Porthania Home Demonstration office 16 May 2018

May 16, 2018 something called PhDoffice or Porthania Home Demonstration office took place on Porthania yard from 10-12.30. The event was arranged by a group of PhD students, as a protest against the severe cuts in office spaces: the Faculty of Arts has decided to cut 25 % of its square meters. This desicion has to do with the whole university being under pressure to cut down on its square meters, and similar cuts have already been made in other faculties.

Photo by Suzy Joseph

The event was a plea for the preservation of humanities research communities, and a reminder that the research community consists of professors, as well as other staff, such as doctoral researchers.

The cuts would affect the whole research community as more people would be concentrated into smaller offices, but they would hit the young researchers the hardest. The majority of doctoral students is working on grants, and most of them will likely now be excluded from the office spaces and thus from the research community.  It also deserves to be said that it has already been very difficult (and for many outright impossible) to get an office space as a grantee on the city centre campus. Only the small employed minority of doctoral students can count on having office spaces in the future. The situation is further complicated by the fact that those who are unfunded (in-between grants or in the process of applying for a grant) are already excluded from the research community, because it usually is impossible to get an office space without funding. Now the group of excluded young researchers is about to grow significantly.

Photo by Suzy Joseph

Separating the great majority of humanities doctoral students from their disciplinary communities would also put them in an unequal position compared to doctoral students on other campuses. How will humanities doctoral students be properly educated as researchers if their working conditions are considerably worse than those of their colleagues? How will they be integrated into the research community? How will they learn from their colleagues if they are separated from them?

During the event these questions were discussed with Hanna Snellman, (dean of the Faculty of Arts), Minna Palander-Collin (director of the Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences), and Kirsi Korpiaho (coordinator of the Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences). Unfortunately, neither the faculty nor the doctoral school could promise any changes to planned cuts. However, the difficult situation was recognised, and both faculty and school were ready to support other ways to improve the integration of doctoral students into the researchcommunity. Also the campus pastor Leena Huovinen came by to give her views on the (lack of) community at the university, and what could be done to improve things.

Now practical solutions are needed: how can the workspace situation and the integration of doctoral students into the research community be improved? Suggestions were collected during the event and they will be presented as soon as the organisers have had time to compile them – more info is coming!

Photo by Suzy Joseph

Ultimately these cuts, like other recent cuts at the university, are caused by the Finnish government’s cuts in university funding. Did they realize that this would be one of the outcomes; that early career researchers would be even more excluded from the university community than they already are? If nothing is done to fix this problem, one question is, who benefits from the exclusion of researchers – and why. As early career researchers, our main concern now is what we can do to turn these developments in a better direction.

Statement on doctoral candidates’ work spaces

Together with the Doctoral School and Doctoral Education steering group representatives, HYVÄT has made a statement on the university’s policy of allocating work spaces to doctoral students.

Our main concern is that the university should provide doctoral candidates with equal possibilities to pursue their doctoral studies and complete their dissertation. Offering doctoral candidates office space is one crucial component of these possibilities, and one that many doctoral students lack at the moment.

We propose that:

1. Practices for distributing office space should be standardized and openly available throughout the university.

2. Working spaces should be free of charge. Doctoral candidates are often working on limited and short-term funding, and asking them to pay for coming to work cannot be justified.

3. Source of funding as a strict criterion for working space should be abandoned because it creates several hierarchies of doctoral candidates.

4. Doctoral candidates are a significant part of their disciplinary research communities/groups and this should be acknowledged in practice by integrating them into the office spaces of their research disciplines or groups.

5. Doctoral candidates significantly contribute to the research that is carried out at the university. Hence, it should be in the university’s interest to provide an attractive working environment for doctoral candidates.

The key is to allocate work space to the doctoral candidates in connection to the relevant discipline or research group, so that they have a possibility to connect with colleagues in their own field (supervisors, staff, and fellow doctoral candidates). Office spaces where they are cut off from their closest colleagues do not offer the support of the community.

The entire statement as well as a list of the recipients can be found here.

EDIT [10 May]: The Faculty of Arts replied to our statement 9 May, the reply can be found here.

On 26 April HUART and HYVÄT made a joint statement on the university’s planning and decision-making concerning work spaces. That statement can be read here (only in Finnish). The Faculty of Arts reply to it can be read here.

