The University of Oulu Academics (OUTI) is concerned about the change negotiations at the University of Oulu and the long-term financial management challenges on a broader level.
There have been signs of financial distress throughout the university, but it remains unclear to personnel why they are now facing change negotiations. It is unclear how cost savings will be realised if the remaining work tasks must be assumed by other units or faculties. The university’s results may also suffer because of a personnel shortage and the challenges brought forth by change negotiations. We are in favour of operational development, but it won’t be accomplished through dismissals, particularly when there is an acute shortage of human resources across the entire university. The messages received during the negotiations, suggesting that granted external funding should not be used, are especially worrisome and seem to completely counter the planned cost savings.
The University’s finances and results of the basic tasks, which are scientific research and education, are reliant on multiple factors. The University’s internal funding model is strongly guided by indicators set by the Ministry of Education and Culture, which can reasonably bring results to those who have already achieved better results, but is notoriously inequitable between different sectors and activities. It is somewhat unclear how the resourcing of services and other units will compare to other areas of internal fund distribution or operational planning. It strongly raises the question of whether individual units in the current model will be expected to take excessive responsibility for the inherent deficiencies and fluctuations in the model of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The University should more strongly defend its own employees and units in the face of problems and uncertainties rather than reinforcing the problems and uncertainties.
We criticise the selective reporting of the University of Oulu regarding their financial situation. In connection with the announcement of the change negotiations, the University stressed the overall loss of EUR 38 million in 2022, despite the fact that, in previous years, tens of millions of investment returns were never mentioned in the University’s communications. It is true that the expenses increased significantly in 2022 and investment returns weakened, but this is not the whole story of the financial situation of the university. Despite the weak financial year in 2022, the overall results for 2018–2022 were positive, even though the trend and world situation naturally raise concerns. At the same time, however, the legislative act on research and development funding is anticipated to have a positive effect, also on the finances of Finnish universities.
Table 1: Expenses and results for the University of Oulu in 2018–2022 Source: Vipunen
The University of Oulu Academics hope that the long-term action and financial plan, as also mentioned in connection with the change negotiations, will comprehensively involve the personnel, will include serious investments and commitment, and will be used to ensure more stable employment and working conditions at the University.
Pauli Väisänen, Chair, University of Oulu Academics (OUTI)
The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers supports its members in the midst of change negotiations and possible dismissal situations. Read more, for example, under How do I proceed in a termination situation?