University of Helsinki: The number of students graduating within the target duration of studies grew significantly in 2021

The year 2021 marked the first year of the University’s ten-year strategy period. The University’s strategic choices (Knowledge and learning are for everyone, Openness enhances scientific research and collaboration, Our University is the best place to study and work, and Our University is a leader in responsibility and sustainability) are promoted through measures taken by units. For 2021, the University community defined 570 strategy-related measures to be taken. For instance, a total of 47 measures promoted achieving the objective of smooth student progress.

The number of completed degrees fell behind the goals set by the Ministry of Education and Culture. A positive trend was seen in the number and share of degrees completed within the target duration of studies. In 2021, 48% of first-cycle (bachelor’s) degrees and 34% of second-cycle (master’s) degrees were completed within the target duration. The corresponding figures for 2020 were 22% and 20%, respectively. Almost four-fifths of the bachelor’s and master’s degrees were completed within the target duration or no more than one year later, whereas the corresponding figure for 2017–2020 was approximately half of the bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The University’s strong research activities evidenced as an increase in external funding
The University’s operating result, or the result without taking investment activities into account, was €4.6 million in 2021. For the first time since 2015, the operating result was in the black. The University’s external funding increased, whereas both income and costs associated with core funding remained close to the previous year’s level.

Compared to 2020, external funding grew by 7.5%, clearly exceeding the level seen in 2019, the year preceding the coronavirus pandemic. The growth was due to an increase in research funding. Funding awarded by the Academy of Finland grew by 10%. The Academy of Finland granted the University €28.6 million in funding for three profile-building (PROFI) areas: Understanding the Human Brain (UHBRAIN), Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH) and Interdisciplinary Research for Health and Wellbeing (UHealth). Research funding allocated to the University by businesses and foundations also grew markedly.

“We can be satisfied with the financial performance in 2021. The University’s strong research activities are reflected in the increase in external funding. We also successfully kept the growth of costs in check, which admittedly continues to be a temporary phenomenon partially related to the pandemic. The balancing of finances is extremely important, since we have a lot of financial uncertainty ahead of us,” Chief Financial Officer Marjo Berglund notes.

Balancing the finances requires careful planning and cost management
The University’s core funding amounted to €415 million, an increase of 1.5% from the previous year. The increase was caused by the Ministry of Education and Culture allocating, at the end of the year, €3.3 million in strategy funding included in the government budget for 2020, the use of which was postponed to subsequent financial years. Compared to 2020, the University’s operating costs grew by 2.7%. The increase was related to an increase in external funding, whereas the costs associated with core funding remained on the level of 2020. The coronavirus pandemic continued to affect costs as, for example, the amount of travelling was still very low.

“Balancing the finances continues to require extremely careful planning and cost management. Moreover, it is important to ensure that the University’s performance improves according to the indicators used in the Ministry of Education and Culture funding model,” Rector Sari Lindblom points out.

University of Helsinki result in 2010–2021 and forecast for 2022–2023, operations
University of Helsinki result in 2010–2021 and forecast for 2022–2023, operations
University of Helsinki revenues and expenses 2021
At the end of December 2021, the number of staff was 8,241. Teaching and research staff comprised 4,801 employees, specialist and support staff 3,277 employees, and teaching staff at the teacher training schools 163 employees. Staff costs constituted two-thirds of the overall expenses. Another considerable expense are the facilities required for studying, research and other activities.

The University’s overall result was €74.7 million in the black. The result from investment activities and fundraising, included in the overall result, was €70.1 million, including €61 million in changes of the value of investment instruments at the turn of the year. In accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the change in value is recorded as profit or loss. Correspondingly, the change in the market situation will be reflected in the University’s result in the first half of 2022. The fundraising result included €6 million of investment returns distributed to the University by the University of Helsinki Funds.

Return on investment 24% in 2021
The result from investment activities and fundraising amounted to €70.1 million, including €61 million in changes of the value of investment instruments at the turn of the year. The fundraising result included €6 million of investment returns distributed to the University by the University of Helsinki Funds. The University’s overall result was €74.7 million in the black.

In 2021, the University of Helsinki saw a 24.17% return on its investments. The investment assets increased by more than a hundred million euros, totalling €675 million at the end of the year.

“The University takes a long, 25-year approach to investing. A steady spending policy that is not directly dependent on annual returns ensures adequate assets for endowed professorships, for instance,” says Chief Financial Officer Marjo Berglund.

In 2021, the University received €7 million of income from its investments. In the period 2010–2021, a total of €72 million were distributed in profits.

Read more about the return on investments in a news article published on 21 April
Read the report on responsible investment activities in 2021

Financial outlook for 2022
In 2022, the government funding allocated to the University will grow by €5.9 million from 2021. However, €3.4 million of this funding is conditional and will be realised only if the additional student places planned for 2022 can be filled. The record number of degrees completed in 2020 increased the funding allocated to the University of Helsinki in 2022 under the Ministry of Education and Culture funding model, but after a record year, degree numbers will correspondingly drop. Achieving the degree targets and expediting the completion of degrees remain very important goals.

In the performance agreement for Finnish universities for the term 2021–2024, a larger share than before is earmarked for new obligations. The volume of education of Finnish universities was increased with 2,071 additional student places in 2021, of which the share of the University of Helsinki was 98 places (5.8%). A further addition of a total of 3,540 student places is planned for 2022, of which the University of Helsinki’s share is 403 places (11.4%).

The University’s forecasted operating result for 2022 is €12 million in deficit. In terms of the result, a faster than expected rise in costs poses a risk. In the current government term, the university index under the Universities Act has been reinstated in the government budget. Due to the significant acceleration of inflation compared to recent years, the significance of the university index is even greater, and the consequences of any potential cuts to it will be serious.

KEY FIGURES 2021
Staff
8,241 employees, of whom 4,801 were teaching and research staff
1,583 international employees, of whom 1,356 were teaching and research staff
28% of teaching and research staff were international

Studying
30,817 degree students
2,012 international degree students
5,301 degrees, including licentiate degrees and professional postgraduate degrees
1.1 million completed credits
29,940 applicants in the main admissions procedure
4,200 new students
65% of bachelor’s and master’s students were women
60% of doctoral students were women

Research
11,095 publications, of which 76% were peer-reviewed
3,179 research projects
The University of Helsinki is currently involved in four of the Academy of Finland’s 10 Flagships.
Of the Centres of Excellence active in the Centre of Excellence Programmes of the Academy of Finland for 2014–2019 and 2018–2025, a total of nine were active at the University of Helsinki. Of these, seven were managed at the University of Helsinki.
14 Academy Professors

Impact
111 invention disclosures and 25 patent applications
46,125 registered alumni
147 events at Think Corner, which reached 50,000 viewers through live streams and recordings
€78 million in donations and pledges to the University from the For the World fundraising campaign
40 million page visits to the helsinki.fi website
14,300 international media hits

Ranking
82nd in the Shanghai ranking
In the top 0.5% of the 18,000 universities in the world

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