Finnish academic education on edge

Chancellor Raivio of Helsinki University has opened the discussion on university tuition fees. He is worried that government finance will dry up in future when more and more people are not in productive work. It is very typical for Finnish culture to stay put and wait inevitable to happen. In that respect Mr. Raivio is visionary when trying to force government to open their eyes. At the same time age classes are getting smaller and smaller. Not to mention that vocational training is getting more and more popular by demand and increasing pay.

Changing the system is not, however, at all easy. It is old saying that don’t look at gift horse’s mouth. Some universities have hold students hostages on this by avoiding law and democracy. Despite the law, in some cases, it is very difficult if not impossible for students to make any claims or to become heard in any misconduct they feel. But if tuition fees become compulsory independence of universities is radically decreased. Students will have the right to demand up to date education. They will also have the right to demand education meeting job descriptions and not visa verse.

If we look at the current educational staff of Finnish universities it is evident that majority of professors have no practical experience what so ever. The typical career is school, white hat, university, lower degree, higher degree and doctorate. How can these professors know what companies and the world demand? Most of employers claim that they have to train people coming from universities. Having spent 5 – 7 years in university most will need at least 2 – 3 years training at work. If this is not waste of limited resources, what is? 

Tuition fees will be asking for competition between educational institutions. But where is the competition coming from? Of course there will be competition between Finnish institutions but is it going to change anything? The spirit of EU is open market i.e. open competition across the borders. The big question is: will Ministry of Education accredit foreign universities? Accreditation means that also these universities could compete for state education vouchers. Only this can open doors for Finnish brilliance to best universities in World.

In many other countries professors are paid by what and how much they put hours in their work. According to my information, professors in Finland are free like birds in the sky. My experience is that professors are approximately two days in university including consultation hours. This is not very cost effective way to run business and can be one of the reasons for the problems of financing academic education. To keep up with fast changing business world more teachers are needed with high practical experience. But would current stuff feel them threatened, if this will be the chosen strategy? Undoubtedly, but it will also make systems more effective.

However, there are already few universities in Finland where it is possible to have international BBO or MBO or even Ph.D. education. Most of the professors in these foreign based institutions are working on daily bases on their professions. This will guarantee the latest information and education on the market. At the moment you cannot get government compensation for tuition fees but it may be possible in near future. In globalization this is only way to keep us on top.


Esko Passila

Professor of International Management