University of Helsinki prepared for cuts during its anniversary year

The University of Helsinki’s 375th anniversary year was an academic success. However, the year was marred by the funding cuts announced in the spring, which led to the launch of the extensive change programme.

In 2015, the University of Helsinki had 32,464 degree students who completed a total of 6,140 degrees. A record number for doctoral graduations was set at 529. International degree students numbered 1,774, and staff came from 90 different countries. Approximately 16% of applicants were admitted to the University of Helsinki.

The number of publications was 10,444, of which 66% were peer-reviewed.

The celebrations for the University of Helsinki’s 375th anniversary revolved around strong scientific themes. Helsinki Challenge, the science-based idea competition, was arranged for the first time and was well received and praised by many.

The University received its highest ever position, 67, in the Shanghai ranking of universities. Its positions in the other internationally respected university rankings were: Taiwan 69, Times Higher Education 76 and QS 96.

The strategic partnership established with Peking University was expanded.

The University of Helsinki received more Academy of Finland funding based on research quality than any other Finnish university. The University also fared well in many other applications for competitive funding.

The University acquired all shares of Helsinki University Properties Ltd. The buyout was funded entirely by a loan taken by Helsinki University Properties Ltd. This solution helps the University plan and streamline its facility use more freely and in a more strategic way.

The commercialisation of research proceeded well. A total of 92 invention disclosures were made, indicating an increase of more than 60% from the previous year. A record-breaking six new spin-out companies were established based on innovations made at the University.

Funding cuts led to the change programme

In spring 2015, the Government of Finland announced extensive cuts to the funding of universities, to be implemented on a tight schedule. The cuts targeting the University of Helsinki total approximately €50 million in 2016. This sum will increase yearly, reaching an estimated €100 million by 2020.  

The University of Helsinki adjusted its finances during 2012–2014. Due to the measures taken at that time, the number of staff reduced by approximately 500 people, and the amount of available office and teaching space was cut. The University had fully balanced its finances by the end of 2013.

The new funding cuts resulted in the launch of an extensive change programme in the autumn of 2015 along with a recruitment freeze and cooperation negotiations. The change programme supports the implementation of the University’s Strategic Plan both in terms of cost-cuts and investments.

The savings effected by the staff cuts represent less than half of the sum required by the governmental funding cuts. Further significant savings are sought by reducing facility costs. The intention is to cut facilities by 80,000 square metres, or nearly 20% of the space currently used by the University. In addition to the cuts, the University will increasingly focus on acquiring competitive funding.

Other extensive reforms in education and IT systems are currently underway at the University along with efforts to enhance its operative profile, all aiming to further improve the quality of teaching and research.

Preparing helps the University survive the coming years

Despite the intense cost–cuts, estimates indicate that the University will show a deficit of €20-25 million in 2016. Due to the schedule of the Government's funding cuts, the University is prepared to use the surplus generated during previous years to cover its vital expenses and the investments required by the change programme. This surplus 2010 - 2015 totals approximately €60 million. 

According to Jaana Husu-Kallio, chair of the Board of the University of Helsinki, the University has attended to its finances diligently and acquired a surplus, which, along with the necessary staff cuts and other adjustment measures, will help balance the situation.

“The Board’s goal has been that no new staff cuts will be required. I believe that the measures now completed along with efficient use of the surplus can take the University through the coming years,” Husu-Kallio explains.

In 2015, the University of Helsinki’s total income amounted to €750 million, of which €454 million was governmental core funding. Its total expenditure was €704 million. Staff expenses represented 63% of this (€441M) and facility costs 13% (€88M).

The surplus of the University's operations was €21 million. An unprecedented €25 million was gained from dividends and sales of securities, which was reflected in the growth of the University's securities portfolio. The change programme launched in the autumn resulted in additional savings of approximately €3 million already during 2015.

The surplus from the University’s operations represents approximately 3% of its overall expenses, and could fund the University's work for 11 days.

2015 financial statement of the University of Helsinki (PDF, in Finnish)

  • 32,464 degree students
  • 1,774 international degree students
  • 6,140 degrees
  • 10,444 publications, 66% of which peer-reviewed
  • 5,564 projects on external funding
  • 67th position in the Shanghai ranking
  • 15 of the 29 Academy of Finland centres of excellence are coordinated by the University of Helsinki. In addition, the University participates in five centres of excellence coordinated elsewhere.
  • Total balance €623 million
  • University’s securities portfolio €231 million
  • Overall expenses €704 million
  • Staff expenses €441 million
  • Facility rents €88 million
  • Number of staff 7,948, a reduction of 214 from 2014
  • Staff from 90 different countries
  • Percentage of teaching and research staff 56
  • Average age of retirement 65.5
  • 1.6 million visitors at the Helsinki University Library
  • 6.6 million visitors on the website
  • 5,800 international media hits