Strike at the University of Helsinki February 28th

The university sector has been without a collective agreement since the beginning of February. The negotiations concerning the collective agreement have not been successful and thus a strike will take place at the University of Helsinki Wednesday 28 March 2017 from 00:00 – 24.00.

As an organisation promoting PhD students’ interests HYVÄT supports the strike, and hopes that the negotiating parties will reach a collective agreement that ensures fair salaries and good working conditions at the universities.

You can read more about the issues at stake on the web pages of the Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals JUKO, who also have published instructions for participation in the strike.

The strike concerns a large group of university employees

Notice has been given by the over forty member-organisations of the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland Akava for which the Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals JUKO is conducting the negotiations. These include the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers, Helsinki University Researchers and Teachers Association, HUART, the Finnish Union of University Professors, The Union of Professionals in Natural, Environmental and Forestry Sciences Loimu, the Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland (YLL), Akava Special Branches, Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland TEK, the Association of Finnish Lawyers, and the Finnish Medical Association (FMA).

Excluded from the strike are only:

1. The necessary care of humans, animals, specimens and living collections;
2. On-duty IT work as specified in Chapter 4, section 20, of the collective agreement and the necessary core network monitoring and corrective measures  in as far as the immediate safety of premises and living material is dependent on them
3. Research work which cannot be interrupted without considerable damage (e.g., a longitudinal research series would be interrupted)
4. Scholars working abroad or attending conferences; doctoral candidates who are defending their thesis, opponents and custodes; vice-rectors, the chancellor as well as representatives of the employer (rector, director of administration, director of human resources and head of human resources).

In practice the strike means that:

University employees will not work during the strike. All teaching will be cancelled during the day, and student service points and University libraries will be closed. However, Learning centres Aleksandria and Minerva in the Centre and Terkko Health Hub at Meilahti are open.


During the strike there will be a “We are the univeristy!” – demonstration at the city centre campus outside Porthania (Yliopistonkatu 3) from 11 am.  At the cafe of the old student house (Mannerheimintie 3) there will be PopUp Strike Talks from 3 to 6 pm. See the Facebook event for further info.


Strike possible at the university of Helsinki February 28th

The university sector has been without a collective agreement since the beginning of February.

Now the main contracting organisations of the university sector, the Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals JUKO, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL and the Federation of Salaried Employees Pardia have issued an strike notice 13 February. The strike will take place at the University of Helsinki on 28 February 2018 from 0:00 to 24:00, unless a conclusion is reached in the negotiations by 27 February.

For further informtion and updates you can follow:


New strike possible in six universities March 7

February 20, the Negotiation Organization for Public Sector Professionals JUKO, the Federation of Salaried Employees Pardia and the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL have issued a new strike notice about a strike that will take plave at six universities on March 7. 2018 from 0:00 to 24:00, unless a conclusion is reached in the negotiations by March 6.

The universities participating in the strike:

  • Aalto-University
  • Hanken
  • Tampere University
  • Tampere University of Technology
  • University of the Arts Helsinki
  • Vaasa University

See the pages of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers for more information.


Survey on sexual harassment in universities

The Helsinki Association of Women Researchers has made a survey on sexual harassment in universities. Quoting them:

“The conversation concerning sexual harassment affect also practices and working environments in universities. However, not much information is available about the present situation. This is why the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers decided to make an inquiry. We ask you to tell us about your experiences of sexual harassment in academia.

The #MeToo campaign has sparked debate and increased awareness of sexual harassment and the forms it can take. At the same time, concern has been expressed about how a member of the university community can, perhaps unintended or by mistake, behave in a way that can be experienced or interpreted as sexual harassment. Even if sexual harassment has been defined in legislation, many are unaware of what constitutes harassment. This is why we would like to ask your thoughts on and experiences of sexual harassment, your views on the definition of harassment and your thoughts on what special features of the academic context should be taken into account.

You may report your experiences anonymously; the answers cannot be connected to you. The answers will be used by the board of the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers in order to combat sexual harassment. The recommended research ethics guidelines will be followed.

The results of the inquiry will be used as background information for the Minna Canth event for Equality, on 19th March, held at the University of Helsinki. The aim is to continue the discussion and to find out what should and could be done in academia.

If you consent (tick the last box in the query), your answers may be used for research purposes.The guidelines prepared by the National Advisory Board on Research Ethics will be complied with.”

The inquiry can be found here.

Please answer at the latest 12th March.

Information about the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/tutkijanaiset/)