STATEMENT 10 December 2015
Over the next four years, the Finnish Government will impose unprecedented cuts of hundreds of millions of euros to the funding of the University of Helsinki. In addition to index freezes and direct funding cuts that concern all the universities, nearly 30 million is cut from the annual funding of the University of Helsinki by discontinuing the so-called pharmacy compensation.
These surprising major cuts are targeted at our academic community without any transition period or support. The Student Union of the University of Helsinki and the University's employee organisations appeal the Government to take seriously our concern for the impact of unconsidered and unreasonable cuts on our university. This concern is also shared by the Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee.
The Government and the Minister of Education and Culture have justified cuts by the reforming and ”streamlining” of operations. Approximately 60% of the staff of the University of Helsinki work in teaching and research positions – when discussing the cuts, persons who work in other positions are treated as branches that should be eliminated. However, effective administration and support services ranging from laboratories and libraries to IT support and caretakers are prerequisites for scientific research and teaching.
If effective administration is separated from teaching and research, the ties of the academic community are broken at the same time. Persons who work in the library, laboratories, educational administration and many other support positions make sure that researchers and students receive the best possible professional assistance when they need it.
The University of Helsinki has been the most successful university in Finland based on the mutual recognition of the international scientific community and the criteria set by political steering – the university reform in 2009 and the university funding model introduced in 2013. This success is solely based on the fact that the academic community has been able to work together and each member of the academic community has been able to commit to their work. Now the Government is punishing the University of Helsinki for achieving the set objectives.
Higher education policy should be predictable and reliable instead of being at the mercy of erratic political passions. If the Government wishes to reduce the operations of the universities, it is in the interests of the entire society to carry this out deliberately. In its statement on 3 Dec 2015 (PeVL 14/2015 vp), the Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee also considers that the pharmacy compensation should be gradually discontinued in order for the University of Helsinki to have the time and resources to prevent the most serious damage. The Committee also points out that the Government has not assessed how the cuts will affect teaching and research, the basic responsibilities of the universities. On the contrary, the Government has repeatedly shown their ignorance and disregard towards research and teaching carried out in universities.
The Government must now show that it values the profit-makers which it has demanded and offer a bailout package to the University of Helsinki in order for it to survive the cuts. The Education and Culture Committee decided 9 Dec 2015 that the pharmacy compensation is to be removed, which runs against the Constitutional Law Committee recommendation that the law be changed gradually. The Education and Culture Committee also states also that the Government and the Ministry of Education compensate the cut to the University of Helsinki. This is the least of also the Student Union's and the employee organisations' demands.
Still in the year of 2010, the Finnish Government proposed amendments to the Universities Act and considered that the pharmacy compensation belongs to the sphere of autonomy and basic funding of the University of Helsinki. The same kind of judgment we hope the current Government and Parliament would use now.
The University of Helsinki has much more to lose than just money. In addition to redundancies, the cuts threaten to drive away the people who can think, question and create something new – in the language of the current Government; the persons who can innovate and be at the top of the world.
Kaija Berg, Chairperson, JHL, Helsingin yliopiston ammattiosasto 645
Jaana Hallamaa, Professor, Chairperson, Finnish Union of University Professors, Department of the University of Helsinki
Elisa Hyytiäinen, Chairperson, Helsingin yliopiston henkilökuntayhdistys HYHY
Tapani Kaakkuriniemi, Chairperson, the Helsinki University Researchers' and Teachers' Association
Mari Lehtoruusu, Chairperson, Student Union of the University of Helsinki
Anne Nevgi, Chairperson, Helsingin yliopiston dosenttiyhdistys – Docentföreningen vid Helsingfors universitet ry
Inkeri Ruokonen, Chairperson, University of Helsinki's Lecturers' Association