Statement by Rector

University Board and senior leadership of the University of Helsinki have listened to the feedback from the University community, society at large, and the community members protesting at the University, and discussed the matter in depth.

The University of Helsinki Board and Rector are shocked by the civilian victims of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas as well as the catastrophic deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The University calls on the parties involved in the conflict to refrain immediately from using violence against civilians and to prevent genocide in accordance with the decisions of the International Criminal Court. The University Board and Rector are also deeply concerned about the destruction of universities in Gaza and the fate of their students and staff. We are committed to contributing actively to rebuilding the local higher education and research system, once this is possible. 

Exchange activities based on bilateral agreements are central to the University’s efforts to increase mutual understanding and interaction between students. The University has not sent students to Tel Aviv University or the Hebrew University of Jerusalem since the beginning of the current conflict. However, the University is now expressing its concern about the continuation of the conflict by fully suspending university-level exchange activities with its Israeli partners. In addition, the University will not resume exchange activities without first conducting an ethical review.

Protesters have also demanded that the University suspend research collaboration with Israeli partners. However, we take the view that, in the absence of international sanctions and other restrictive guidelines, the selection of collaboration partners is central to academic freedom. The freedom of research is so crucial to university operations that it will not be limited on a university-wide scale in the current circumstances. The University is committed to complying with research ethics practices and will continue to develop the ethical review of research collaboration.  The Ethics Advisory Council appointed by the Rector contributes to such ethical review of collaboration.

The guiding principle of the University of Helsinki’s investment activities is responsibility, assessed on the basis of factors including compliance with international norms. Detailed information is available in our principles for responsible investment activities, whose achievement the University monitors regularly with our asset managers. Information on the University’s investments is also continuously available to the public. The University of Helsinki has no direct ownership in Israeli businesses or in companies listed by the international BDS movement.

Statements and protests regarding the conflict between Israel and Hamas divide opinion and cause concern in the University community. The University of Helsinki will continue its efforts to ensure freedom of speech and expression as well as academic freedom while ensuring safe and secure operations for its community as a whole.