In keeping with the political objectives of the Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government and the Ministry of Education and Culture’s Vision for higher education and research 2030 objectives, the number of young adults with higher education degrees will be raised to 50 percent by 2030. The Ministry and institutions of higher education have accordingly agreed to increase the admissions policy quota. At Tampere University this means an increase of 197 enrolled students in 2020 and an additional 440 enrolled students in 2021 and 2022 in total. This means approximately +9% in comparison with previous years’ numbers of enrolled students. Increasing the target numbers of graduates can be considered a fairly permanent phenomenon. Due to the increasing educational responsibilities, the universities have also been granted additional funding. The measures included in the Vision for higher education and research 2030, such as increasing the admissions quota in order to raise the number of people with higher education degrees, have been discussed in the agreement negotiations concerning the 2021–2024 agreement period between the Ministry of Education and Culture and the universities. The aim is to continue supporting these measures with strategy-based program funding in the future. In the core funding model for universities, completed Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees form 30% of the basic funding.
We, Tampere University Association for Teachers and Researchers (TaYLL) and Tampere University Association of Researchers and Teachers (TATTE) wish to emphasize that the university must commit to a sustainable and long-term personnel policy.
The resources allocated to the increase in the admissions quota must be directed toward creating permanent positions for staff who have fixed term contracts and toward opening new positions as necessary. This is essential for the work wellbeing and motivation of the academic staff as well as for maintaining the high quality of teaching and supervision. It is important to remember that in the aforementioned Vision 2030 and the roadmap accompanying it, staff wellbeing and their continuing development needs have been highlighted as key factors for making institutions of higher education the best places to work in Finland in 2030.
Quality and impact of education are key elements in the strategy for Tampere University. Strengthening the close connection between teaching and research is the first step related to education and supervision that supports the implementation of the university strategy. The faculties’ measures for making better use of time available for teaching and the use of other resources have been agreed upon in conjunction with the annual planning.
Now is the time to ensure that the conditions for fulfilling the strategic goals are met. Firstly, in order for the connection of teaching and research to be genuinely and effectively realized, academic staff must have time for actually conducting research. This is not possible in situations where the teaching load is excessive. The current work plan instructions have not supported the connection of teaching and research, let alone promoted it. Nor have they supported the actualization of academic freedom described in the Finnish Constitution and the Universities Act or the ability of the academic staff to reasonably plan and effectively use their time. In examining the time spent on teaching, guidance and supervision, it is necessary to take into account that the transition into long-distance teaching and the introduction of the new study information system Sisu have been a considerable burden on the staff during the past year. Neither the strain caused by Sisu nor the challenges caused by implementing long-distance teaching can be expected to lessen in the near future.
Secondly, only by ensuring the wellbeing and know-how of the academic staff can we sustainably offer high-quality teaching, guidance and supervision. The staff must be able to trust that they will receive the necessary orientation, opportunities for professional development and peaceful working conditions. Indeed, resources should be allocated for the orientation of new staff members and for training in higher education pedagogy.
Recruiting new staff must not deepen the division between teaching and research-oriented positions. According to the Universities Act, universities are tasked to promote independent academic research as well as academic and artistic education, to provide research-based higher education and to educate students to serve their country and humanity at large. It is essential that, following the reform and in spite of it, researchers still teach and teachers still conduct research. The need for more staff, allocating resources, updating the work plans as well as more general strategic goals and the work relating to successful management of university finances and human resources form a tightly interconnected whole. Therefore we consider it important that the need for new members of staff, created by the increased admissions quota, is viewed and dealt with as a university-wide human resource policy matter.
In addition, we want to point out that when recruiting new staff, it is extremely important for the legal protection of the applicants that recruitments notifications make it clear if they apply to a position of a university teacher or a university lecturer. The qualifications necessary and the roles of the two positions are distinct. It is furthermore important to recognise that, in addition to the degree programmes, the increased graduate targets also adversely affect the organization of language and communications studies meant for all students. For example, there are already considerable queues to mandatory language courses with the current numbers of students, and thus the level of resources must be raised to sustainably meet the demands. This will ensure that students have a realistic opportunity of graduating within the intended time frame.
In order to fulfill its basic tasks, to maintain the quality of its teaching and research, to meet its strategic goals and to ensure the wellbeing of its students and staff, TaYLL and TATTE deem it necessary that the university commits to a long-term human resources policy that is grounded in permanent contracts and based on comprehensive best practices, including personnel and financial planning. Only in so doing can the challenges created by the increased admissions quota be sustainably met.
Responsibility is one of our university’s values. Let us therefore act in accordance with our values in this context that is challenging both socially and in terms of educational policy.
On behalf of Tampere University Association for Teachers and Researchers (TaYLL)
Mika Mattila, chairperson
On behalf of Tampere University Association of Researchers and Teachers (TATTE)
Sanni Tiitinen, chairperson and Liisa Ahlava, secretary