A seminar for the management of universities and scientific institutions was arranged in Kuopio on the 28 and 29 November on the topic of the roadmap and measures of the vision for higher education. The discussion touched upon openness, flexible study paths, digitisation, research and innovation environments, and wellbeing within the university communities, among other things. One of the main themes was an enabling legislation and guidance, one example being the act on teaching cooperation which is currently being discussed by parliament. There was also a strong will to create structures and financing elements which support continuous learning and cooperation between universities and universities of applied sciences.
Together with the Finnish Business School Graduates and Social Science Professionals (Yhteiskunta-alan korkeakoulutetut), SYL has also brought their own suggestion to the table: the model Finland’s University. In this model, universities and universities of applied sciences are given the opportunity to open up their teaching to students who are not degree students at that university through a digital platform. The platform model was well received by the seminar’s working group, and Minister Sanni Grahn-Laasonen included it in her presentation of the measures included in the roadmap. This model is also closely connected to enabling increased cooperation between universities and clarifying the role of the open university; both of these themes had a strong presence in the discussions.
What will happen next?
The preparation of the roadmap for the vision is progressing at high speed, and at the start of next year a number of working groups focusing on different themes will start working on creating concrete measures. The working groups also have the freedom to collect the views of the field more extensively in different ways. Student and personnel organisations will be represented in all groups. Regarding potential regulatory changes the schedule is also tight, as the aim is to debate these in parliament next autumn. This means that the lobbying will take place during the spring. Changes to the financing model are planned for the next performance agreement period, i.e. 2021–2024.
One area which may potentially lead to legislative changes is related to the role of the open university education. During the seminar, giving open universities the right to award degrees to part-time students was also mentioned. SYL does not support degrees awarded by the open university, but sees many opportunities in increasing the amount of teaching at the open university and clarifying its role, as long as the principle for free education is retained.
There will also be another major discussion on degree structures. From the perspective of lifelong learning it could be justifiable to grant shorter study rights, but we still feel that it would be good to keep the degree structure as it is. We do not need short degrees; instead we need more flexibility for different situations in life, and enabling structures which support individual and flexible study paths.
SYL’s Advocacy Coordinator and Education Policy Adviser