Education policy experts propose national cooperation for Finnish universities

We the undersigned have been heavily involved in the process of preparing the vision for higher education, which was launched by the Ministry of Education and Culture in the spring. Based on the discussion, the aims of the vision seem to be, in particular, improving the level of education, increasing the flexibility of the education system, a more efficient use of resources, and increasing the opportunities for lifelong learning.

“We propose that in order to achieve these excellent goals we should create a national, platform-based operations model for Finnish universities which would be unique in the whole world, where students can make use of different universities’ study modules throughout the country in a flexible way, irrespective of university boundaries and geographical restrictions. The platform-based operations model is also suitable for learning during one’s career in modules that are smaller than degrees, as well as for strengthening education export to the international education market. This model will also mean that higher education remains accessible throughout Finland,” Suvi Eriksson, who works as a Special Adviser in Education Policy at the Finnish Business School Graduates, states.

During the preparation of the vision for higher education, the possibility for a new Universities Act to replace the current Universities Act and Polytechnics Act has also been alluded to. The aim of the new Act would be to strive for various combinations of universities and universities of applied sciences. We do not support this legislative amendment. We also definitely want to hold on to Finland’s strength in offering students both scientific and vocational university degrees. Instead of a new Act, we need an agreement on new operating methods, including digital ones, and resource allocation for them.

“SYL supports a model where students have the opportunity to learn in a more varied way in our entire education system. Speeches often mention cooperation between universities, but in reality, cooperation usually only takes place on a local level. From the student’s point of view, it is not sensible that the system is only flexible within individual projects, even within their own university – especially when there is also a strong ongoing process for universities to be profiled in certain areas. The profiled universities must carry out true cooperation so that the opportunities of students are not reduced,” Niina Jurva, Advocacy Coordinator at the National Union of University Students in Finland, emphasises.

In order to create this operations model, the main requirement is a change in how resources are allocated. The universities’ current funding models mostly encourage them to compete in all areas.

“When allocating funds, the universities should be heavily encouraged to not only offer tuition to students of their own university, but degree students from other universities as well. These kinds of operating models already exist, such as the FITech cooperation university for technology, online business studies for economic sciences, and the eAMK project for universities of applied sciences. These projects are a good starting point for a new platform-based operating model, but after the end of the project period their possibilities to continue depend on how the operating model is acknowledged in the allocation of funds,” explains Piritta Jokelainen, Education Specialist at Social Science Professionals (Yhteiskunta-alan korkeakoulutetut).

The undersigned emphasise that this is not a finished model, but rather an addition to the discussion about the vision for higher education. “We want to challenge interest groups and those working in higher education to discuss the opportunities that this kind of model could bring, the funding for it and other kinds of guidance required.”

“In the global education market, Finland is a small player, but together we can become larger if we see our available resources as a whole. The operating model of Finland’s University would be a vision for higher education based on an efficient use of resources, and therefore it would benefit both our students and our competitiveness,” the undersigned summarise.

 

For further information, please contact:

 

Suvi Eriksson, Special Adviser in Education Policy, the Finnish Business School Graduates, 040 848 8935, @SuviEriksson

Niina Jurva, Advocacy Coordinator, the National Union of University Students in Finland, 041 515 2230, @NiinaJurva

Piritta Jokelainen, Education and Advocacy Specialist, Social Science Professionals (Yhteiskunta-alan korkeakoulutetut), YKA 010 231 0358, @PirittaJ

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