Friday, November 14, 2008

More ranting about university policy

Today's Helsingin Sanomat again made me choke on my morning coffee. University of Helsinki is going to cut the number of different departments from the current 80 down to 40. The aim is to get departments with at least 10 professors each. (Here a link to the news at the University internet site, in Finnish only. I tried to find it in English but apparently this is not something the University wants to make internationally known.)

This massive amalgamation of departments is ostensibly related to the change of the legislation concerning universities. After the new law comes into force the departments will become financial units, which is argued to justify this shake-up. The people responsible for the decision also claim that it will enable more flexible resources for teaching and research and improve the possibilities for departmental co-operation with external partners. Bulls*t.

Let us take an example from real life. Several years ago now, the departments of archaeology, ethnology and folklore were incorporated into the Institute of Cultural Studies, and to this cocktail were added the fields of museology and marine history, which have no professorships. This statistically raised the number of professors within one department from one to three. However, because the three fields are rather different from each other, it did not in any way influence the resources available for teaching. Each field continued to teach and research as before. It did not become easier for students to do minors in the other subjects within the same department. I have understood that the fight about who gets the money did intensify, though.

What I would see as a reform beneficial for teaching and research would be getting more teaching and research staff in a particular field. I can't help turning black* with envy every time I recall the number of staff at the University of Leicester School of Archaeology and Ancient History.

*According to a friend of mine, being green with envy means just feeling envious. Black with envy embodies also feeling murderous.


Pitbullsiili said...

Ahem. I've known about this for quite some time now. Perhaps you'd like to have a chat with me - after your blood pressure has returned to a normal level? I can get it sky high again :-)


Hey, my department in Tampere is called "School of Modern Languages and Translation Studies", so this has already happened here... No matter that the translation studies are really quite different from, say, philology. Anyway, I guess that's a good reason to cut down the costs, like 'Let's not have courses in literature for translators anymore, because English philology has those too.' - only it's not that easy to get a right to study those philology courses... Great fun.

But then, of course, humanities are never appreciated that much in Finland, so it's kind of ok to cut courses in such unproductive subjects first.