Libera Foundation has tabled five proposals to fix the higher education system in Finland.
Mikko Kiesiläinen, the managing director of the right-leaning think tank, claims that many of the reforms the country has implemented since the turn of the millennium have not been in compliance with the Bologna Process, a series of agreements to ensure the comparability of higher-education qualifications across Europe.
“Finland has typically set the example in implementing reforms. It is odd that we have opted out of the European development in a sector we are proud of,” he states.
Kiesiläinen views that the most significant of the five proposals is that to separate undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes. The current system, he argues, makes academic performance in the first three years of higher education virtually irrelevant as students are guaranteed a place in master’s degree programmes.
“If you are admitted at the age of 18 to the University of Helsinki, which in a number of fields is the best university in Finland, your average grade in the first three years is irrelevant. The door will be open for you to the best master’s programme in Finland,” he explains.
“Even if students complete a bachelor’s degree with the highest grades at the University of Lapland, they have no chance of getting into the best master’s degree programme in their field of study because all the places have been reserved for students of the University of Helsinki. Grades are irrelevant in both universities.”
This, he adds, also disincentivises universities from developing more attractive postgraduate programmes as the programmes will be entered almost exclusively by the same students who begun their undergraduate studies three years earlier.
With universities not having to compete against each other and students not having to make a genuine effort, the situation does not promote the development of top talent, according to Kiesiläinen.
He also encourages students to enter the working life after completing their undergraduate degrees and to decide which postgraduate degree to pursue only after a few years in the working life.
Such changes are opposed particularly by different interest groups, he says.
“There are interest groups, such as student associations, that are incentivised to keep the current systems intact. Policy makers, on the other hand, do not have the courage to shake up the system,” says Kiesiläinen.
Libera Foundation also proposed in its pamphlet that the division into universities and universities of applied sciences be eradicated, that the university network be rationalised, that universities be allowed to charge student contribution fees for master’s programmes, and that entrance examinations be abolished.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi