“The steps proposed by the coming Government are at odds with its goals. The Government wants to make Finland a leading country in education and to increase both the quality and impact of research. The drastic cuts proposed to education would have the complete opposite effect,” Jukka Kola states.
The cuts pose a serious threat to the quality of research and teaching, and consequently to our national success and competitiveness. The Government intends to freeze the university index, cut research funding from the Academy of Finland and Tekes, and discontinue the compensation paid for pharmacy services to the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland.
Second consecutive term of government to effect cuts
Overall, approximately €500 million will be cut from universities. The previous government cut funding to institutions of higher education by €200 million. Consequently, the University of Helsinki has had to reduce its staff by 500 employees through retirement and choosing to leave open positions unfilled.
Rector Kola points out that the cuts seem to be targeting the University of Helsinki with particular intensity, even though it is the only Finnish university to rank among the top 100 universities worldwide. Kola wonders why the Government wants to cut from the highest-quality education in the country.
By 2020, the University of Helsinki will face cuts amounting to more than €83 million due to decisions made by the previous and new Government. This means that the University’s basic funding will be cut by one sixth.
Structures should be broken
Rector Kola agrees with the new Government that universities should increase their cooperation and specialise in their fields of strength.
“The proposed cuts are so major that universities cannot survive them just by shaving off costs. Hard decisions will have to be made. However, structural changes take time and cannot be implemented in the schedule necessitated by the cuts. The structural changes will have to made based on a quality assessment of the universities,” he emphasises.
Rector Kola points out that the funding of Finnish universities is not exactly the highest in the world, and now the meagre resources are spread out over many small institutions.
He understands that in the current economic climate, everyone must pull together to cut costs.
“But the cuts should be targeted so that they do not erode our future,” he remarks.