Juhana Aunesluoma: Our success depends on a high level of skills

In the global distribution of work, Finland’s future success depends on the excellence of skills. We are increasingly in need of people with a high level of competence. At the same time, the quality of education and research must be continuously improved. A highly trained workforce and a top-level research infrastructure also attract international companies to Finland.

We at the University of Helsinki want to be part of the future success of Finland. The country’s foundations are solid. The investments made over the decades have borne fruit in the form of a thoroughly high-quality education system. Access to education and teacher training are currently of a high international standard, making education a profitable investment for individuals. In many fields, Finnish science is at the top on the international level.

However, these foundations are eroding, threatening to undo decades of work. Throughout the 2010s, the core funding of universities has decreased. The fostering of future skills requires investment. To prevent our success being hindered by this, the trend in university funding must be turned around.

What, then, would be achieved by increases to core funding?

  1. First of all, better quality in teaching: We have a solid idea of how teaching should be reformed. Already now, Finnish universities are going in the right direction in terms of teaching. However, the meagre level of resources engenders bottlenecks, which must be removed. We need a more intensive relationship between teachers and students. In today’s international universities, lecture-based courses no longer prevail, as studying has become increasingly interactive. Digital solutions are no substitute for time spent on interaction; rather, they intensify interaction. The quality of education cannot be improved when the estimated value of degrees keeps dropping. An upturn is needed.
  2. Secondly, more substantial core funding will boost research and its impact. Increasing the core funding of universities channels resources to be used as efficiently as possible, as, for instance, professors do not have to spend an inordinate amount of time applying for competitive funding, instead focusing on research and teaching.
  3. In science, competition on the international stage is becoming constantly tougher. Scientific work has become increasingly demanding, necessitating the extension of research groups and international recruitment. Core funding can be used to create research environments that attract such international specialists. In addition, we need competitive research funding provided by the Academy of Finland with which to fund more extensive projects and to attract scientists from elsewhere. International experts are an investment for Finland, since we lack a sufficient number of home-grown specialists in the bottleneck fields.
  4. Furthermore, for companies producing high added value, the significance of world-class research environments as competitive factors has grown. Investment in education and research is the only way forward to Finland’s success. This is why the core funding of universities must be safeguarded.

Juhana Aunesluoma
Research Director, Network for European Studies
Vice-Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Helsinki

In the series Science Advocates, people describe the significance of research and research-based teaching for themselves. Read the other instalments on the Researchmatters website (scroll down).