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Strong research and higher education for the future

31 January 2020

From Professors Moira von Wright and Jukka Kola, respectively Rectors of Åbo Akademi University and University of Turku

The year of 2020 is challenging and holds some important decisions concerning the EU programmes for research and education. Finland’s EU Presidency in autumn 2019 aimed at finalising the Council negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework, expecting a modernised MFF to effectively deliver on the political priorities of the EU, such as strengthening the common values, respect for the rule of law, managing migration, combating climate change, and keeping Europe at the forefront of research, development and innovation. The Horizon Europe framework programme, based on open competition and excellence-based research, is considered an essential tool in this. However, despite high hopes Finland and the EU did not succeed all the way. This and other important issues were put aside as political developments such as the new EU Parliament, the new EU Commission and the Brexit were in the spotlight.

Looking forward to 2020, EU funding must be maintained at sufficient levels and the future MFF-programmes clearly contribute to our common climate targets. Horizon Europe, with its goals and contents, must succeed in creating a reasonable, though not fully sufficient, framework and platform for researchers in Europe to encounter the international challenges in terms of excellence and impact. Let’s remember that there is no significant impact without excellence in our research and higher education, and that cooperation is a key to success.

The new Alliances of European universities will also continue to mobilize the Coimbra Group and its member universities.

Here in Turku, as in the whole of Finland, our universities have been creating strategies for the next 10 years. Previously the planning span was five years, but this chance for long-term strategic development is very welcome, indeed. Moreover, we are happy that the new Finnish governmental programme promises a change of direction in university funding that takes us from cuts to mild increases.

Sustainable development, climate change, internationalisation and digitalisation, as well as wellbeing and capacity building of our university communities, are in the forefront. The European Green Deal, with its target to make Europe climate neutral by 2050, has motivated our universities in Turku to make the important decisions to cut our energy use and make our universities carbon-neutral by 2025.

Furthermore, the year 2020 is also the 100th Anniversary of the University of Turku, which is the very first Finnish-speaking university in the world. Among the total of 14 Finnish universities today, this is a special position and role, which we cherish and celebrate in many ways in 2020. Two years ago, we celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Åbo Akademi University. The main campuses of these two Universities are situated in the heart of the city of Turku with academic roots far back in history. Together we build strong research and higher education for the future.

There is a lot to do, and we have to do it now, especially in terms of global change and sustainability. European universities and particularly Coimbra Group members have a key role and responsibility to contribute with knowledge, education and innovation for a better and more sustainable future for us all, in Europe and globally.