Autonomy strengthened

“The reform of the university has been ongoing for some time,” says university rector Thomas Wilhelmsson. “As a matter of fact it was the Rector’s Advisory Council, which took the initiative in this matter at the start of the new millennium. We have had a great deal of influence on this process within the university.”

UH’r rector professor Thomas Wilhelmsson

In which way will the new university legislation strengthen the university’s position among the foremost research universities in the world?

“It will allow us to use our resources in a strategic way. Within research, we will be able to support development in a completely different way from that allowed under the current system. It will also provide flexible career opportunities for researchers. We will be able to offer a more flexible “tenure track” system that will permit, for example, the university to employ a post-doctoral student in a position that may become permanent. In short, it will give us the authority to make decisions concerning our own resources as well as the opportunity to reduce bureaucracy,” explains Wilhelmsson.

Wilhelmsson emphasises the fact that the new university legislation is somewhat similar to other legislation across Europe, but that this is a genuine Finnish product, based on Finnish experiences.

“There are trends in Europe that point towards greater autonomy for universities. There is a lot going on in European universities; in the Nordic region we also see a similar development.”

The new legislation will strengthen the autonomous standing of the University of Helsinki. Wilhelmsson states that this autonomy is actually already guaranteed under constitutional law.

“We regard this as an important starting point for the reforms, which cannot be called into question. There has been some discussion as to whether the provision in the act on appointing half of the Board seats to outsiders would be a problem in this regard. We have taken this to be a good solution, on condition that we ourselves – i.e. our democratically elected electoral college – can appoint the entire Board. This is the case according to the proposed act.”

How autonomous are universities in general?

“In international comparison, there is a wide range of different models for how a university board should be appointed: ranging from universities themselves appointing their boards to having them appointed by the country’s government.”

So what does the future look like when it comes to recruiting international researchers and students?

Thomas Wilhelmsson confirms that the university is committed to increasing the proportion of international students and researchers. If the new legislation passes, we will have scope for greater flexibility in this matter.

The interview was made by Karin Hannukainen, PR and Information Officer at the Communications Department.

More information on University reform's webpages >>

Text: Karin Hannukainen
Photo: Wilma Hurskainen

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