Rector Jukka Kola’s speech on the University’s anniversary: Finland contributes to solutions to global problems – excellence will continue to be our asset

According to Rector Jukka Kola, Finland is in an outstanding position to offer solutions to global problems, being the best country in the world in many respects. However, there is no reason to rest in satisfaction while research investments and our competence levels are declining. Investments in education and research must be seen as an investment in the future. This issue requires long-term efforts and consensus that extend over the terms held by governments.

In his speech at the University of Helsinki’s 378th anniversary celebration, Rector Kola raised many examples of the research carried out at the University. The University of Helsinki belongs to the one percent of the world’s leading multidisciplinary universities.

“Our strength as a university lies in ranking at top in a wide variety of fields. Of the Nordic universities, only the University of Copenhagen has received more quality-based funding in the highly competitive funding rounds of the European Research Council than the University of Helsinki.  This funding has been distributed in a number of fields, which evidences the cutting-edge research conducted on a wide front at the University. For instance, in 2014, two projects in the fields of the humanities and social sciences received ERC funding, whereas now there are 12 such projects. In philosophy, to give an example, we are among the top 50 institutions in the world, according to an international ranking,” said Kola.

We need national consensus and investments in education

The atmospheric research conducted at the University of Helsinki is of a high international standard, and our researchers are trailblazers in the field. The observation material currently collected within atmospheric research can help us understand how we can impact global warming. 

Thanks to research at the University of Helsinki, the mechanisms that cause the onset of cancer are now better understood than ever.

Finland is able to offer solutions to global problems; after all, we are the best and most well-functioning country in the world in many respects. Finland’s success story and the development and prominence of the University of Helsinki are intertwined. It would be wishful thinking to believe that the current achievements will carry us through the times ahead. At the moment, we are in a worrying vicious cycle with a continuously decreasing amount of euros being allocated to scholarship and research.  Core funding for universities in particular has decreased in the national budget. 

“Another cause for concern is the apparent trend in our competence and education level. Finland is the only country in Europe where the ratio of graduates with a higher education degree to the entire population has not grown in the last few decades. We have lost our position as the most highly educated country in Europe and among the OECD countries. Our competence base is in jeopardy,” Kola pointed out with concern.

It is possible to address the declining competence level, staff and student wellbeing, and the deficiencies in the core funding of universities if these matters are regarded as important at the national level. At least Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany have deemed these issues to be important and have greatly invested in their universities.

“We wish to engage in discussion with the decision-makers now, in good time before the next parliamentary elections, to explore ways to solve the situation. The message we want to send is that an investment in education and research must be seen as an investment in the future. This issue requires a national consensus that extends over the terms held by governments. The situation can be addressed immediately, we need not wait until the next elections, as the current government can well make the decision to reinstate the university index for 2019.

“We need concrete action to repair the gap in competence levels, which is a direct consequence of the dwindling resources. As a nation, we can look back on hundreds of years of great efforts to advance education. Our future success in the increasingly international world depends on the value we assign to scholarship, research, competence and education,” Kola stated.

Speeches held at the anniversary celebration

Speech given by Rector Kola

Speech given by the Chair of the Board of the University of Helsinki, President Tarja Halonen