14. marraskuuta 1997

Departmental Funding=Number of Graduates

Beginning next year, University of Helsinki departmental funding will be determined by a new internal distribution model whereby money will be rationed among departments according to the number of graduating students and research each produces. With the introduction of the model, Rector Kari Raivio and Vice-Rector Arto Mustajoki hope to focus on the main goal of the university: producing degrees. 50% of funding will be determined by the amount of undergraduates, 15% by post-graduates and 35% based on completed research. An additional 25 million mark sum, the so-called structure fund, has also been founded, from which the Rector can distribute money when necessary. How the structure fund will actually be used is unclear at this time, as are the effects the model will have on departmental activity.
    Students from the Faculty of Natural Sciences have demonstrated against the model, even seizing the Main Building of the University in an effort to thwart approval of the model. The faculty has the most to lose with the changes, up to 10% of their current funding. Rector Raivio comments, ”The model is most certainly more just than the situation as it is,” as there was previously no systematic method for dividing up university money. Vice-Rector Mustajoki explains that the new model will enable the university to better demonstrate its results, improving its chances for continued funding, considering how government assistance to the University of Helsinki has decreased each year. Raivio feels that changes in university funding had to occur before the university moved into the 21st century. ”In the future, many fields of study will receive the majority of their money from external sources like the EU, for example,” he explains.

An Academic Bus Stop?

In 1996, 394 students of the University of Helsinki changed faculties, 212 of which left the Faculty of Natural Sciences. The Faculty of Natural Sciences is the only faculty at the University of Helsinki that accepts students to study without a entrance examination. If a student can demonstrate praiseworthy high school performance, they are granted a study place. For this reason, many students use the faculty as a lay-over on their way to another field of study. Planner Pauli Saarinen of the Student Registrar tells us that 44 students switched from the Faculty of Natural Sciences to the Faculty of Medicine last year, one third of those accepted. Approximately the same amount moved to the Faculty of Social Sciences. The Faculty of Natural Sciences will be hurt by this wave of internal transfers, however, when the new money distribution model will take effect early next year, because the ratio of graduates to incoming students is so small.
    Saarinen comments, ”The directors of the Faculty of Natural Sciences are eager to praise their high quality research, but they aren’t so willing to discuss their quality of instruction or efficiency.” Some kind of entrance criteria must be adopted to eliminate the entrance of hundreds of students each year that have no intention of graduating from the Faculty. ”This way, the faculty would attract people that were really motivated and instruction would be more effective. The faculty should have done something about this a long time ago.”

Mobile Students Find Exams Expensive

Students of the universities of Finland are going through a lot more trouble these days to arrange tests in other locations. A student of communications theory spent an academic year in Germany, during which she completed two tests at the Finnish Embassy in Bonn. At first, she was told that such an arrangement was impossible, but it eventually came about after some negotiation with her professor. ”The department was really concerned about whether there would be any expenses for them,” the student tells. She paid the Embassy fee of 25 DM per hour out of her own pocketbook.
    Study Secretary Tuula Hakkola of the Faculty of Social Sciences says, ”If a student wants to take a test somewhere else, it is traditionally between the student and the instructor to decide.” A few years ago, the University of Helsinki decided to no longer arrange testing of students from other Finnish universities. ”We used to have a much more liberal system, but there were lots of problems, ” says Hakkola. Testing can be arranged, however, with the Open University of Helsinki for 150 FIM per test, if the student registers 10 days in advance through the university where the exam originates. ”We cannot arrange supervision for just one student, so we often provide this service in concert with one of our own tests,” explains Project Secretary Liisa Heikkinen.

Student Depression Gets Us Down

Tests are piling up, textbooks can’t be found, there is not enough money to eat with and studies are going nowhere. Sounds depressing. ”For many years we had a regular 4 per cent of the student body coming here for help, but now the numbers are increasing. In reality, the need for care is greater, however,” says Psychologist Marketta Meretoja of the University Student Health Care Foundation (YTHS). ”The first sign of trouble is when studies aren’t going anywhere. At worst, some fall into a total depression, when they feel they don’t have the strength to continue and simply cannot manage.” This depression leads to concentration problems and often studies lie dormant for many years. Meretoja recommends seeking professional help if this kind of depression continues.
    A new group of students seeking help are international students. In addition to the difficulties of a new language and culture, many fall into a depression because of their temporary state, without roots or a support network. Meretoja says, ”Students from Asian countries and Africa feel the cultural changes most. Foreigners are new to us here at YTHS, making appropriate therapy problematic.” She believes that as caregivers become more experienced, however, problems will clear themselves up.

New Faces, Old Slogans

The results of recent Student Union (HYY) elections in Helsinki were confirmed on November 13. The two students that won the most votes, Essi Aarnio and Olli Aalto, both represented the Green Party. Although the members of the Green Party running in the election received the most votes per candidate at 35, the party lost two representative spots, dropping from 8 to 6, because of the small number of candidates participating in the election. The Independent Left was the surprise winner, doubling their representatives from 2 to 4 this year. Departmental interest groups won four more positions, becoming the largest group in the union. Student nations, on the other hand, lost four places. The Center party maintained their two spots, the Social Democrats gained a spot and the new party, Young Finns, suffered a suprising defeat, with just one representative elected. 33% of the student body participated in the elections this year, increasingly slightly from the previous elections.

Sweden Beats Finland On Human Rights

Sweden’s chapter of Amnesty International has a whopping 80,000 members, while Finland has a mere 7,500. Why? Amnesty has a completely different support network in Sweden, says Frank Johansson, President of Amnesty Finland. ”Last year, the Swedish Postal Service distributed membership fees to every Swedish home as a sign of support. The campaign brought in 1,400 new members: half as many as Finland’s total,” he explains. Perhaps part of the answer lies in the national character, too. ”Swedes have a tendancy to be great moralizers, saying `you can’t do that’ to other countries. Perhaps that isn’t the Finnish way,” says Johansson.
    Still, Norway and Denmark both have five times more members than Finland. Maybe the answer lies in Finnish history. Kalevi Sorsa, Prime Minister of Finland in the 70s, admitted on television a few weeks ago that for a time, it was considered against Finland’s best interests to comment on human rights offenses abroad – particularly in the Soviet Union or any of its allied countries. When the Eastern threat waned in 1985, Finnish Amnesty numbers rose from 3 to 5 thousand in just five years. The recession affected membership in the early 90s, but the future looks bright. Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen has founded a five person human rights division in the Foreign Ministry to better consider human rigths issues in foreign commerce and policy decisions.

Wilde Makes A Posthumus Comeback

The Irish born Oscar Wilde, one of the most controversial cultural personas of his day, was freed from jail one hundred years ago. His most famous novel, A Portrait of Dorian Gray, is now mandatory reading for Finnish high school students and his best-known play, The Importance of Being Earnest, recently ran at the Helsinki City Theater. But the real Oscar Wilde boom is going on now in England and will reach Finland soon. The unsensored version of Wilde’s De Profundis , a collection of letters written by Wilde while in jail, will be released on November 24, translated by Juhani Lindholm. A film about the writer, Wilde, starring Stephen Fry and directed by Brain Gilbert, will premiere in Finland in early 1998.

Pamela Kaskinen