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Proposal for competitive financing of Finnish universities

Six top academics see institutional shortcomings

Proposal for competitive financing of Finnish universities
Proposal for competitive financing of Finnish universities Bengt Holmström
Proposal for competitive financing of Finnish universities Kari Raivio
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A group of six leading Finnish academics say that universities in Finland should be made to compete genuinely for their financing. According to a statement issued on Thursday, this would raise the quality of teaching and research, and would gradually eliminate duplicated work.
      Professors Bengt Holmström and Seppo Honkapohja, University of Helsinki Chancellor Kari Raivio, as well as Leena Palotie and Olli Kallioniemi, professors at the Academy of Finland, and Martti Mäenpää, managing director of Technology Industries of Finland, said that Finnish universities are too disperse and are afflicted by mediocrity.
      The group say that the financing of universities should be based on the quality of education and research, and on competition and constant evaluation - not on the quantity of degrees.
      Education could be assessed from within Finland, but international gauges would be needed for research. Under the proposal, only units that have been found to be of high quality internationally would be entitled to have doctoral programmes.
      Student satisfaction and the amount of time it takes for them to complete their studies would also be taken into consideration.
      The group suggests that universities should specialise in their strong fields, and give up those in which they are weak. The result would be fewer subjects taught in each institution, but stronger units.
"Universities would have to emphasise those areas in which they are successful, instead of constantly grabbing new areas of teaching for themselves", Chancellor Raivio explains.
      There would also be an increase in resources for teaching, a moderate decrease in the number of students, and administrative reforms, so that an external board of directors and the rector would get more power.
      The group says that the present tripartite boards are not able to make decisions on re-directing resources, even though such a move would be necessary.
Students would be made to study more efficiently through tuition fees and education vouchers, which would also make them more demanding customers.
      The principle of free education would be dropped: tuition vouchers would be used to cover the fees, which would be available for the amount of time calculated for the completion of a degree - usually five years - with the possibility for two more years of added flexibility.
      Students who earn their degrees more quickly would be able to cash in their tuition vouchers as an incentive.
Universities would be allowed to levy fees on foreign students and thereby engage in academic export. However, they would also be allowed to compete for foreign students with free offers.

Helsingin Sanomat

  9.3.2007 - TODAY
 Proposal for competitive financing of Finnish universities

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