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University of Helsinki Annual Report 2004


Rector's review

Ilkka Niiniluoto

The university as a self-developing participant of society

In March 2005, the University of Helsinki proudly celebrated its 365th anniversary. For centuries, the University has developed itself to better fulfil its fundamental tasks in research and education. The largest and most diverse expert organisation in the country, the University of Helsinki exercises significant societal influence as a creator of new knowledge, an educator of young people, a promoter of learnedness, and a supporter of culture, economy and welfare in Finland.

During 2005, the University put a concentrated effort into evaluating and reforming its own activities. The University staff and students have had many opportunities to participate in drafting the University strategy for 2007–2009. The new strategy will express the University’s desire to consolidate its status as a top European university with a strong profile in research and researcher training.

The University underwent a full-scale evaluation of research in all its disciplines: 21 international panels visited our departments and evaluated the quality of all research conducted during the past six years, with reference to corresponding university units of the best European level. The evaluation revealed that the University of Helsinki produces internationally high-quality research across the board and that it has been able to further improve the quality of its research from the high level it had already attained. A taskforce appointed by the University submitted a proposal for an action plan regarding research ethics. The University also established new fixed-term posts for postdoc university researchers.

August 2005 saw the implementation of the degree reform, an extensive and long-prepared undertaking in the field of education following the principles of the Bologna process. All disciplines, except medicine, have introduced a two-tier degree structure, comprising the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Teaching is provided during four periods in a year. Studies are measured in credits adhering to the European standard. The new Universities Act imposed restrictions on the length of studies. The University of Helsinki also introduced Etappi, a new system for monitoring and supporting the academic progress of students.

The development of teaching has focused specifically on research-based teaching; to support this goal, the University organised an international seminar in conjunction with its anniversary. The year under review also saw the establishment of CICERO Learning, a multidisciplinary research network for researchers of learning; the network was launched with a seminar held at Stanford University. New Master’s programmes were actively planned. Swedish-language subject teacher training was commenced in the autumn as a collaboration between the University of Helsinki and Åbo Akademi University.

The new Universities Act, which came into force in August, affirmed the ‘third task’ of universities, that is, interaction with the surrounding society. This task is not, as such, new to the University of Helsinki, as it has in many ways contributed to the construction of Finnish culture and society. In addition to its four campuses in Helsinki, the University carries out research and development work and provides Open University and continuing education in 20 localities. The University of Helsinki co-ordinates the University Consortiums in Lahti and Mikkeli. In September, the Rector signed seven regional strategies, drawn up in collaboration between universities and polytechnics. The University has also worked towards improving the tools for utilising research results and innovations. The IPR University Center came under the auspices of the University of Helsinki. The University invested its own funds together with Spinno Seed and the Finnish Industry Investment in a new seed fund promoting research-based business activities.

The new salary system for the public sector was the subject of a lively debate over the spring. The strategy work also revealed that the University community was burdened by excessive workloads, sometimes to an extent that prohibited concentration on the core activities. An additional threat was posed by the Government’s National Productivity Programme which proposes staff cuts in the public sector. However, a report on the development of the University administration commissioned from an external evaluation group and published last summer strengthened our belief that University administration can indeed be streamlined through new practices and reorganisation of work.

The new premises create a good environment for successfully conducting our basic duties. Among the highlights of the year were the openings of Minerva, a learning centre for the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences and the Veterinary and Food Science Building, and the topping-out celebrations of the Veterinary Hospital on Viikki Campus. At the end of 2005, the University and the Government were able to resolve their disagreement over the ownership of the Main Building and the Library, in favour of the University.

Ilkka Niiniluoto
Rector of the University of Helsinki