Higher education institutions are the best workplaces in Finland – at least in the Vision for Higher Education and Research. This goal should not be set any lower. The Ministry of Education and Culture took up a point that is important for the success of universities. The roadmap that will be made in order to realise the vision will map ways to reach this goal.
Maintaining a healthy higher education community and taking into account the views of the personnel are strengths that improve the competitive ability and appeal of a university. If the employer image worsens, the reasons behind this can, at their worst, harm the educational task and the impact of research.
University work in itself is already rewarding in many ways. Developing the work as an expert in one’s own field is a part of the profession of a teacher and researcher. In addition to content, also the ethical dimension and the societal connection are motivating in the work. Education is used to build a better society; the pursuit for truth is a part of research. The work involves freedom and responsibility.
The university world is, however, also a hard and competitive environment. The competition for funding generates, in addition to high quality science, bureaucracy and applications for which one is not rewarded. Moreover, the salary system is felt to be unrewarding.
Not every job provides career prospects and possibilities for distinguishing oneself. As a response to this, The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland (YLL) and the Trade Union of Education (OAJ) have presented for discussion a career model that highlights criteria that are significant for the educational task.
The funding model still rewards for quantity instead of encouraging developing the quality of the work. Steering through quality is apparently felt to be difficult. Is it time to give up already – or could steering through quality even amount all the way to an education innovation?
The municipal sector recently rewarded for developing working life in the framework of a three-year development programme. The programme presented 200 acts of development which had been designed at workplaces. Rewarding for these speaks about appreciating employees and being proactive in developing working life.
Universities also have room for developing working life for instance with regard to remote work possibilities and combining family and working life. There is also room for improvement in supporting working life mobility by granting leave from work during transitional periods. Proactivity to decrease the fragmentation of work and temporary work would be welcome.
Well-being at work is strongly linked with the change that is taking place in the field of higher education. In different areas of the country, interesting things, based on cooperation between different operators, are currently being done.
In Jyväskylä, education organisers are cooperatively opening study paths related to entrepreneurship and entrepreneur-like activity. In Lappeenranta, research, development and innovation work is being strengthened and the University and the University of Applied Sciences strengthen each other in project applications. In Lapland, there are cooperative efforts to open new education export paths to Asia.
Universities of applied sciences are building shared digital study possibilities in the framework of the eAMK. The national Basic Business Studies package LITO, for its part, is carried out as a joint effort of ten universities.
Well-being at work is always connected to mergers and the strengthening of cooperation. From the point of view of employees, it is essential that well-functioning work communities and ground rules are not lost due to the harsher ground rules of another community.
Next, the university community will follow collective bargaining. Will steps be taken to develop working life in the negotiations, or will the prevention of additional tightening and weakening be central? The collective bargaining will show the true nature of universities. It will set the goals of the employer; the hired man sits at the negotiation table.
Chair, The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland, YLL
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