University of Helsinki head furious over austerity measures

Cuts will “hurt the country’s competitiveness and citizens’ well-being”, says rector

August 2, 2015
Man holding a chainsaw in a forest
Source: Getty
Selective felling? Finland’s coalition has axed €500m of universities’ funding

The head of Finland’s largest and oldest university has come out strongly against the country’s austerity budget for higher education.

Earlier this year, the recently elected prime minister, Juha Sipilä, told the country’s parliament that his coalition government had “decided on a total of €4 billion [£2.8 billion] in cost savings in public finances during this parliamentary term”.

The “strategic programme” for the nation included the “freezing of index increases [for] universities and universities of applied sciences” and the end of special funding, worth €30 million, “earmarked to the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland [compensating for corporate tax paid on] their pharmacy business activities”.

In order to make “the system of higher education institutions and research activities…more cost-effective”, the programme proposed shedding administrative staff, “clustering of higher education institutions” and greater specialisation of their missions.

Yet it also noted that universities were autonomous and retained “the power of decision on how the savings will be put into effect”.

However, Helsinki rector Jukka Kola issued a statement saying he was “shocked” by a cut of approximately €500 million to total university budgets, which came in the wake of €200 million shaved by the previous government that had led to Helsinki reducing staffing levels at by 500 posts.

By 2020, Professor Kola went on, the university would “face cuts amounting to more than €83 million due to decisions made by the previous and new government. This means that the university’s basic funding will be cut by one sixth.”

“It is not sustainable or wise to weaken the future success factors and competitiveness of Finland via these big spending cuts on universities,” Professor Kola told Times Higher Education.

He said he found it particularly “difficult to understand and accept the targeted extra cuts on the University of Helsinki”, given that it is Finland’s highest ranked university (currently 103 in the THE World University Rankings), as this would “directly hurt our country’s competitiveness and citizens’ well-being”.

Asked for his comments, Tapio Kosunen, director general of the Finnish department for higher education and science policy, acknowledged that universities had “reason to be worried about the money” but noted that a budget of €3.2 billion for higher education and science still represented a relatively high proportion of GDP.  

There were likely to be additional government funds for “regional centres of excellence”, for commercialising research and for matching (and more than matching) money obtained from private sources, he said.

Universities had already shown themselves “very active in thinking about new modes of cooperation” and in developing individual “profiles”, he added, while constitutional factors meant that the specific issue of pharmacy payments was still under discussion.

matthew.reisz@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Related universities

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: Helsinki’s rector decries new cuts

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Viewed

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi