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Helsinki University to shrink payroll by nearly 1,000

University of Helsinki staff will be reduced by 980 people, with 570 being laid off by the end of 2017. In addition, the university will reorganise and incorporate certain divisions including continuing education. Professors, teachers and researchers are criticising the cuts, which coincide with the university's administrative and educational overhaul.

Opiskelija Helsingin yliopiston Porthania-rakennuksen tuulikaapissa Helsingissä.
University of Helsinki cuts coincide with its overhaul of many departments and functions. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The overall number of University of Helsinki staff will be reduced by approximately 980 by the end of 2017.

“The University of Helsinki’s rise in rankings among the leading research universities in the world would not have been possible without professional and committed employees. I am deeply sorry that we are forced to let go of competent staff members,” said Rector Jukka Kola in a press release on Wednesday.

Kola says that staff cuts are unavoidable because of the current government's drastic funding cuts to education. 

According to the university's calculations, the need for cost-cutting will amount to 106 million euros annually by the end of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government term in 2019-20.

Academic criticism

The Finnish Unions of University Professors and University Researchers and Teachers feel that the cuts at the University of Helsinki are too radical.

"It appears as though the University of Helsinki sees its staff as a mass, an expense, that can be cut to achieve the government's massive funding cuts," according to a joint press release by the two unions.

The unions say the terminations are being taken care of in one fell swoop rather than in a more sustainable way, which would be to check the situation annually and make cuts accordingly.

The cuts coincide with the university's current overhaul and renewal of its administrative, faculty and educational functions. 

Staff costs make up about two-thirds of the institution’s total expenses.

570 redundancies this spring

The university estimates that of the 980 positions, terminations during this coming spring will account for 570 positions. Of the employees to be made redundant, 75 are teaching and research staff and 495 other staff.

The number of fixed-term positions is expected to be reduced by 210 by the year 2020. Of these, 160 are teaching and research positions and 50 are other (non-academic) positions. By the end of 2017, 200 employees will retire from positions which will not be filled after their retirement. Of these, 60 are teaching and research positions and 140 other non-academic positions.

At the end of 2014, the university employed more than 8,000 people and had more than 36,000 students.

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