Accepted Paper:

Reconfiguration of university ideals at the Europe's periphery: contemporary changes at the University of Helsinki  


Sonja Trifuljesko (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores university changes from the Europe’s periphery - contemporary Finland. It focuses on the encounter of the ‘global HE script’ with particularities of the Finnish context, by analysing ethnographic accounts of the recent changes at the University of Helsinki and responses to them.

Paper long abstract:

With the Universities Act of 2009, Finnish universities, after more than three and a half centuries of existence, have been separated from the state. They have become 'independent legal personalities', able to make contracts and run their economic activities. Operational costs still remained covered by the Ministry of Education, though university budget has been gradually reduced ever since.

However, with the change of Finnish government in 2015, this process has been intensified. It is calculated that 106 million euros were cut solely from the University of Helsinki and that has been used as a justification for massive lay-offs. Austerity measures are implemented side by side with other internal changes. The University of Helsinki has altered its regulation in April 2015 (by giving more power to the rector), its administration is currently under complete reconstruction, and the same will happen soon with its faculties. Also, the degrees themselves are, at the moment, undergoing through a 'renovation', and the new degree programmes are planned to start functioning from the autumn 2017. This is also the time when the university expects to get its first fee-paying students.

All this radically challenges previously existing university ideals, and is, thus, met by an opposition. Based on the ethnographic fieldwork conducted between October 2014 and January 2016 at the University of Helsinki, I analyse the encounter of the 'global higher education script' with particularities of the Finnish context, by focusing on the main proponents and opponents of the university reform.

Panel P041
Higher education and transnational academic hierarchies: anthropological work in/on the academic periphery