Turning point – Finland making it way up again

 Writer: Kaarle Hämeri

The government in Finland has published the negotiation results and the new government programme. The programme indicates clear change in direction of our nation. The universities see potential to start developing new expertise after several years of negative trends. We are hopeful for the new direction and ready to respond to new challenges of the society. 

The governmental funding in Finland for the universities and research in general has declined over the last decade or so. Thinking about it, it is like threatening one’s own future. If we are not strong in world class research and if our education and learning are not top level, we lose our position amongst highly educated, democratic and advanced countries. The alternative pathways are something one would not even like to think about. Fortunately, there are indications that the negative development has reached the turning point and the future looks better. 

The University of Helsinki has emphasised that the entire chain of upbringing and education has to be looked after. As the government programme states, we need both to rectify the funding for universities and to ensure that more young people graduate from secondary education as well as to secure investments in high-quality early education and basic and pre-primary education. The current programme responds rather well-balanced to the needs of all the actors in this educational chain. 

For the universities the research and innovation environment is the other important aspect. There are positive entries in the programme also on this. The international competitiveness and attractiveness of the Finnish research and science community will be consolidated, for example, by investing in research environments and research infrastructures. 

Over all, the universities can now have more confidence in the future. The resources of the universities will develop positively as the university index will finally be operational after many years of savings. In addition, the government is allocating additional 40 M€ annually for the universities. This will have the most positive effects, if the resource is directed to the basic funding rather than inventing another programme open for applications. These small-scale programmes have been more than enough during recent years. One specific request the University of Helsinki has, and this is the return of the pharmacy compensation which was cut by the previous government. 

Alongside with the funding another large topic with the universities is the role and value of research and knowledge within the Finnish society. In many ways, this has been challenged during past years. Real knowledge and information have needed to battle its meaning within post-truth world. This is not only frustrating, but also dangerous in many ways. The great societal challenges require facts and knowledge to be solved. In essence, our whole future globally depends on those. 

The governmental programme takes a clear position in this respect. The government is committed to knowledge-based policy-making and wants to increase the cooperation with the scientific community. This directs an important message. One indication of such approach is separating the science from the duties of the Minister of education. This is an important signal and takes Finland finally into the group of countries in which science is recognised symbolically in the governmental level with the launch of the Minister of science and culture. I see this as an important message and it is also challenge for the universities to make the communication and cooperation with the decision makers work in positive spirit.

The future is always unknown, but there are now clear signs of change. Hopefully this year will remain in our memories as the turning point for the better future.

vestibule of the university of Helsinki main building

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