The new Universities Act will further extend the autonomy of universities by giving them an independent legal personality, either as public corporations or as foundations. At the same time, the universities’ management and decision-making system will be reformed.
Parliament passed the Universities Bill in 16 June 2009. The new law will replace the Universities Act of 1997.
The network of universities and institutions for higher education is also changing. For example universities of Joensuu and Kuopio have formed the University of Eastern Finland whereas the Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics and University of Art and Design have together founded Aalto University. This will increase efficiency and effectiveness.
Timetable and stages
The reform of the Universities Act has been prepared in close collaboration with universities and stakeholders. The preparation began in spring 2007.
• The bill came before Parliament in spring 2009
• Parliament passed the bill in 16 June 2009.
• The Act onf the Implementation of the Universities Act will take effect on 1 August 2009.
• Organisation in line with the new act in autumn 2009
• Start of activities on 1 January 2010
Objectives and key impacts
The reform will facilitate operation in an international environment. Its purpose is for universities to be better able to:
• react to changes in the operational environment
• diversify their funding base
• compete for international research funding
• cooperate with foreign universities and research institutes
• allocate resources to top-level research and their strategic focus areas
• ensure the quality and effectiveness of their research and teaching
• strengthen their role within the system of innovation
Universities to become independent legal personalities
In order to achieve the objectives, the reform will make the universities independent legal personalities. The universities will be separated from the State and they will have the choice of becoming either corporations subject to public law or foundations subject to private law.
The autonomy of universities will enlarge further
The reform will give universities more power by reducing the steering of universities by state administration. The universities will therefore no longer be developed as part of state administration, but in terms of their main mission: education and research.
Universities will take the place of the State as employers.
University staff will no longer be employed by the State. Civil-service employment relationships will become contractual employment relationships, and universities will negotiate in collective bargaining. The universities will be able to pursue independent human resources policies, improve their attractiveness as an employer and in this way strengthen their competitive advantage in order to recruit the best personnel. The interests of the staff will be safeguarded during the changeover.
Universities will have more latitude in the management of their finances
The universities will be better placed to make the best use of their income from capital and to supplement their financing with donations and business activities. This will facilitate the targeting of research and education resources and allow the universities to develop stronger profiles on the basis of their strengths. This will improve their capacity for operating in the international environment. The government may also make financial investments for the universities. The capitalisation of the universities will safeguard their financial standing, solvency and creditworthiness.
Administrative model for stronger university autonomy
As legal personalities, the universities will have full financial liability, which will emphasise the importance of strategic management. The aim of the reform is to consolidate the influence, societal relations and financial skills of the boards of universities subject to public law.
University administration and management will be reformed and strengthened to enable universities to respond more flexibly and independently to the challenges arising from their new financial status. The reform will also consolidate academic decision-making and the position of the university rectors. Members of the university community (professors, other personnel, students) will continue to be represented in the board.
At least 40 per cent of the members on the board of a public university must be persons external to the university. The members are elected by the university collegiate body, which may also decide to have an external majority on the board, if it so wishes. The chair and the vice-chair of the board are elected from amongst the external members.
The board of a foundation university has seven members, three of whom are nominated by the founding members of the university foundation. The number of candidates nominated by members must be at least double the number of seats. The board is appointed by the multi-member administrative body of the university. The foundation universities may also elect a board entirely composed of external members. The chair and vice-chair must be persons external to the university.
Government core funding for universities
Government will continue to guarantee sufficient core funding tied to the rise in costs for the universities. In addition, the univiersities will be able to apply for competed public funding and use the revenue from their busines ventures, donations and bequeaths and the return on their capital for financing their operations.
Position of the students
Students will continue to be regarded as full members of the university community. They are automatically members of the students’ union and are represented on the governing bodies.
Degree education will still be provided free of charge. The legislative reforms will, however, make it possible to charge tuition fees on a trial basis to students from outside EU/EEA countries who are taking part in separate master’s programmes, provided that the arrangements include a scholarship scheme.
Finnish acts and decrees concerning education
Early Childhood Education and Care:
Children’s daycare act stipulates the entitlement of children to day care and the responsibility of municipalities to arrange day care.
Children’s Daycare Decree covers its practical arrangement.
Basic Education Act (pdf) prescribes on the principles of basic education as well as pre-primary education, education for immigrants and voluntary additional basic education.
Basic Education Decree (pdf) prescribes on the working time, instruction, groups, evaluation and assessment, pupils’ rights etc.
General Upper Secondary Education:
General Upper Secondary Schools Act prescribes on the aims of general upper secondary education, its organisation, instruction, curricula, publicity of education, assessment, matriculation examination etc.
