The Future of Finnish Universities
Originally uploaded by FransBadger.
Today the researchers and professors are gathering to annual seminar and meetings in m/s Viking Mariella (soon sailing to Stockholm — these boat seminars are a local tradition). Sakari Karjalainen (a high official from the Ministry of Education) is in this picture talking about the next 10 years developments in the Finnish universities. There are many challenges, related to globalization, international competition, national demographics (population getting old really quickly now, and immigration staying low) and internal challenges in universities (the part that resists all change, and the lack of shared vision about the direction of change). Also Esko Aho from Sitra spoke about the similar challenges but rather than calling for focus into one huge “national Top University” that would compete with the MIT and Harvard in their own game, he pointed out that even those “tops” are rather small in size. And that the attitude is the most important key factor — and Aho claimed that having more competition is the key towards that “right spirit” of enthusiasm and energy. But I’d rather point out that you need to have something to compete for, and that we need the essential basic resources so that we can actually remain enthusiastic and energetic about our research (working on five research plans and jumping in six project meetings a day, without any time to dedicate to your actual research can really wear you down). Competition can mean many things, and currently the basic financial and organisational structure of academic research and education is going the wrong way! Chancellor Kari Raivio from the University of Helsinki was touting the “top” quality of his own university, but also pointed out that competition needs to be based on quality (read: national comparative evaluations of universities with meters like citation index and number of publications) and that the universities need to specialize into different areas, having more professors in lesser number of fields. Something like this will probably happen in the future, but there needs also be some strategic vision guiding the focusing of resources, taking into consideration also future developments and emerging fields.