Tatte comments on the report issued by the working group tasked with reviewing the functionality of Tampere University’s management system and University Regulations

Tampere University Association of Researchers and Teachers, Tatte ry, would like to thank the working group for this long-awaited and hoped for report. Tatte stands largely in favour of the recommendations put forward in this report. We consider the recommendations concerning the election of the University Board members, the role and tasks of the Academic Board, and the tripartite representation of the university bodies particularly called for. The recommendations of the working group are well aligned with the legislation pertaining to universities in Finland, both in letter and in spirit. Tatte considers it very important that many of the recommendations of the working group are implemented, even when they might appear minor or merely technical in nature. They are not.

The university is a very special entity that has high potential for self-renewal and can engage in considerable introspection and critical reflection, including upon itself. As such, the university can serve as a positive example for other societal actors. This potential should not only be treasured but carefully safeguarded.

When the voices of the university community, various points of view and arguments are heard and listened to, the necessary space for discussion and debates enables finding common ground. The report of the working group is in our opinion an excellent example of such processes. The chairman of the working group acknowledged in his comments, as does the report itself, that the working group was able to work through various different viewpoints through discussions that explored many options before arriving at recommendations that were acceptable to all. We hope the University Board and its chairman take note of this and continue along the same path.  

The report is proof of the capability and desire to reach an accord through compromise and building trust. This is exactly what the university needs. All in all, the recommendations of the working group guide us toward a better university.

Tatte supports the recommendations of the working group without reservation when it comes to appointing the university board and defining the tasks and activities of the academic board (the consistory). Tatte considers realising these recommendations extremely important for the successful running of the university.

The powers granted to the academic board should not be restricted any more than what is stipulated by law, whether it comes to appointing the university board or any other tasks of the board. The current university board appointment process is simply untenable. 

The academic board is to appoint its chairperson from among its own members. An administrative model where the provost acts as the main rapporteur for the academic board makes intuitive sense as the president similarly acts as the rapporteur for the university board. This solution would accordingly differentiate between the decision-making structures and the executive branch, and also clarify the position of the provost. The foundation rules make this solution possible, and it would also respect the spirit of the legislation pertaining to universities. Simply referring to so called established practice (i.e. the administrative model of Aalto University), or stating that strictly speaking the current model is not unlawful, are meagre arguments compared to the pressing need to build a functional administrative model best fit for Tampere University, and begin to rebuild trust.

It is Tatte’s official position that the representative bodies of the universities should follow a tripartite form of representation. The working group’s recommendation to increase the representation of students and other staff in the academic board is thus also supported.

Tatte also supports the recommendation relating to the position of the provost and the vice presidents. The tasks, responsibilities, and the position of the provost in relation to other decision-making bodies is currently unclear. The tasks of the provost have not been laid out clearly in the University Regulations or elsewhere. Section 7 of the University Regulations is too broad. The provost’s main duties as the academic president should be clarified. Following the recommendation of the working group, the phrasing detailing the provost as the chairperson of the academic board is to be removed.

The division of duties and responsibilities between the provost and the vice presidents should also be clarified. A decision by the president as per section 8 of the University Regulations regarding the division of tasks between the vice presidents does not currently exist. The decision could clarify the tasks and responsibilities between the vice presidents and the provost as recommended.

Tatte supports the recommendations outlined in the working group’s report relating to the appointment of deans.

Tatte supports the recommendations regarding the Faculty Councils’ role in the university budgeting and planning process and in professorial recruitment. The Faculty Council should, however, be heard not only in the professorial recruitments, but also in the recruitments of research directors and third tier recruitments. Section 16 subsections 6 and 7 of the University Regulations detail these third and fourth tier recruitments and their requirements, which are central for teaching and research. The Faculty Council would have a natural role here.

Tatte supports the recommendation concerning the size of the Faculty Council being discretionary. It should be noted that section 15 subsection 5 of the University Regulations in its current form already permits the smaller size of the Faculty Council: “In the event that the Faculty [Council] has less than fifteen (15) members, due to the size of the faculty or for some other justified reason, the President shall issue specifications on a smaller but proportionate composition and the election procedure in separate guidelines.” When considering the size of the Faculty Councils, the large faculties should be considered along with the small ones: at which point is the subsidiarity principle compromised due to the large size of the faculty itself. There is a risk that dividing lines and spheres of interest develop in large faculties, which may jeopardise the functioning of the Faculty Council. Reflection and analysis on when a faculty is too small or too large to function is necessary. In large faculties (such as ITC currently), a model of decision making structures that would include more local decision-making bodies (such as unit councils) and thus better support the subsidiarity principle, could be considered.  

Tatte acknowledges the working group’s recommendation for appointing external members to the Faculty Councils with some reserve. Including members from outside the university community might endanger the functionality and autonomy of the decision-making body, which is representative of and chosen by the community, and its position in relation to the preparatory and executive branches. There are also risks involved that would arise in the Faculty Council’s tasks, e.g. in assessing doctoral dissertations and in hearing the Council in regard to the university budgeting, planning and recruitments, as described in the recommendation of the working group. In its current form, section 15 subsection 6 of the University Regulations already allows for faculty advisory boards appointed by the dean. This advisory board would be one way to ensure that external stakeholders are involved and have an opportunity to have an impact without influencing the actions of the decision making body. The tasks of the advisory board, its responsibilities and jurisdiction should nevertheless be carefully drafted, so that the board work is interesting and meaningful to stakeholders. Other possibilities for meaningfully involving external stakeholders would be the dean’s steering committee, steering groups for research and teaching or the planning groups in the faculties.

Tatte supports the recommendation pertaining to the meeting practices of decision-making bodies and the recommendations relating to transparency of both decision-making and communications.

Once the recommendations of the working group have been implemented, with their accompanying comments in mind, it is important to consider if the clause allowing the representation of university staff on the university board should be made explicit in the University Regulations. Tatte supports an unambiguous clarification to the Regulations that clearly states no restrictions should be placed on community representation on the board. The current Regulations fail to meet the requirements of meaningful university autonomy, and instead create conflicts that resonate not only within the university community but also outside it.