Vuokko Kohtamäki’s speech at TATTE’s May Day event (30.4.2024)

On the Fast Track Policy for Science and Learning


Dear all Vappu celebrators

Thank you warmly for the invitation and the opportunity to come and speak at this unique and joyful Tatte’s vappu! It’s nice to join this spring festival. It brings us together year after year, whether the sun is shining or the sleet is falling. This has become an event that encompasses the entire university community.  Vappu is the highlight of the year for all of us. Here we can meet colleagues from different faculties and, above all, meet each other face-to-face on the university campus.

As an administrative scientist, preparing for the speech naturally began by reading Tatte’s annual report from last year.  Of course, my attention was focused on many important questions. Advocacy has expanded significantly compared to previous years, increasingly incorporating transnational issues—pandemics, post-pandemic challenges, wars, academic refugees. Such advocacy succeeds only through robust collaboration and the high commitment of volunteers. I wish to extend my deepest gratitude to Tatte’s activists for their exceptional care and support and work agendas. Today, we can celebrate also the collective spirit that drives Tatte’s work.

Tatte has raised an interesting question related to the entire university community in its annual report last year: is “productivity” also known as efficiency really a suitable metric to assess the creative work done in the university. This question must definitely be kept on the agenda. Productivity and efficiency, they’re like speed racing – constantly escalating laps.

Now, we have a new three-year PhD training pilot here. And what is it? Well, it’s the PhDs’ own Grand Prix! A doctoral rally, where Finnish universities race against each other, and where the fastest times and the nimblest turns decide the outcome. There’s plenty of speed and obviously challenging situations. Let’s remember that the best ideas often come when we slam on the brakes and let our minds rest for a moment.

This year, the state has decided to revise funding indicators for universities. Now, universities are accelerating at full speed to select new students who are applying to university for the first time. This is like a starting fund for a race, because at the finish line the model allocates 3% “incentive money” to universities that enroll these newcomers. And don’t forget, teachers and students: now it’s worth completing degrees on time, as this will bring 1.8 times the money into the university’s coffers, compared to the previous 1.5 times.

Universities’ national funding model does not provide us with the best tools and mind sets for creative academic work, administrative work, learning environments, and achieving new, tougher goals. In research, competition intensifies even further. We are encouraged, and indeed pressured, to secure competitive external research funding. Its significance now rises to 14%. And note, if any of you manage to win corporate funding, the value of the awards increases to 1.2 times.

And what about artificial intelligence? ChatGPT has already placed us—and continues to place us—on an unprecedented fast track. We are in deeper waters than we might assume. This applies to every nook and cranny of the university, including teaching, research, and administration and all university community members and their current and future working. Therefore, I propose to Tatte that it will take the use AI into the working agenda, so that our thoughts may become clearer and we can better understand together, in a more multidisciplinary way, where we truly are and where we are headed.

Let us look forward together and celebrate together that we are part of this dynamic and vibrant community.

I wish everyone an inspiring and joyful Vappu!


Vuokko Kohtamäki