UEF – State-of-the-Smart

We are currently renewing our visual image and the UEF brand. The objective of this process is to enhance our attractiveness, competitiveness and people’s awareness of us. The competition for the best students and staff is getting tighter, and we need a strong brand also in order to be able to recruit internationally.  We want to stand out in this competition by being a university that is academic with a laid-back twist, and where modern expertise and curiosity for new things meet a lively and human-oriented atmosphere.

The reputation and brand of universities is a sum of many things, the most important ones being the quality and content of research and education. However, universities aren’t exactly the best examples of branding, since they cannot be readily distinguished from one another on the basis of their brands. Thanks to the preparation of our new strategy, we now have an increasingly clear picture of our strengths, and we need a new brand to communicate these strengths both internally and externally – to create a strong UEF identity. State-of-the-Smart is a message telling that the UEF has something to give and something to say, that we take unique perspectives to things and, most importantly, that we know what we’re doing.

Sound familiar? I should hope so, because none of this will become alive until the entire academic community – all staff members and students – recognise the brand and feel like it’s their own. A brand is not created through speeches and blog posts; it’s created through our everyday work and activities. Appreciation for our own work, respect for the work of others, and nice and decent behaviour create a community we can genuinely be proud of.  And that’s when it’s easy to tell about it to others, too.

Jukka_Monkkonen_100X130Jukka Mönkkönen

University – yesterday, today and tomorrow

The role of universities is traditional: they are sources of education at the highest level and they promote scientific research.  It is a proven fact that universities create well-being around them, and this is also true for the University of Eastern Finland.  A couple of years ago, the foundations for the activities of Finnish universities changed.  The country’s Universities Act was reformed and this was followed by the Ministry of Education and Culture introducing a new, performance-based funding model.

Although the ministry’s field-specific funding is slightly favourable to natural sciences, the fact remains that the majority of our funding is acquired as a result of our performance, not through empty promises or negotiation skills.  It is our performance that pays our salaries, and there is no separate money chest on which the Dean is sitting out of mere malice.

Furthermore, it is impossible to acquire sufficient funding, if the responsibility for it lies on the shoulders of the “chosen few”. We are the UEF orchestra. Each member of this orchestra plays an important role – or instrument, if you will – and only harmonious tunes translate into good performance.

In the light of the current situation, natural sciences (and many other fields, too) face major challenges when it comes to succeeding in university economy. Funding for the upcoming years is tied to previous years’ performance. In the ministry’s model, funding for 2015 is allocated on the basis of our performance in 2011–2013. In other words, we now have to lie in a bed we made back then.

Anyone will tell you that we’ve worked hard, and I, too, believe this is true.  Our faculty has also acquired ever so important external funding for the purposes on making our activities increasingly effective.  But why does it seem that our performance isn’t quite enough and that our costs easily exceed our income? Are we doing things correctly? Do we have the right people doing the right things?  Is external funding the right kind of funding for achieving performance that is observed in the ministry’s funding model? Or is this funding used in an optimal way?

As the people who do things and achieve results, we need to think about these things, because it is our joint performance that keeps the UEF ship afloat. If we only seek to create savings and cut our costs, we may drive ourselves to a situation where it no longer is possible to perform well. What is good about the situation is the fact that these more efficient measures need to be targeted at the very things the university is supposed to be doing: cost-efficient and high level of education and research.

We all need to be aware of today’s realities. We may not have understood in 2011 that our performance back then would be decisive three years later. Now we can’t afford to wake up in a couple of years’ time to realise that we should have been doing something different in 2014.

We have plenty of potential; we just need to focus on doing the right things. And this takes courage – the worst we can do is to sweep things under the rug.

Jukka JurvelinJukka Jurvelin