We demand the realisation of the tripartite principle with equal representation in the University Collegium of the University of Helsinki in order to strengthen university democracy. If representation from different groups remains unequal, the University of Helsinki with its University Collegium would, starting at the beginning of next year, be the only public university where the tripartite principle with equal representation is still not in effect.
Universities have long been considered democratic communities where the university community can be seen and heard in the university’s operation and administration. This interpretation is reinforced by the universities’ practices concerning multimember administrative bodies and, for instance, the provisions of the Universities Act on the university community’s representation on the boards of public universities. Universities only remain universities and continue to promote independent research and academic education through their communities.
The Student Union contributes to the realisation of both the educational mission related to students and the aspirations of students. Educating new generations of researchers and teaching that is based on the latest research are both achieved with the help of the personnel at universities, whereas the ethos of the best research in the world is created through professor-led research groups. All members of the university community are an important part of it. For this reason, it would be fair for the diversity of the university community to be reflected in the relative strength of the different groups in the decision-making bodies at the university.
There are around 32,000 students studying at the University of Helsinki in different fields of study. The University has around 8,000 employees, with less than 500 of them being professors. The fact that professors are overrepresented in all multimember administrative bodies at the University at the expense of students and the middle group (other teaching and research personnel and other personnel) is simply illogical. The point of the multimember administrative bodies is to serve equally as the entire University community’s voice and power. In the case of the middle group, the situation feels absurd, as professors have power at the University outside the official administrative bodies, too, whereas many researchers have to scrape by on fixed-term contracts. From the students’ perspective, the situation is untenable, as most of the decisions that are made specifically concern students. In addition to this, it would be crucial for the realisation of university democracy to get doctoral students and grant researchers involved in tripartite decision-making processes in the long term.
According to the subsidiarity principle of decision-making processes, the people who are actually affected by decisions should be the ones making them. Furthermore, many studies on management systems have shown that diverse decision-making processes with just representation benefits all members of the community.
Students are active, responsible and socially aware. As valued and equal members of the community, students commit to the University, and committed students not only graduate faster but also wear the badge of their alma mater with pride both in working life and as researchers. In its report published on 1 March 2021, a working group on the administrative autonomy of universities set by the Ministry of Education and Culture states that ‘student unions are a traditional part of autonomous universities and […] play a significant role in the administration of universities’. Here, the working group refers to the involvement of students in university administration. The working group further considers university regulations to have an important role in ensuring and developing the autonomy of universities. University regulations should thus strengthen the role of students in university administration. In a brilliant text (in Finnish) on the subject, the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) also calls for improving the status of students at the level of university statutes.
The so-called tripartite principle with equal representation is already in use in many other Finnish universities. This autumn, the Board of the University of Helsinki has discussed the subject, and the current University Collegium will discuss it in its November meeting. Introducing the tripartite principle with equal representation to the collegium would improve democracy and, at the same time, serve as an experiment of the tripartite principle with equal representation in the decision-making processes of the University of Helsinki. This experiment would provide us with concrete information on how this system of decision-making works in our university and what effects it has. The change should be introduced so that it already applies to the collegium starting its term in 2022, as the next opportunity for this act of democracy will only come around in 2026.
The Student Union of the University of Helsinki demands that the different groups at the University have equal representation in the University Collegium. In practice, this would require changing Section 6, ‘The University Collegium’, of the University Statutes. In the future, the University Collegium would have 48 seats, with 16 seats allocated for each group. We also hope that the University management, Board and Collegium engage in active discussion on the tripartite principle with equal representation and university democracy.
Student Union of University of Helsinki HYY
University of Helsinki PhD students Hyvät ry
Aleksi Tujunen (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Tuukka Kainulainen (email@example.com), Board Members, Student Union of University of Helsinki
Tommi Mäklin (firstname.lastname@example.org), chair, University of Helsinki PhD students