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Finland’s election forecast: trouble ahead

There was an air of optimism among the academics who gathered at the University of Helsinki on 19 March for a pre-election debate between representatives of the national parties. Many were hoping to hear promises that universities would be saved from impending budget cuts, as parties jostled to secure the country’s science vote.

Instead, their optimism was quelled as they were reminded that, whatever government takes power after the elections on 19 April, the country’s bleak economic situation makes it unlikely that universities can be spared.

According to a government report published on the day of the debate, Finland needs to cut public spending by €6 billion, or 3 per cent of GDP, by 2019 to get its economy back on track. Despite an outward appearance of prosperity, Finland’s 2014 government debt was €90bn, equal to 46 per cent of GDP. And figures released by the Unifi university association on 19 March reveal that Finland’s university index—which determines basic funding according to measures such as wage and salary earnings—has dropped three times since it was introduced in 2011. This has amounted to a €255-million reduction in university income between 2011 and 2015, says Unifi.

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