The university as an institution and organisation
Universities are independent public institutions whose task is to promote free research and scientific and artistic learning. Universities have self-government, through which the freedom of science, art and higher education is ensured. Self-government includes the right to make decisions on matters that pertain to internal administration. Universities can decide fairly freely, amongst other things, on their finances, bodies and decision-making. Universities are within the field of the Ministry of Education and Culture (hereafter, OKM), which means that it monitors the actions of universities and directs funding to them from the state.
The operations of universities are particularly directed by the Universities Act (558/2009). In that, for example, all the universities of Finland, their tasks, bodies, principles regarding free tuition and the principles of the funding of the universities are recorded. The Act is supplemented in more detail by numerous other laws and decrees, the most important of which is the Government Decree on Universities (770/2009), in which there are more precise stipulations on, amongst other things, the grounds for the distribution of funding of universities.
Universities carry out a public, statutory task, so they must comply with the Administrative Procedure Act (434/2003) and the Administrative Judicial Procedure Act (586/1996). The Administrative Procedure Act defines the bases of good administration and the actions of the authorities in a general sense. A university must comply with the bases of good administration in preparing and making decisions related to its public remit. In these acts, it is also defined how decisions are to be appealed against.
In addition, in all government activities, the Act on Equality between Men and Women (609/1986), the Non-discrimination Act (21/2004) and the Act on the Openness of Government Activities (621/1999) must also be complied with.
The funding of universities
It is good for a Halloped to know the grounds for the public funding of universities because it is often referred to in internal objectives. OKM decides on what grounds universities get funding from the state. In addition to funding from the state, universities can collect and receive donations and get revenues from investment activity that supports their operations.
The structure of Aalto and the principles that guide its operations
The rules and documents that guide operations
In addition to laws, the University is guided by its own rules and documents. They direct the operations and authority of all the administrative bodies. Many of the students’ rights and obligations are also based on them.
The rules of the Aalto University Foundation direct the operations of the Foundation behind the University.
The University Bylaws define the administrative structure of the University.
Each school has guidelines which define the operations of that unit in more detail.
The General Regulations of Aalto University on Studying are in force in the whole of the University and the schools have degree regulations, in which regulations relating to studying are laid out in more detail on school-specific level.
The Openness of Operations and Data Protection at Aalto University document describes the openness of the documents and decision-making of the University.
The Language Guidelines of Aalto rule on the right to use Finnish, Swedish and English.
The Code of Conduct in the University Environment lays out what kind of behaviour is committed to in the community of Aalto University.
In addition, it’s good to know current separate decisions. These are ones, for example, to do with credits, degree revisions and organising examinations.
The Board of the University ensures that the operations of the University are organised in an appropriate way. In order to carry out its task, the Board decides on the strategy of the University, matters relating to the operations and finances of the University and other far-reaching plans. The Board selects the President. The Board consists of members from outside the University.
The President directs the operations of the University. The President is responsible for the financial, effective and productive management of the work of the University and the implementation of the decisions of the Board.
According to the Management Regulations, the tasks of the President also include making a proposal to the Board about replacements for the President, Vice Presidents and their roles, the Deans working as the directors of the schools and other direct subordinates of the President, such as the directors of different areas of operational activities.
The Provost acts as the substitute of the President, supports the President in strategic planning, directs all the processes of the University that are to do with teaching, research and effectiveness, and does other tasks assigned to them by the President. In many aspects, the Provost can be seen as a President who is in charge of teaching.
Following the joint proposal of the President and Provost, the Board of the University appoints Vice Presidents for the different areas of operations of the University. They act as the subordinate of either the President or Provost. The preparation of many things and leadership in practice is delegated to the Vice President responsible for the area. For example, they lead various kinds of preparatory workgroups and projects.
Deans (and Vice Deans)
Deans direct the schools and are appointed by the President. Generally, the schools have a separate Vide Dean responsible for teaching, who is the contact person in matters relating to students.
Faculty directors and programme directors
The various schools of Aalto are organised in slightly different ways. The directors of faculties and programmes are often people who are in the position of line manager closest to the students. It is their responsibility to develop training programmes and lead operations in practice. In possible cases of conflict, they are the next person along from the teacher of the course.
Heads of academic affairs
The heads of academic affairs direct the student services of the faculty and are often the person whom it’s worth contacting when you have questions related to teaching arrangements. They act as preparers of many things, for example if a student complains about inappropriate treatment.
Other important people
It’s good for a Halloped to know the important people in their own subject, such as study coordinators, study advisors and administration people. Good personal relations are always of use! Many things only become clear at grassroots level.
