For the last two decades or so, the quality of Finnish higher education has been promoted by consolidating the scattered field of universities and creating more impressive wholes. Over the last term of government there was a cooperative effort to create a vision for higher education and research. One of the set goals was to have robust and internationally attractive expertise clusters in Finland.
– Now it seems that the government is letting go of these jointly agreed upon principles with Minister of Science and Culture Antti Kurvinen taking the lead. The proposal published on January 10th scatters higher education by issuing new education responsibilities to six universities and nine universities of applied sciences. In all of these instances equivalent responsibilities already exist in other universities, says TEK’s Director of Public Affairs Juhani Nokela.
Expanding higher education is necessary, but it must not be done by scattering it wider but by consolidating high-quality operations even further under the same roofs. Increasing the number of locations does not necessarily increase the quality of education and research. Now the risk is that the resources needed for expansion are scattered, and building new structures takes precious time. This risk would be smaller if student intake was only increased in those units that already had the education responsibilities.
– We at TEK believe that there are believable plans and existing regional needs for the expansion of academic engineer education at the University of Turku and the beginning of academic engineer education at the University of Eastern Finland, and that there are adequate resources for these ventures, at least initially. However, we think that the needs should be considered at the national level, and this is the government's responsibility, Nokela says.
– There is a lack of highly educated tech professionals all over Finland, so the solutions must also cover the entire country. We could increase the student intake quickly and cost-effectively in places where the structures already exist without compromising quality, Nokela says in summation.