From democracy to managerialism – new article on anti-democratic tendencies in Finnish university policies

New open access article from Kohti parempaa yliopistomaailmaa (Towards better academia) -research project including two POISED members Tuukka Tomperi & Tuomas Tervasmäki is published online in Journal of Education Policy.

In this article, the Finnish case study is used to analyse the de-democratising tendencies facing contemporary universities. The research analyses the birth of a new administrative model – the foundation university – how it was politically framed, and how the change was resisted. The focus is placed to the managerial macro-level policy change and the dynamics of resistance against it. Writers illustrate how pre-planned policy preparation meets and overcomes pro-democratic resistance in two university mergers, those of Aalto University (2007–2010) and Tampere University (2014–2020).

The analysis reveals that the aim of narrowing universities’ collegial democracy has been an integral part of the foundation university model. This model protects strategic management from democratic interference of academic community. Article depicts how the reforms have been possible only by dismissing the views of the academic communities in ways that conflict with not only the established understanding of collegial democracy but also traditional legal interpretations of the university autonomy in Finland.

The article calls attention to the implications of current antidemocratic higher education policy: if universities with their highly-educated staffs are not perceived as being capable of exercising democracy, are the rest of the society treated in the same regard?

Mikko Poutanen, Tuukka Tomperi, Hanna Kuusela, Veera Kaleva & Tuomas Tervasmäki (2020) From democracy to managerialism: foundation universities as the embodiment of Finnish university policies, Journal of Education Policy, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2020.1846080