Chan­cel­lor Kaarle Hämeri: Donations to the University benefit society as a whole

Ensuring the financial foundations of university operations and safeguarding scientific freedom require several funding sources. The significance of donations is another considerable factor. At the University of Helsinki, more than 100 professors and other experts work in positions completely or partially funded by donations.

Finland has a publicly funded high-quality university system. Most of this funding comes directly from the government budget; the rest is mostly supplementary funding also awarded by the Finnish government. Even though the GDP share of public funding is high, it lags far behind the international top. In recent years, reductions to public funding have been a special characteristic associated with Finland – unlike in the other Nordic countries, not even economic growth is reflected in investment in higher education institutions. At the same time, Finnish universities are subject to great expectations in terms of, for example, continuous learning.

The donations enable free research

The funding model of Finnish universities is the most result oriented in the world, with target results agreed in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the budget funding allocated between the universities in accordance with the achievement of these targets. The low share of funding not tied to result indicators has been found to be problematic for research in particular, even by the OECD. In fact, measures linked with higher education policy have markedly affected the orientation of university operations.

Ensuring the financial foundations of university operations and safeguarding scientific freedom require several funding sources. Sources independent from the government budget include funding granted by the EU and foundations, whose share all universities aim to increase. The significance of donations is another considerable factor.

Donating to the University of Helsinki is a long-lived tradition. The oldest fund still awarding grants was founded on a scholarship donated by Lieutenant Erik Ekestubbe in 1745. Over the years, the number of funds has grown, and today their donated assets are managed through professional and responsible investment activity. As the capital accumulates through investment, returns from the donated funds are used to finance University operations.

Even small donations have a huge importance

Donations have a direct impact on research, teaching and studying at the University. The allocation of donated funds is usually planned far ahead, and these funds boost stability in times when government funding is on a less stable footing. Universities are active in raising funds from their alumni, businesses, foundations and other parties. The custom of donating will take time to take root in our culture, but the significance of universities is increasingly understood to be of such magnitude that there are already a range of parties that wish to offer their support. In this new culture of donating, donations form a great current composed of many small streams. The establishment of such a culture is also supported by the government's decision to grant the right to take a tax deduction for donations to universities, up to €500,000 in the case of individuals.

All donations to the University are gratuitous, that is, containing no obligation. Donors cannot influence staff recruitment, student admissions, teaching, the conduct of research or publishing in violation of the University’s strategic plan, values or principles of research integrity. The University has ethical principles for fundraising, which are carefully observed.

At the University of Helsinki, more than 100 professors and other experts work in positions completely or partially funded by donations. Already at the current level, the importance of donated funds to research and teaching is substantial. However, our societal challenges are great and solving them requires resources. Donations are becoming increasingly important to the University for securing the continuation of operations.

With the donations, we make the world a better place

With the help of donated funds, the University is making the world a better place. Donations help researchers and students find solutions to issues that are crucial for the future of humanity. Furthermore, donations bring about valuable partnerships that benefit both donors and the University, as well as the wider society. Long-term interaction where the donor’s ideas and the University’s strategic plan come together openly is usually the key to the best results.

On 26 November, the University of Helsinki celebrates Giving Day, this year with cancer research as the theme. At the University, this field is served by more than 35 professors and hundreds of other researchers. The support given by donors helps them come up with solutions that comprehensively benefit Finnish society – all of us.