Rector’s Anniversary Celebration Speech 2022
Turku Finnish University Society founded the University of Turku on the Kalevala Day on 28 February 1920. At the time, altogether 22,040 Finnish citizens participated in the fund-raising for the new university. In 2022, the University of Turku has entered its second century and is a top-ranking international institution that builds sustainable future with education and research – together with its partners.
Once more, we are celebrating the founding of our University on 28 February, and again with remote connections. Welcome to the Anniversary Celebration!
Let’s start the Anniversary Celebration by congratulating the Student Union of the University of Turku which is celebrating its centenary this year. The Student Union looks after the students’ interest and promotes and strengthens the students’ position so that studying at the University of Turku is inspiring, straightforward and fun – the best it can possibly be. I wish to thank the Student Union for their valuable work in ensuring the well-being of our students.
Thank you for the close, systematic and versatile collaboration – its meaning for the development of education and students’ well-being has become, if possible, even clearer in the past two years. The consequences of two years of remote studying will be long-term for all universities and the universities have to work hard to fix the issues in co-operation with the student unions and organisations, the Finnish Student Health Service, student housing foundations, cities, partners representing professional life, and other key parties. The significance of extensive collaboration is one of the most important lessons we have learned during the pandemic.
Our students are in a key position when we are building well-being and a sustainable future as a university. Today’s students are the pioneers who will shape the future, and it is our job at the University to offer them the best possible starting point for changing the world.
Lately, there has been talk about cuts to the research funding of the Academy of Finland, which is very worrying especially for this vision for our future. Cuts in research funding will inevitably lead to cuts in education and this fundamental connection between research and education is too often overlooked. The quality of education will drop without investments into research.
In addition to affecting students at different stages, including the doctoral candidates, the cuts would firstly have an impact on early career researchers who do not yet have established funding channels. Through this, the 120–150 million euro reduction in annual research funding would have devastating consequences, not only for the situation of students and early career researchers, but also for the level of competence, RDI activities, and through them directly to Finland’s competitiveness and the well-being of its people.
It is a rather contradictory policy to, on the one hand, seek to increase the share of Finland’s investments in research and development to four percent of the gross national product, but on the other hand, to sacrifice the cornerstone of the RDI activities, meaning RESEARCH, with major cuts. Finland cannot afford to undermine its prospects for future success!
90 percent of the suggested cuts to the research funding of the Academy of Finland would fall upon the universities. In practice, this would mean a 30 percent drop when compared with 2019, for example. On an annual level, a 30 percent drop would mean a decrease of 10 million euro to the funding of the University of Turku.
The funding granted by the Academy of Finland not only supports the hiring of early career researchers but also the procurement of research infrastructure and materials. The funding of the Academy of Finland enables us to launch new research initiatives and strengthen existing clusters of expertise as the universities’ basic funding focuses on safeguarding the amount and quality of education.
If the research funding decreases, it also has an unfortunate impact on the entire region. A strong university also strengthens the well-being and business life of its region. We need different kinds of new research initiatives and possibilities to strengthen the clusters of expertise in order to be a nationally strong player and an internationally competitive institution to ensure our dynamic growth. We share this goal with the City of Turku and the entire region. We want to be an inviting option to experts and a proactive partner to the business life.
International collaboration and emphases are highly important for these goals and at the University of Turku we are working hard to achieve them. One of the future spearheads of higher education in Europe are the alliances of European universities. At the University of Turku, we have already gained great experiences from the EC2U alliance that creates innovative forms of collaboration and free mobility between seven European universities and cities. Therefore, as a university and city, we are among the frontrunners in this important European development and that is where we want to remain.
It is clear that, without scientific research and results, we cannot lead the way in seeking solutions to the great challenges of our time, such as biodiversity loss, climate change, and social inequality. As a multidisciplinary university, the University of Turku has excellent potential for making groundbreaking discoveries and promoting their application. In this, we need partners and support. The sustainable future is built together.
Dear friends, your support is extremely valuable to us and donating is one way to support the University. There is currently an ongoing funding scheme where the state matches the donations made to the universities. The scheme continues until 30 June 2022 and the impact of the donations made during this time increases with the matched funding from the state.
When you support science and research, you support the future. When you support the University of Turku, you support the well-being of the region.
Hurrah to science, to research, to education, and to the University of Turku – now and in the future!
Rector of the University of Turku