Se­cur­ing the re­pub­lic? – Science, universi­ties and polit­ical or­der in the Nordic Countries

The idea that scientific knowledge plays a fundamental role in good government has been an enduring tenet in political thought and historically a supporting argument for establishing universities in order to “secure the republic”, to quote James Madison.

Yet, studies have paid little systematic attention to the role of universities in liberal democratic systems – what is the democratic value of scientific knowledge and higher education in present day political orders? How does it manifest itself? How does political organization influence the relative weight and authority of scientific expertise in public policy?

The mix of decision-making concerns we see also changes over time and across systems. This is evident in the current response to the Covid-crisis, as the world has turned into a brutal experiment in the use of scientific knowledge in public policy making. We are now starting to see the effects of different “knowledge regimes”.

Taking the Nordic countries as the empirical reference, we see the panoply of different practices in giving and accepting policy advice and in mixing scientific, economic, social and political decision-making premises. The variety of responses to the acute crisis also gives us grounds for reflecting on deeper and possibly paradoxical trends: “scientization” of political orders, on the one hand, and, and, on the other, an increasing contestation of scientization that challenges the value of science and higher education.

After the keynote address, the discussion will continue with Åsa von SchoultzJanne Varjo and director of HSSH professor Risto Kunelius.

Åse Gornitzka is Professor at the Department of Political Science and, since 2017, Vice-Rector for Research and Internationalisation at the University of Oslo. Gornitzka holds a doctoral degree in Public Administration from the University of Twente.

She has studied reform and change in higher education, organisational change within universities and the interface between expertise, public administration and governance in the EU and at the national level. This work includes research on the role and composition of the numerous expert groups in European Union policy-making.

Gornitzka’s most recent contributions deal with reputation management in public sector organisations, such as Universities as Agencies: Reputation and Professionalization (Palgrave – Macmillan, 2019), a book she edited together with Christensen and Ramirez.

Professor Åsa von Schoultz holds the Swedish Chair in Political Science at the University of Helsinki since 2017. Her research currently focuses on electoral competition within parties and citizens’ and elites’ perceptions on democratic processes. Other fields of interest are voting behavior, political participation and political behavior of minorities.

Janne Varjo is an associate professor (tenure track; education, society and culture) at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, and more particularly in the Research Unit focusing on the Sociology and Politics of Education (KUPOLI).

After his doctoral thesis Drafting Education Legislation for the Competitive State – The Parliament of Finland and the 1990s Change in Education Policy (2007) Varjo has worked in six research projects altogether. All of these projects are closely connected to issues of educational equality and governance of education – the range of objects of inquiry varying from nation states to social classes, and from municipalities to ethnic groups. He is also the editor-in-chief of Kasvatus (Finnish Journal of Education).

Join the New Research Culture event on Monday 1.2. at 13:00 via live stream.

Presentations from GUIDE-researchers

Kasvatustieteen päivät / FERA conference on Education

Ääniä opinto- ja uraohjauksen kansallisella kentällä – ohjauksen kehittämistä koskeva argumenttien analyysi (Samira Harjula)

Koulutusvalinnat monikulttuurisessa koululuokassa (Mira Kalalahti)

Monisektoriaalisen yhteistyön mahdollisuudet ja haasteet nuorten opinto- ja uraohjauksen hallinnassa (Tommi Wallenius)

Opinto- ja uraohjaus valtiopäiväasiakirjoissa vuosina 1967-1998: Aktantiaalinen analyysi (Janne Varjo ja Mira Kalalahti)


New papers

Varjo, J., Kalalahti, M. & Jahnukainen, M. 2020. The reasoning behind the envisioned educational trajectories of young people from Finnish and immigrant origins. Education Inquiry 11 (4), 360–378. Verkossa >>

Kalalahti, M. Jahnukainen, M. Kivirauma, J., Varjo, J. & Zacheus, T. 2020. Koulutuspolun löytämistä ja sitoutumista – Toisen asteen opintojen uudelleensuuntaaminen ja maahanmuuttotaustaisuus. Kasvatus 51 (4), 409–425.

Oman elämänsä sankareita? – Nuorten koulutus- ja työuraohjaus epävarmuuden ajassa

Turun yliopiston tutkijakollegiumit -luentosarja | University of Turku Collegia lecture Series
Studiossa klo 18-19.30

Turun yliopistossa toimii kaksi tutkijakollegiumia: Ihmistieteiden tutkijakollegium (TIAS, Turku Institute for Advanced Studies) ja Luonnontieteiden ja lääketieteen tutkijakollegium (TCSM, Turku Collegium for Science and Medicine). Tutkijakollegiumien tavoitteena on edistää Turun yliopiston huippututkimusta. Luentosarjassa monien alojen asiantuntijat kertovat omasta tutkimuksestaan.

  • ti 27.10. VTT Mira Kalalahti (kollegiumtutkija, TIAS, kasvatustieteiden laitos): Oman elämänsä sankareita? – Nuorten koulutus- ja työuraohjaus epävarmuuden ajassa

Tommi’s dissertation: Schools, Performance and Publicity

EDIT. The Unitube link to the public examination is:

Welcome to the public examination of MA, M.Soc.Sci Tommi Wallenius’s dissertation “Schools, Performance and Publicity: Contrasting the policy on publicising school performance indicators in Finland with the other Nordic countries” in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki, Minerva Square K226, Siltavuorenpenger 5 A (limited number of seats), on 12 of September, 2020 at 10 o’clock.

The public examination can be followed via the following Zoom link


Meeting ID: 69 897 795 062

Password: 47774

Professor Guri Skedsmo from Schwyz University of Teacher Education will serve as the opponent and Associate professor Janne Varjo as custos. Collegium researcher Mira Kalalahti (University of Turku), Associate professor Janne Varjo (University of Helsinki) and Associate professor Tero Erkkilä (University of Helsinki) have supervised the thesis.

The dissertation is published in the Helsinki Studies in Education series and can be downloaded from

Mira YLE uutisten haastateltavana

“En olisi odottanut tätä sinulta”, sanoi opettaja – Suomessa maahanmuuttajataustaiset oppivat huonommin kuin muut, tutkijan mukaan syrjintä rehottaa. YLE uutiset 5.7.2020