Targets alarm Finns

November 5, 1999

Finnish academics fear their prestige and research opportunities will diminish if plans go ahead to smooth the differences between universities and polytechnics and induce 70 per cent of school leavers to take degrees.

The ministry will assess the responses to its four-year policy plans this autumn. The council of ministers will give its views by the end of the year.

The proposals envisage the introduction of higher degrees and extended research opportunities in polytechnics. But some universities say there has been no proper research into the exact role of the polytechnics, nor into the standards of education they offer.

The ministry has also hinted that the lowest-level kandidaatti degree, which was abolished a few years ago, might be resurrected, while the postgraduate lisensi aatti degree, awarded to people with masters and research experience, may be developed into a professional qualification.

The former idea is seen as an attempt to harmonise university degrees on European lines. But universities claim that employers are expecting new recruits to have higher, not lower, degrees.

The ministry is proposing that 70 per cent or more of school leavers should obtain a degree from a polytechnic or a university. Both the universities and the polytechnics have dismissed the target as far too ambitious and said it will lead to compromised standards.

Employers' organisation TT agrees and says the labour market needs workers with a range of qualifications, not just graduates. TT chief Johannes Koroma argued that about 17 per cent of the workforce has no qualifications apart from a secondary school leaving certificate, which means that if the targets were met, only 13 per cent would hold craft-based qualifications, far too few to meet demand.

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