Cuts May Cause Loss of a Generation of Scholars

Publisert 01.02.2016
Following the Nils Klim Committee meeting in Helsinki on 29 January, there was an event at the Norwegian Embassy, as a part of the “Evening at the Embassy” series. Here, scholars and experts gathered to discuss the extensive university sector budget cuts that are being implemented in Finland and other Nordic countries, and the consequences for young researchers in particular.

One consequence of the cuts is that almost 1.000 jobs will be cut at the University of Helsinki alone during the next few years. 570 people will lose their job at the institution in 2016 and 2017 alone. According to the EuroScientist, Petri Koikkalainen, political scientist at the University of Lapland, has warned of a Finnish “brain drain” and the loss of an entire generation of researchers, as young scholars may be hit especially hard.

Uncertain Future for Young Researchers

Academy Professor Elina Vuola, University of Helsinki, was a keynote speaker at the embassy event on Friday. She is also a member of the Nils Klim Committee. Professor Vuola warned that the current government of Finland is cutting university funding at an unprecedented scale.

“This is the latest stage in a process that has changed the legal status of the universities, increased competition for research funding and created difficulties for individual researchers,” Elina Vuola said. ”One of the stagnant problems of Finnish universities has been the insecurity of the researcher career, which has by and large not been predictable and rewarding. Since it is important that we support young scholars in all possible ways, we should also create conditions that are conducive to a strong commitment among the younger academics – a commitment that is not one-sided.”

Contrast to Previous Economic Remedies

Addressing the challenges facing the Nordic economies and academic institutions, Vuola also emphasized how a broad knowledge and a variety of skills are among our most valuable assets. She also stressed how the logic of research should be a guiding principle when making strategic financing decisions such as these, but that current policies are based on top-down decisions made by a political leadership with little expertise in the research field.

Professor Vuola warned that the present cuts were part of a larger problem with potentially severe long-term consequences, and that some of the changes that occur may affect the humanities and the social sciences more severely than other fields. She also commented on how previous Finnish recessions had been met with a strengthening of the educational system, in stark contrast to present policies.

The keynote address was followed by a discussion on the current situation in the Nordic countries and on how to improve the conditions for young researches. The Nils Klim Prize was emphasized as a contributing factor in creating motivation and commitment.