HEIs 2018: Tampere3 thrives in the tightened competition for funding

The basic funding received by the Tampere3 universities was cut slightly once again in 2017, but many other financing channels saw positive development. On an annual level, both EU and other corresponding international funding increased, along with private domestic funding, Business Finland financing and funding granted by the Academy of Finland. Universities were exceptionally successful in the application processes of the Academy of Finland, and TAMK excelled in the acquisition of private funding.

Last year was particularly successful in terms of funding from the Academy of Finland (2017: +40%). The research funding allocated to the Tampere Region by the Academy has doubled in the last five years (2013: MEUR 21.3; 2017: MEUR 42.2). The situation is indicative of the universities’ high academic capability to navigate the extremely competitive funding climate. The most significant funding decisions of 2017 distributed across multiple disciplines into the research and development of resource-efficient energy systems, work and equality, data archiving and multi-tissue modelling.

Another positive signal is the private funding gained by the universities domestically. This financing increased by 11% last year to EUR 28 million. The upward trend has been steepest at TAMK, where the amount of private funding was very low as recently as five years ago but which has since caught up to the level of the universities. In 2017, the private domestic funding granted to TAMK more than doubled. At the University of Tampere, too, this type of funding has been on the increase. Previously, TUT was in a league of its very own in terms of drawing in private domestic funding, but the amount has dropped nearly every year during this decade.

Both foreign private funding and financing through EU channels increased within the Tampere3 university consortium last year. In terms of foreign financing, TAMK and UTA have seen positive development. TUT maintained its level compared to the previous year. The funding information was collected through a questionnaire sent to the Tampere3 universities and from the Vipunen database of the Finnish National Agency for Education.

The 2010s perspective on university funding: decline of basic funding leads to tighter competition and streamlining

A comprehensive examination of the current decade shows that the funding channels of many institutes of higher education have become narrower, thereby partially deteriorating the capabilities for research and education. Tampere3 received a total of MEUR 242.1 in basic funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture in 2017 (-2%). The basic funding has decreased by an annual average of five million euros between 2015 and 2017. In addition to this, another significant funding channel, Business Finland (formerly Tekes), has caused a clear decrease in total financing. In 2014, Business Finland funnelled MEUR 32.5 in funds to the Tampere3 universities, but in 2017, the total was a mere MEUR 12.0, although this was a slight increase over the previous year. About two-thirds of Business Finland’s funding is channelled to TUT, one-third to UTA and a small portion to TAMK.

The latest developments in the situational picture indicate that Tampere3 has honed its performance in the highly competitive environment. Overall, the development of funding in 2017 appears favourable, and particular success was achieved in the most competitive types of funding, such as Academy funding and private financing.

Tuition fees increased the number of international applicants and master’s programmes

The Tampere3 universities have succeeded in creating appealing environments for international students and researchers. The number of foreign degree students has grown from less than 1,800 students to about 2,000 students since the beginning of the decade. In the latest statistics, the number of international students increased by as much as 12% over the previous year.

The majority of the international degree students study at TUT (36%, 710 students) and University of Tampere (31%, 607 students in 2016). The universities of applied sciences constitute about one-third of the total number. In addition to TAMK, the Tampere Region is home to an internationally oriented HAMK facility on the Valkeakoski campus. TAMK has about 390 international degree students, while HAMK in Valkeakoski has some 280.

At the University of Tampere, tuition fees were implemented for students from outside the EU and EEA countries in 2017. In relation to this, the offering of degree programmes in English was expanded. A record number of applications were submitted for international master’s programmes: 1,111 for 14 master’s programmes. Applicants were particularly interested in themes such as social change, globalisation and health. The most popular programmes were the Master’s Degree Programme (MDP) in Leadership for Change, MDP in Global Society and MDP in Public and Global Health. Source: University of Tampere bulletin 16 January 2017

The research staff has also become more international. In 2017, the Tampere3 universities employed 423 foreign researchers, which is nearly one-third more than at the beginning of the decade. The number dropped slightly in the final statistical year but, in the long term, the growth is evident. Some 250 of the international researchers work at TUT, while 180 work at UTA.

The Tampere Region is one of the leading areas in terms of the amount of EU Horizon 2020 funding granted to Finland. Institutes of higher education, in particular, have received a great deal of funding from the H2020 programme. Overall, the programme has allocated MEUR 51.5 in funding to the Tampere Region since the beginning of the programme period in 2014. Of this amount, MEUR 31.3 was granted to institutes of higher education. Especially TUT has been very successful in its funding applications (MEUR 24.9). The distribution of the Horizon 2020 funding is covered in more detail in the RDI funding section of the situational picture.

The number of inventions and established companies is low, which is why an additional boost for commercialisation is needed

The institutes of higher education generate a consistently low number of businesses – an annual average of ten in recent years. During 2017, 61 invention disclosure notifications were made at the institutes, which is clearly fewer than in the previous year (94 pcs, -35%).

Startup activity has been identified as an area that requires development in terms of the innovation policy in the Tampere Region, and institutes of higher education are an important resource for the start-up ecosystem. The Tampere3 universities are involved in the preparation of a partnership intended to arrange start-up services in the Tampere Region, together with the ELY Centre for Pirkanmaa, Pirkanmaa TE Office, Pirkanmaa Hospital District, City of Tampere and Council of Tampere Region. Through its cooperation, the Tampere Region start-up alliance aims to consolidate the scattered start-up services in the region, thereby improving the prerequisites for new entrepreneurs.