International Research Advisory Board urges the University of the Arts Helsinki to clarify its research goals

The Research Advisory Board (RAB) visited Helsinki in February. The theme of the visit was synergies between the Academies and the Research Institute. In its report, the international RAB praised the excellent research ideas and inspiring research activities at Uniarts Helsinki. It also identified problems that all universities are struggling with and proposed nine development measures.

Compared to many other art universities, Uniarts Helsinki already has a very favourable research environment, according to the RAB report. The student-faculty ratio is quite good, the facilities are excellent and the faculties have excellent researchers. 

“In short, Uniarts Helsinki is in a situation that many other institutions would envy,” the report says.

RAB is therefore committed to helping Uniarts Helsinki make the most of these favourable conditions.

The report identifies problems common to universities, such as the confrontation between individual versus collaborative work, autonomy versus societal impact and innovation, a joint strategic vision versus a traditional identity, and funding concerns.

A shared strategic vision for research

In its report, the RAB hopes for strong support for research and clearly expressed expectations for its development from the university board.

The RAB proposes that the Vice Rector for Research, together with the Deans and the Research Institute, create a shared strategic vision for research. The vision should address what the Academies and the Research Institute can achieve together without losing their own identity.  

The vision should be based on existing strengths and good practices. It should be aligned with the units’ own strategic plans so that they reinforce each other. Under the umbrella of the vision, both grassroots activities and the diversity of disciplines and methodologies could thrive, all working towards a common goal.

Strong intrinsic motivation for research

The RAB emphasises the importance of intrinsic motivation to do research, rather than external factors such as funding. One such motivation is the cross-fertilising effect of artistic research and artistic practices. Good examples of this interaction should be show-cased and incentivised.

In addition to doctoral training, postdoctoral research also contributes to the excellent reputation of Uniarts Helsinki and future strengths of the university. The RAB therefore suggests that Uniarts Helsinki should strive towards a career plan for researchers, for training of supervisors, for training of trainers with the emphasis on the post-doc level and beyond.

The role of the Research Institute in bringing together different academies

The role of the Research Institute should be clarified, according to the report. The RAB suggests that the Institute spends the next academic year to showcase research that brings together researchers from the different academies as well as external partners.

RAB also draws attention to the need for workload model principles across the academies so that fairness in terms of responsibilities, allocaton and rights is guaranteed but operationalized within the units.

Finally, the report points out that it is important to continue to collectively review and renew understandings of the purposes and main concepts of research: what is research, what is artistic research, what is meant by research strategy? What does research do within and for Uniarts Helsinki as an institution, how does it do it and why is it important?

“International peer review and collegial support is crucial for the development of research at Uniarts Helsinki,” says Jaana Erkkilä-Hill, Vice Rector for Research at Uniarts Helsinki.  

“Many challenges in the organisation of research are common regardless of national and university-specific policies and regulations, and it is important to discuss these challenges around a common table. Research in art universities is young everywhere, and thus RAB gives Uniarts Helsinki a valuable outside perspective on issues that we all share in our daily lives.”

From overall research assessment to research development

In 2021-22, Uniarts Helsinki carried out an overall research assessment, the results of which are now being used to develop its research activities and environment. An international Research Advisory Board (2023-2027), appointed by Rector Kaarlo Hildén, supports the development activities and the units evaluated in the overall assessment: the Academy of Fine Arts, the Sibelius Academy, the Theatre Academy and the Research Institute.

The RAB visited Helsinki for the first time on 12-13 February, focusing on the synergies between the Academies and the Research Institute’s research and doctoral training. The visits will continue every year with different themes.

Members of the Research Advisory Board 

  • Chair: Dr. Reine Meylaerts, Vice-Rector of Research Policy at KU Leuven 
  • Dr. Darryl Jones, Professor, Trinity College Dublin. 
  • Dr. Sidsel Karlsen, Vice-Principal, Music Education and Music Therapy Department, Norwegian Academy of Music 
  • Dr. Roberta Mock, Professor, Executive Dean, School of Performing and Digital Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London 
  • Dr. Ossi Naukkarinen, Professor, Aalto University.