The University in the Storms of the World

On October 24, 2017, the “Vision for higher education and research in 2030” and its background document, prepared by the Ministry of Education and Culture, were published at the National Library. The document brings together ideas about the changing knowledge needs of the Finnish society and universities’ role in building the future.

The majority of the background memo focuses on presenting global trends and describing the current state of Finnish higher education and research. Finland is said to have been one of the winners of globalisation. The possibility for success has partly been created by investing in higher education institutions. However, the amount of people who have completed a higher education degree is said to have decreased in comparison to other OECD countries over the past few years.

The changes of the world do not, of course, only pertain to Finland. For example, the growth of research and development investments is slow in OECD countries. Developing countries are increasing their stakes on research and education. Courses of action are changing and new forms of collaboration are sought. In Finland, changes that are exceptionally big, also on an international level, and the scarcity of resources have begun to exhaust university personnel. Outside the vision, it is known that Finland is losing more high level experts than it manages to entice them.

The background memo also clarifies the vision for higher education and research in 2030. According to the memo, Finland’s success will, also in the future, be built on education and knowledge, together with science and technology. Art is not mentioned separately, but it belongs together with science. In the vision, Finland will be known for its good systems of education and research. Information that has been produced elsewhere is utilized and our own top research will be conducted by centralizing resources.

When it is read closely, however, the vision for 2030 is not an outlook of a future modern and international higher education system. It is also not a vision about higher education or research. It is a vision about Finland’s competitive ability in the near future and about how higher education institutions are desired to advance it.

From a national point of view, the vision is significant, and in order to materialize, it “requires investments in information and knowledge that are significant in comparison to the size of the national economy”. The vision for an international and modern university system, however, needs clarification.

The Finnish Union of University Professors and the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers completed their own vision entitled “University for the good of Finland” in 2016. Our vision did not separately highlight the international character of universities at the time. Maybe this was because for people working in universities, being international is self-evident. Our vision is topical and offers concrete suggestions for developing universities. In fact, our vision offers, in many central points, a solution for materializing the “Vision for higher education and research in 2030”.

Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto
Vice chair, The Finnish Union of University Professors

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