Know your Rights

New directive helps improve the status of researchers from outside the EU and EEA countries. In its drive towards the internationalization of the academic world, Finland has taken active measures to attract international experts to our universities.

Universities’ international recruitment activities have been spurred on further by granting funds to universities for degrees earned by international students and for hiring teaching and research staff from abroad.

Universities have thus been given a financial incentive to aim at increasing the proportion of their students and staff from abroad, and they have operated accordingly. In my work as Chief Shop Steward, however, I have encountered major problems that have arisen as a consequence of these measures. The problems have occurred with regard to researchers from so-called third countries, and they stem from matters related to residence permits, particularly for those researchers completing their dissertations as their main form of employment.

One problem is that when universities hire early stage researchers to do their dissertations, they do not usually draw up employment contracts for four years. Shorter contract terms mean that early stage researchers coming from outside the EU and EEA countries have to apply for their residence permits several times, as a researcher’s residence permit is granted for the duration of the employment contract. When employment contracts for dissertation writers are divided into several short-term contracts, this generates thousands of euros in costs for researchers with families during the dissertation project because they need to apply for several permit renewals. When one takes into account the very low salary level of early stage researchers, this has major financial consequences.

Another very significant problem is related to different types of residence permits. If a person coming from outside the EU or EEA countries is writing his/hers dissertation as a student, without an employment relationship with the university, they are entitled to live in Finland under a student’s residence permit. Once that person has completed hers/his doctoral degree, they are granted a new, one-year residence permit so they can find employment. This means that a PhD educated in Finland has one year to look for a job and thereby aim to put their expertise to use on the labour market.

By contrast, when a person from outside the EU or EEA countries does hers/his dissertation as paid work, they are granted a researcher’s residence permit for the duration of their employment contract. Once that person completes their doctoral degree, however, they are not entitled to the one-year residence permit for their job search. If they do not already have a new employment contract or funding lined up, their residence permit will not be renewed and they will have to leave Finland.

The situation is, however, being rectified. Directive (EU) 2016/801 of the European Parliament and of the Council must be enacted in Finland by 23 May 2018. The government bill regarding this directive, which applies to researchers and students, will be circulated for comments this autumn. Students and researchers from outside the EU or EEA countries will be given the possibility to remain in Finland for one year for the purpose of finding employment or establishing a business after their work contract has ended. The directive also lays down many other significant improvements, but the granting of residence permits for finding employment or establishing a business is the most important solution to the critical problems described hereinabove.

text Antero Puhakka
Chief Shop Steward, University of Eastern Finland

Painetussa lehdessä sivu 50