The report on university autonomy encourages the strengthening of university democracy

On 1 March 2021, an assessment group appointed by the Ministry of Education and Culture submitted their report assessing the status of administrative autonomy of universities. Autonomy means the self-government of universities and their independence from the state. The assignment of the assessment group was to assess the status of autonomy within universities with different forms of government and the relationship between autonomy and the requirements of the Constitution. In addition to the conclusions made based on the report, the assessment group makes recommendations for the development of the universities’ operations.

The recommendations in the report are good and similar to those which the Student Union of Tampere University has also actively raised. Next, we will highlight a few aspects we paid attention to:

TREY would like to emphasize that supporting the participation and belonging of the university community to the community plays a central role in the university’s activities. The universities must cherish tripartite university democracy, as this ensures the participation of students, professors, teaching, research and other staff in preparation and decision-making in all matters concerning them.

I find it noteworthy that the report strongly highlights the internal operating culture of universities and the strengthening of the influence possibilities of the university community. It is important that operations are transparent, hearings are held and the implementation of the principle of subsidiarity is supported,” comments Tuomas Karvonen, TREY’s Executive Board’s educational affairs organiser.

The report emphasizes that the development recommendations relate to themes that take place within the university, i.e. within autonomy, such as updating the University Regulations and management. TREY considers it important that the university’s management is transparent and clear, and for example, the roles and responsibilities of the vice rectors and the provost should be clearly described in University Regulations.

Tampere University must work to ensure on the issue that the university community is able to monitor decision-making so that processes are transparent, and documents are public. Work for transparency also promotes the acceptability of decision-making, and in this work the rector plays a key role,” says Iiris Taubert, Chair of the Executive Board of TREY.

In addition to these themes, the assessment group considered whether there are acceptable and proportionate grounds for automatic membership of student unions in terms of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association. The assessment group considers that there are no immediate grounds for removing the automatic membership of student unions.

Read more about the university autonomy report in the Ministry of Education and Culture’s press release in Finnish.