Higher Education in the 21st Century – Diversity of Missions: Abstract by Ossi V. Lindqvist

 

Research and Institutional Mission

Ossi V. Lindqvist, the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council, FINHEEC

The innovation policy of Finland is relatively top-down, and the general frame for it is set by the Science and Technology Policy Council which is chaired by the Prime Minister. Since the 1990s the policy has also encouraged special profile-building among both the polytechnics and the universities so that each institution concentrates in developing its existing strengths. Similarly, close national co-operation in research and researcher training is supported, together with the internationalisation process. This co-operation often involves shared infrastructure between universities, especially in the case of the expensive research fields.

Since 1995 a special programme, the so-called graduate schools for PhD training was established with targeted funding from the Education Ministry. The total number of PhDs graduated has also now increased up to the level of 1500 annually, partly as a result of the funding policy - the universities are funded by the numbers of their Master and PhD graduates, based on a contract between each university and the Ministry of Education.

The existing policy calls for all universities to be research oriented, and the current Universities Law also calls for “teaching based on research”. Each university has prepared its internal research strategy plan, which also includes certain incentives for good research. The universities themselves can provide relatively little for their research activities outside their scientific infrastructure, and thus most of the research funding is obtained only on a competitive basis, and from outside sources. The main funding agency for basic research is the Academy of Finland, and the principal source for applied research is the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (TEKES). In terms of money, the universities roughly use equal amounts of funding from these two agencies, but of course other sources such as national foundations, European Union, etc., can contribute significantly to the research effort. (EU’s structural funds have been used also to support the infrastructure of both the universities and polytechnics.) The content of the research is generally evaluated by the financing agency itself, though many universities have run their own evaluations for their own management and strategic purposes, often using international experts. Also the Academy of Finland bases many of its financing decisions on international expertise. The overall aim has been to increase the quality of research, and there are recent indications that this is true. In the University of Kuopio, for instance, about 50% of the total expenditure is so-called outside money, and most of that is obtained on a competitive basis. The R&D money used by the polytechnics is of the order of 10% of their overall expenditure, and a good part of it comes from TEKES.

Proper researcher training also requires proper funding for research. In Finland, the expenditure in R&D is ca. 3.5% of the GNP, but the Science and Technology Policy Council has indicated that it should be increased to the level of 4.2% by the year 2011. Much of this increase will be from the public sector, which now covers slightly more than 1% of GNP. The public funding strategy for the universities since the mid-1990s has been to increase the funding for research much more than the general funding going directly to the universities.