Iltalehti: Helsinki University offered jobs to students based on 'Finnish-sounding' surnames

According to reports, the Faculty of Theology approached four students about an open position and informed them they had been selected because of their Finnish surname.

File photo of the entrance to the University of Helsinki's main campus. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The University of Helsinki is investigating accusations that a department engaged in discriminatory recruitment practices when choosing students to fill open positions.

According to a report (siirryt toiseen palveluun) (in Finnish) by tabloid Iltalehti, the Faculty of Theology approached four students about the possibility of providing lessons on Islam at a primary school and informed them they had been selected based on their 'Finnish-sounding' surnames.

The paper wrote that the practice first came to light when one student tweeted (siirryt toiseen palveluun) a question to the faculty, requesting confirmation of rumours that several students had been called about the position based on their surnames.

The faculty's official account replied to confirm that, based on a preliminary probe, this information was correct, and further noted that the preferential treatment for students with Finnish surnames was completely inappropriate.

Dean of the faculty Antti Räsänen admitted to Iltalehti that a mistake had been made, but pointed out that the investigation into the matter is still ongoing.

"This procedure was wrong. There is of course no reason for such a procedure and it is not part of the faculty's policies. On the contrary, we are very strict about fairness and equal treatment for everyone," Räsänen told IL.

An extensive University of Helsinki report, published in 2019, had highlighted the extent to which Finnish employers choose interview candidates based on their surnames.

The episode marks the second time this week the university has been at the centre of a controversy, following the debate that followed reports first year geography students at the university had dressed as Star of Africa characters to attend a game-themed, student-organised event.

Yle News' weekly podcast All Points North looked into the issue of discriminatory hiring practices in 2019. You can listen to the full episode using the embedded player here, via Yle Areena, Spotify (siirryt toiseen palveluun) or Apple Podcasts (siirryt toiseen palveluun) or on your usual podcast player using the RSS feed (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

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