The Chancellor’s New Groove

Thomas Wilhelmsson, the first chancellor to be appointed under the new Universities Act, ponders his role.

"The chancellor graces events with his presence while the rector is left with the dirty work," joked Thomas Wilhelmsson in his toast to his successor Jukka Kola.

In reality the chancellor will have his hands full, even though Wilhelmsson claims the pace is more relaxed and gives him time to think about issues both in more depth and from a broader perspective.

Wilhelmsson transferred to the position of chancellor from that of rector in the beginning of June and has already made a good start on his new duties. He has already been invited to the Finnish Government a few times, and all faculties are sending in a steady stream of professor appointments for confirmation.

A bigger question is how the role of chancellor should be changed due to the changes in the university system. The University of Turku decided to terminate the position altogether. The University of Helsinki has no such plans, but Wilhelmsson suggests that this could be a convenient time to reconsider the job description.

Networking and social media

Wilhelmsson believes the chancellor’s duties could include community relations – something he placed great importance on while rector.

"The chancellor of the University of Helsinki has a strong brand. It opens many doors to both public and not so public channels. The chancellor could, for example, have a strong social media presence."

According to the official definition, the chancellor of the University of Helsinki must promote science and scholarship as well as the University’s community relations, look after the University’s interests and supervise its activities.

The chancellor has the right to be present and speak whenever the Government considers matters that have a bearing on the University. Wilhelmsson believes this holds great symbolic value, but the biggest concrete benefit is that the chancellor meets ministers and can influence decisions early in their preparation.

Recruitment is crucial

Wilhelmsson believes the appointment of professors to be one of the most important duties of the chancellor. The chancellor is not just a rubber stamp in the appointment process, as he can change the proposals from the faculties. He also participates in the development of the appointment system, which is something Wilhelmsson would like to revise.

"The foundation of the University’s future lies in recruitment, recruitment and recruitment. We cannot just announce an open position anymore. We must actively search for the right experts for the job."