Thomas Wilhelmsson, the “Rector of Change”, is confident in the University’s quality

Vice-Rector positions to be resolved on 10 June.

rector Professor of Civil and Commercial Law Thomas Wilhelmsson, 58, elected Rector of the University of Helsinki after a close vote, stated on Tuesday that he was a leader of change.

Finland is currently reviewing its University Act. The university reform will reinforce the legal status of universities, revise their management and financial administration and standardise all employment relationships.

The reform of the University Act will in one fell swoop change the status of the University of Helsinki and most likely truncate Professor Wilhelmsson’s term of office at the beginning of 2010.

When meeting the press after his election, Professor Wilhelmsson drew attention to three points in the programme of reforms. First, he reminded all those present that the University was a leading European university:

“The University of Helsinki is in good shape, and we must ensure that the reform does not end in our losing the very things that work.”

He also expressed his concern over university staff, and he then went on particularly to emphasise the need to improve the status of new researchers:

“At the moment, getting a permanent position in the University calls for depending on grants and short-term contracts over several years. We should be in a position to offer researchers more clearly outlined career paths.”

Professor Wilhelmsson, who has served as Vice-Rector for ten years with responsibility for issues related to the Swedish language and the international operations of the University, also expressed his desire to see more staff from abroad:

“Our staff are already an international bunch, but they make up far too few of our senior researchers and professors.”

The third matter he raised concerned financing. The change in the University Act will place universities outside state budgeting, and they will have greater autonomy and financial independence.

Professor Wilhelmsson pointed out that the University could not operate without funding. Although the future Rector believes that the proportion of funding from the private sector will increase, he does not think the situation will be problem-free:

“We shall have to keep an eye open to ensure that teaching does not fall behind research. It’s a lot easier to get money for research than it is for teaching.”

Professor Wilhelmsson will start his term of office at the beginning of August, and he sees no problem in seeking outside members for the University senate:

“But of course, with the prerequisite that we can also choose them. It is unthinkable that the University management would be chosen from outside the University.”

Text: Juha Merimaa
Photo: Liisa Huima

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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