Higher Education Policy

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 127–146 | Cite as

The Transnational Idea of University Autonomy and the Reform of the Finnish Universities Act

  • Ossi Piironen


In 2009, the Finnish parliament passed a new Universities Act that aimed to strengthen the institutional autonomy of the country's universities. But why and how did the idea of autonomy come to frame the reform agenda in the overt way it did? In analysing a sample of authoritative policy and strategy papers by the key stakeholders in the higher education policy fields at the European level and in Finland, the author argues that a conceptual shift took place at the turn of the millennium. This was based on managerial values and top-down organization that emphasized the potential of universities to operate on the education market as would any enterprise. But the Finnish higher education policy agenda was not simply downloaded from supranational actors; parts of the Finnish Higher Education establishment had long been active in promoting the novel idea of autonomy at both national and European forums, thereby making the process of ideological transformation truly transnational.


Higher education institutional autonomy academic freedom policy ideas European politics Finnish politics 



The author would like to thank the Network for Higher Education and Innovation Research (HEINE) at the University of Helsinki for making the research financially possible, Tero Erkkilä for his intellectual support, Max Eklund for the collection and screening of sources and data, Salla Garský for her valuable comments on the first draft, Mark Waller for his help in turning the text into readable English, and the two anonymous referees whose constructive remarks helped to focus on the essential.


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Copyright information

© International Association of Universities 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ossi Piironen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political and Economic StudiesHelsingin Yliopisto/University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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