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  • Seppo Sainio
    The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland, YLL


    University Work at a Turning Point

    Serving the interests of employees has always offered a good vantage point. Nowadays this supervision of interests is increasingly affected by new initiatives in university politics and the ways in which these alter the job descriptions and career expectations of the personnel. We are now living in the period of turmoil following the University reform.

    Autonomy introduced to universities the responsibility of enhancing their competitiveness within international operational environment, among other things by diversifying their capital base. Consequently, the new duties of the personnel often entail the planning, development and implementation of education export and study modules subject to tuition fee.

    The education export strategy of the Council of State (29.4.2010) makes note of the fact that Finland has an excellent reputation for competence in matters pertaining to educational organizations. The strategy also points out that product development and entering the market involve risks, which include the potential harm done to the reputation of Finnish operatives in cases of deficient administration of quality and export projects. What is more, moving personnel away from their national duties is not that straightforward, at least before the exports begin to yield profit — which so far remains to be seen.

    The profit gained from education export by Finnish universities has typically been academic, not monetary. This entails the creation of staff exchange connections and research cooperation, as well as the enhancement of expertise through common development projects.

    Productization and quality assurance systems are among the focal concepts in education export. Regrettably, they are also concepts that the personnel instinctively recoils from. Sufficient information on new initiatives in the planning phase lessens the level of shivers among the staff. Motivated personnel behind execution comprises an important quality guarantee for new projects. Such personnel can be assembled by locating teachers and researchers who are genuinely interested in development and implementation. The will and motivation for developing oneself through diversifying one’s duties in a more ambitious direction serve as good incentives. What is more, merit for teaching and acting as international expert in new areas may enhance the career prospects on their part.

    The better universities attend to the development of the competence of its personnel, the greater the possibilities for acquiring new projects in the first place and being able to implement them profitably after the onset. For instance, those universities which have invested heavily in their Departments of Teacher Education do not need to regret their allocation of resources; Saudi Arabia recently announced that it will use nearly 140 billion euros to renew its educational structures and aims to build approximately one thousand new schools. It is interesting to try and anticipate what will be the next areas to offer promising prospects.

    The personnel is interested in the development of the university system as a whole. Initial experiences of new projects are currently being assessed on the levels of both implementation and administration. The strategies of the near future will be outlined on the basis of these experiences. Sufficient resourcing for the launching of projects is essential for a successful implementation. The full potential of these projects may not be realized with excessively strained and occupied personnel.

    It is worth discussing future projects and initiatives in an open spirit both within the universities and nationally. The personnel will be drawn into the discussion automatically because of changes in their job descriptions, but they also have the responsibility of putting the new educational formulas into effect. If need be, they can be relied upon to remind everyone of the importance of securing the resources for degree studies and basic research in the departments — these constitute an equally important dimension in the expansion and internationalization of the capital base.

    Seppo Sainio
    The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland, YLL

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