This editorial has been published in Finnish in issue 6/2023 of the Yliopisto magazine.
The government programme of our new government includes some decisions that are good for universities, and others that bring uncertainty about our future.
The government’s decision to adhere to the university index was vital to Finnish universities. Reliable core funding in the long term guarantees continuity in research and education. Also important for the future of Finland is the pledge to raise research and development expenditure to 4% of the gross national product by 2030.
Universities can generate a lot of good when additional funding for research and development is targeted at high-quality research, the establishment of innovation ecosystems around higher education institutions, as well as the universities’ commercialisation and business incubator operations.
The measures and funding for raising education and skills standards are yet to be determined. We need decisions to spur an increasing number of young people to receive higher education, including in the Uusimaa region.
Obstacles to both arriving and remaining in Finland must be dismantled
To expand our skilled workforce, we need immigration too – there are not enough Finns. This is why the proposals for restricting immigration are worrying. The University community is apprehensive about the section of the government programme according to which employment-based residence permits will be cancelled if employment is terminated and no new employment contract has been signed within three months. This is really a lot to ask of, for example, employees of research projects receiving fixed-term funding. There is great concern for the international members of our community.
Universities play a key role in attracting talent to Finland. There are 2,240 international degree students and 1,675 staff members from international backgrounds at the University of Helsinki. We are a significant employer of international talent.
Those arriving in Finland as students establish natural bonds with our society and also remain here after graduating. Indeed, it is good that the government is establishing incentives for this and, for example, improving opportunities for learning the Finnish language.
Finland will succeed only by upgrading skill levels in our society, which is why we must work hard to attract international experts. Obstacles to arriving and residing in Finland must be dismantled.
The author is the rector of the University of Helsinki.
Yliopisto is a scholarly magazine published by the University of Helsinki committed to observing the journalistic guidelines of the Council for Mass Media in Finland.