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Education Minister: Fewer universities possible, art grant reform

Minister of Education and Culture, Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, says that Finland's university network could be made more compact. As for the arts, the minister says she will revamp the country's government subsidy system by 2018.

Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeri Sanni Grahn-Laasonen Ykkösaamun vieraana 23. tammikuuta.
Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeri Sanni Grahn-Laasonen Ykkösaamun vieraana 23. tammikuuta. Image: Yle

Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, Minister of Education and Culture, went on Yle's TV1 politics programme on Saturday to express her support for the government's multi-hundred-million-euro cuts to universities.

According to Grahn-Laasonen funding for science, research and higher learning has steadily increased throughout the beginning of the 21st century, so that the government must be able to cut resources in dire times.

The minister also said she would like to see the Finnish network of universities tighten up by combining schools and intensifying collaborative policies.

"We could have even fewer universities than we now do," she said.

Grahn-Laasonen says that domestic research is centred in small units, and that institutes of higher education should focus more on specific areas of expertise.

"There's a lot of work to be done in what these universities study and teach," she said. "When we speak of university being profiled, it means piecing different know-hows together into stronger epicentres."

Art grants rehauled

Grahn-Laasonen says she admits that researchers have a point when they worry about the time spent applying for grants. She has asked the Academy of Finland to investigate its application processes in order to streamline them.

"I hope that researchers will be able to concentrate on what they need to do," she said.

In terms of the culture aspect of her title, Minister Grahn-Laasonen said last autumn that she wants to completely revamp state subsidies and working grants. She says that the current system is too static and does not effectively promote artistic development.

"My aim is to get the new system running from January, 2018. The particulars are still unclear because the reform is just beginning now," she said on TV1.

Grahn-Laasonen also says that people should be afforded the chance to engage in culture and the arts from a very young age – and that the best way to support art is to buy it.

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