In English
31.3.2016

Tampere 3 – The topic on everyone’s lips

Hermin Utomo / 123RF

The merging of the three universities UTA, TUT and TAMK, also known as the Tampere 3 project, will be stirring constant conversation this spring. At the moment, the topics of debate include the university’s legal personality, legislation and merger schedule. The Ministry of Education and Culture has appointed working groups to prepare for the new university. Their proposals are due in autumn 2016.

JENNA KETO-TOKOI text ILONA RYTILAHTI translation

The cooperation project of the three Tampere universities, also known as the Tampere 3 project, has taken another leap forward. In mid-February, the Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen appointed three working groups for the preparation process of the new university.

At the moment, it seems likely that the university will be a foundation-based institution in the ownership of the Tampere University of Applied Sciences TAMK.

The Board of the University of Tampere had a meeting about the changes in February. The board’s student representative Anne Soinsaari says the tripartite principle was discussed in the meeting.

”We want to make sure that the new university adopts the tripartite principle. All decision-making bodies should include representation of students, research and teaching staff as well as professors. We prefer a public university to a foundation university, as a public university is more democratic in regard to legal matters.”

The tripartite principle is prescribed by law in a public university, whereas a foundation university is not legally bound by the principle. The Tampere University of Technology is a foundation-based university without a tripartite board. In case of a foundation university, Soinsaari hopes that the university board would have a larger number of members. In today’s legislation, a foundation university board is required to have 7 members, which Soinsaari thinks would be insufficient to guarantee comprehensive representation of all parties. The University of Tampere currently has 11 board members.

”We have to be all ears if a big sponsor and owner makes such statements. I am not taking a stand on whether or not it will be a foundation university. However, the Ministry’s statements must be taken seriously.”

This spring, the universities will compose letters of intent for the merger. The Ministry of Education and Culture has been referring to the new university’s legal personality with the term ’foundation university’ in several press releases.

”An autonomous university must have a say in the outcome. We will have a meeting in March with the Board of the University of Technology where we have a chance to discuss these topics together. To my knowledge, TUT would prefer a foundation university. The Ministry’s statements are in line with this view”, Soinsaari says.

Tampere 3 Project Manager Päivi Myllykangas says the Ministry’s statements must be considered in the decision-making.

”We have to be all ears if a big sponsor and owner makes such statements. I am not taking a stand on whether or not it will be a foundation university. However, the Ministry’s statements must be taken seriously.”

Estimates say the Tampere 3 project will need 50 million extra financing every year for the first five years. These extra costs include the purchase of TAMK shares. The City of Tampere is the current majority shareholder, and the Ministry of Education and Culture is in negotiations with the city about TAMK’s value. The final expense can be determined after the negotiations. Another costly process is the reforming and merging of the university information systems. The Vice Rector of the University of Tampere Harri Melin says this process alone will require tens of millions of euros.

In May, the University of Tampere and the Ministry will enter into negotiations which determine the funding for the university’s core operations for the next four years.

”The university savings will cover this year’s funding cuts. Funding for the next four-year period depends on the negotiation outcome. We hope that in the eyes of the Ministry, Tampere 3 is a significant project, which would help us receive sufficient funding for our core operations and avoid staff negotiations”, Melin explains.

Future Tampere 3 funding and this year’s extra funding will be on the table in the negotiations. Melin refuses to speculate about the funding, but he is hoping for several millions of euros for the project planning this year. He states that the Ministry has given the impression that extra funding would be feasible.

”This spring, the project is a topic on everyone’s lips. Now is the time to make decisions and make a difference.

The Tampere 3 project is being prepared in three working groups. The Ministry’s working group is tasked with the preparation of administrative decisions and amendments to existing legislation. The steering group considers practical issues and the effects of the project on the university. Lastly, the executive group takes responsibility of the project structure and ownership issues.

”If we abide by the schedule set by the Ministry, all the decisions and reports will have to be ready in October. We need to reach decisions on the legal personality and amendments, administration, overall project and admission schedule, and brand strategy. Branding includes the name of the new university and promotion of the big picture”, says Myllykangas.

She admits the timetable is challenging, as the working groups are newly appointed and a number of decisions has to be made. The preparatory work should be finished by autumn, as the parliament may then discuss and decide on the legal amendments in February 2017. After structural issues are resolved, internal changes will be more and more on the surface. These changes affect students, teachers and staff.

The dual university model, which is the division between the research-oriented university and the practical university of applied sciences, will not be reformed. The degrees of both universities will therefore remain the same. However, the aim of the university merger is to minimise overlaps in teaching, add diversity to course selection opportunities and improve flexibility in regard to taking studies in the two universities. First pilot projects between universities have already seen daylight, as TUT and TAMK civil engineering majors will soon be studying together for the first two years of their degrees.

”We want the merger to benefit students with flexible study options. In the new university, students who wish to change majors would not have to take another entrance exam. The goal is that students would be allowed to find their own path without having to add to the number of years spent in the university”, Myllykangas says.

The preparation process has been criticized on many occasions for poor communication. Project Manager Myllykangas admits that digital platforms and other co-creation models are still in development. A Tampere 3 wiki is on the way and it will be a tool of communication to inform different parties more effectively about the project.

Soinsaari notes that crucial decisions are already being made and encourages the university community to actively participate in the process.

”This spring, the project is a topic on everyone’s lips. Now is the time to make decisions and make a difference. I hope that the university community would be actively involved in the discussion this spring and hopefully, there will be enough time for everyone to voice their opinions. Despite the tight schedule, the decision-making process must be comprehensive and all-inclusive.”

 

Tampere 3 Project Timeline

2014 October: The universities issue a press release announcing the merger.

2015 October: A common working group with the Ministry of Education and Culture is established.

2016 February: The Minister of Education and Culture appoints working groups to prepare the establishment of the new university.

2016 March: The university boards hold meetings. The university’s legal personality is likely to be decided.

2016 May: The negotiations between the Ministry and the University of Tampere are held. Decisions are made on the university core funding and extra funding for the project.

2016 October: The parliament receives reports on the project plans and amendments to legislation.

2019: An estimate of the official opening of the new university is given.

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