General Upper Secondary Schools Decree prescribes on e.g. instruction, counselling, planning the education, assessment, legal rights of the student.
Decree on the General National Objectives of Upper Secondary Education and the Distribution of Lesson Hours.
Act on the provision of matriculation examination.
Matriculation Examination Decree prescribes on the organisation, examinations, examiners, assessment and examinees.
Vocational Education and Training:
Vocational Education and Training Act prescribes on the vocational upper secondary education and vocational upper secondary degrees, e.g. provision of education and training, instruction, curricula, on-the-job learning, apprenticeship training, special needs education, evaluation and assessment
Vocational Education and Training Decree prescribes on the following: studies and their scope, counselling, on-the-job learning, apprenticeship training, special needs education, assessment and evaluation.
Vocational Adult Education Act prescribes e.g. on the contacts to the world of work, provision of education, further education and training, students’ rights and obligations, competence-based qualifications, evaluation and assessment and funding.
Vocational Adult Education Decree prescribes on the requirements for competence-based qualifications.
Decree on the labour policy of vocational adult education and training prescribes e.g. on acquiring education and students’ financial aid.
Decree on the higher education degree system
Polytechnics Act (pdf) prescribes e.g. on the following: administration, steering and evaluation, language of instruction, degrees, student admission, teachers and other staff, funding.
Polytechnics Decree prescribes e.g. the following: administration, the scope, structure and aim of studies, qualifications, training programmes.
Universities Act (pdf). The new Universities Act will further extend the autonomy of universities by giving them an independent legal personality, either as public corporations or as foundations under private law. At the same time, the universities’ management and decision-making system will be reformed. The new law replaced the Universities Act of 1997.
Universities Decree prescribes on the instruction, students and staff.
Government Decree on University Degrees (pdf) provides for lower and higher university degrees and scientific and artistic postgraduate degrees referred to in the Universities Act.
Act on Liberal Adult Education prescribes on liberal adult education institutions and aims at supporting lifelong learning and promoting equality and democracy in society.
Decree on Liberal Adult Education prescribes on the administration, studies and financing of liberal adult education.
Act on Basic Education in the Arts. The act defines basic education in arts, its aims, organisation, curriculum, evaluation, assessment etc.
Decree on Basic Education in the Arts prescribes on the contents and scope as well as assessment in basic education in the arts.
Decree on the Joint Application System of General and Vocational Upper Secondary Education.
Polytechnics’ Joint Application System Decree.
Act on Financial Aid for Students The act prescribes on the studies that entitle to students’ financial aid.
Decree on Financial Aid for Students prescribes on the eligibility for students’ financial aid and procedures.
Act on school transport subsidy of general and vocational upper secondary education students.
Decree on the school transport subsidy for general and vocational upper secondary education students.
Act on the administration of education and training provided by the state and private organisations.
Act on Central Government Transfers to Local Governments. The act prescribes on the statutory government transfers and their calculation.
Decree on Central Government Transfers to Local Governments prescribes on certain calculatory principles.
Act on the Financing of the Provision of Education and Culture. The act prescribes on the statutory government funding of education and cultureDecree on the Financing of the Provision of Education and Culture prescribes on the principles of the funding of education.
Education Evaluation Decree. The decree on the tasks and composition of the Finnish Education Evaluation Council.
Act on Eligibility Provided by Foreign Higher Education Studies for Public Posts in Finland. The act prescribes on the validity of higher education degrees taken abroad for Finnish state or municipal posts.
Decree on Eligibility Provided by Foreign Higher Education Studies for Public Posts in Finland. The decree prescribes on the validation of higher education degrees taken abroad.
Decree on the Implementation of the General System of Recognition of Professional Qualifications of EC Citizens. The decree prescribes on the procedure of applying for the recognition of qualifications.
Act on National Certificates of Language Proficiency. The act prescribes on the administration, assessment, and fees.
Decree on National Certificates of Language Proficiency. The decree prescribes on the composition and tasks of the Language Proficiency Test Committee.
Teaching Qualifications Decree prescribes on the qualification requirements of educational staff.
Teachers’ education act.
Teachers’ education decree lists the faculties providing for teacher education. It prescribes on e.g. qualifications of the teachers, their tasks, academic year etc.
Act on Vocational Teacher Training prescribes on vocational teacher education, e.g. aims, administration and steering, instruction and studies, student admission, teachers.
Decree on Vocational Teacher Training prescribes on the following: studies and aims, degree structure, requirements for staff at vocational teacher education colleges.