The Academic Affairs Committee (AAK)
The University’s Academic Affairs Committee is the University-level common multiple-member administrative body that has the promotion of the quality of research, teaching and artistic activities as its remit. The University’s Academic Affairs Committee decides on the University’s teaching plans, degree requirements and the students’ selection grounds, and other general regulations relating to teaching, research and artistic activities, as well as putting the bodies in place that are required to take care of research and teaching. In addition, the task of the Academic Affairs Committee is to appoint the members of the Board of the University. AAK is led by the Provost, appointed by the President. There are four student members in AAK.
To support the work of the President and the operational leadership of the University, various kinds of management groups, advisory committees and workgroups that prepare decisions can be set up. Established workgroups include the President’s and Provost’s operational Management Teams, the Aalto Management Team, the Tenured Professors Council and the joint discussion forum of the operational management of the University and the faculty directors, Aalto Leaders’ dialogue (ALD). In AMT and ALD, students are presented by the Chair of the Board of the Student Union and the representative of doctoral students.
In addition to these, the Vice Presidents and the Provost lead management groups on different themes, i.e. Steering Groups. In these, decisions are prepared for the Vice Presidents, and for the President, when required.
Academic affairs committees
Each school has its own academic committee, and this is led by the Dean. The same issues are dealt with in them as in the University’s AAK, but at school level. The academic committee makes proposals to the University’s Academic Affairs Committee on school-specific teaching plans, degree requirements, selection grounds and other issues related to academic operations. The Dean may also set other tasks for the committee and in meetings, the issues of the schools can also be discussed in a wider sense.
Degree programme committees
Degree programme committees operate in some of the schools, whose tasks include making proposals to the academic committee, decide on issues related to Bachelor’s degree and diploma work and make decisions associated with the development and quality of training programmes.
Bachelor’s or Master’s programme steering groups
In many of the schools, there is a Bachelor’s and Master’s programme steering or development group. It deals with the functionality of the entirety of the training and acts for its part as a support for AAK and the degree programme committees.
Degree programme steering group
Many degree programmes have their own steering, management or development group. These handle practical matters to do with the degree programme and act for their part as a support for the programme directors, academic committees and degree programme committees.
In many of the schools, there is a separate workgroup focusing on quality. In these, the aim is to develop the quality system of the school, and feedback obtained from many sources is often handled in them.
Teaching evaluation groups
Teaching evaluation groups operate in different schools, either as a separate body or as a part of other bodies. Their task is to evaluate the pedagogical merits of applicants in conjunction with recruitments, on the basis of a teaching demonstration and the portfolio.
The Student Financial Aid Committee
The University’s Degree Committee deals with correction requests that students can make about their grades or credits. The Committee consists of representatives of different academic disciplines and meets when necessary.
In addition, many different kinds of bodies operate at the University. The University Language Centre Management Group concentrates on directing and developing the operations of the language centre. The Restaurant Committee develops the restaurant services of the campus and takes part in organising competitive tendering. The Equality Committee ensures action that is in keeping with the Equality Act at the University. The Learning Centre Steering Group develops the University’s learning and library services. There are various workgroups for the development of the campus, in which it is possible to exercise an influence on the premises of the University and the outside areas of the campus.
The most common issues dealt with
Teaching plans and degree requirements: The AAKs of the schools make a proposal to the University regarding the teaching plans and courses for the following year, in January-April.
Selection grounds: The academic committees of the schools make a proposal to the University regarding the selection grounds of students, for example score limits or language requirements. In the year before, for the next application period.
Annual review: An evaluation of how the school has implemented its own and Aalto’s strategy and achieved the jointly-set objectives. This is also used as the basis for the development of the organisation of teaching. February.
Resource dialogues: Each school annually has a so-called resource dialogue with the University level, in which it is assessed how the unit has reached its objectives and what kind of budget they propose for the following year. October-November.
In addition to recurring matters related to the cycle of the year, there is often discussion in the bodies that are associated with education about matters related to teaching in practice and study services. Recurring subjects are, for example, the guidance of studies, feedback given by students, the reception of new students, improving communications and the grading guidelines of dissertations and courses. The bodies may also appoint smaller preparatory groups under them and appoint their representatives for joint groups.
N.B.! Keep your eyes and ears open, at least when these things are dealt with:
- Profiles and strategies. Under the pretext of these, the operations of the faculty of a school can be changed, even radically.
- Student numbers. Changing student numbers is a decision that affects both policy at a national level and a concrete decision that affects resources at the university level.
- Changes in teaching plans or degree requirements.
- Secondary subject policies. Schools and teaching programmes decide themselves how they deal with secondary subject students and their interests should be monitored as well.
- Premises solutions.