The polytechnics reform aims to strengthen polytechnics’ role as independent and responsible educators of experts, reformers of working life and builders of regional competitiveness. The reform is being implemented via changes in legislation and renewal of operating permits.
The Finnish higher education system consists of two complementary sectors: universities and polytechnics. Universities are responsible for free scientific research and education based on that research. Polytechnics (universities of applied sciences) are more business-oriented as they are expected to serve the labour market and regional development and take into account the local economic structure through applied and consultative research activities.
The polytechnic system is still fairly new. The first polytechnics started operating on a trial basis in 1991/92 and the first were made permanent in 1996. By 2000, all polytechnics were working on a permanent basis. Today 25 polytechnic institutions operate in Finland, most of which are multifield institutions serving several locations.
Announced in the government programme, the polytechnic reform started in September 2011. At the end of 2013, a proposal for a new Polytechnics Act was sent to stakeholders for comments. Currently, parliament is discussing the proposal and the new act is expected to enter into force shortly.
According to the government programme, responsibility for funding polytechnics will be transferred to the government, and polytechnics will be made independent legal bodies. The licence to provide polytechnic education will be revised, with emphasis on quality and impact. Polytechnic financing will be overhauled to support current objectives better, such as speedy transition to the labour market. Polytechnic units will be combined into larger and innovative high-standard competence environments. There will be one or more polytechnics in every province.
Criteria emphasised in the new funding model will be proportion of completed qualifications and credits as well as R&D (research and development) intensity serving local and regional needs. Funding will be based on education and training activities (85 % share) as well as applied R&D (15 % share). In future R&D will have a stronger weighting.
Criteria for education and training comprise performance elements such as completed qualifications, number of students who complete more than 55 ECTS points, student feedback, student mobility and employment after graduation. R&D criteria are publications, number of master degrees, international mobility and external funding.