As Finland wants academics to integrate into the Finnish society, as applying for the Finnish citizenship clearly demonstrates, this actually weakens the position of Finland in the international ranking, as these people are no longer international. Are Finnish universities actually more international than the official statistics imply?
The definition of “international staff member” is an important issue. The Finnish Union for University Researchers and Teachers pays attention to the significance of international staff in 2018. We need to have quantitative information correct to raise the awareness of the issue properly at the universities. The Finnish universities compete globally with other universities on the best researchers and teachers, our working environment up here in North is in transformation. The Union will stay tuned.
Teksti Antero Puhakka
Painetussa lehdessä sivu 9