Finland’s future hinges on knowledge and skilled people. We must reform our education system to offer the knowledge and skills needed in the job market and society in this century.
High-quality basic, early childhood and upper secondary education provide the foundation for university studies. This foundation must be sound when higher education is reformed. The number of school dropouts must be brought down, the number of graduates from general upper secondary school must be increased, transitions from one system to another must be facilitated, and educational equality must be promoted. The average age of students starting university must be lowered. Finland now ranks below the OECD average in number of university graduates aged 25–34.
A public policy document sets out the objective of increasing the number of university graduates from the current 41% to 50% by 2030. When more degrees are completed than at present, sufficient resources must also be ensured to prevent a drop in the quality of teaching.
We at the University of Helsinki are keen to meet changing educational needs: in the future, degree education must be supplemented with continuous learning and the flexible updating of skills. The role of universities in the chain of continuous learning is to offer research-based in-depth education that provides new knowledge. The funding of universities should take into account the increase of non-degree education.
It is important to agree on the broad-based funding of continuous learning during the next government term, but this must be preceded by public discussion on how the funding should be distributed between employers, society and students.
For students, it is vital that their education not only provides the skills required for scientific thought and problem-solving, but also ensures that they are well-equipped for employment. The aim of the education reform implemented at the University of Helsinki is for our degree programmes to be based on research and an extensive and in-depth understanding of issues and phenomena. This is why our graduates have the solid career skills needed in a changing society.
In the future, digital and face-to-face learning will blend together. Digital elements will make learning more flexible, but high-quality studying also requires that students be physically present and become integrated into their discipline and community through social contacts. A high-quality digital learning experience requires not only the construction of learning environments, but also the creation of an infrastructure that supports digital teaching and the development of digital teaching skills.
In the future, the University of Helsinki will increase its cooperation with providers of upper secondary education. For example, we will develop digital teaching programmes open to all general upper secondary pupils in Finland. In the long term, digital courses and MOOCs will become an increasingly significant admissions channel to university studies.
We wish to play our part in developing Finnish universities into the country’s best workplaces and communities. Everyone’s contribution is needed to ensure that universities have sufficient resources to achieve their objectives and that students and staff have confidence in their career prospects and opportunities to make a difference.
We consider it important that students are guaranteed the conditions (incl. social benefits) they need to concentrate on their studies, complete their degree in a smooth and seamless fashion, and transition to the job market. In addition, research and teaching staff must be able to focus on their actual work.
The legal provisions governing education and degrees should be streamlined, and universities should also be able to design their provision of education by anticipating global changes and the needs associated with internationalisation.