The University of Helsinki plans to stop teaching ancient culture – students ask if they should go abroad to study


The University of Helsinki plans to discontinue the teaching of ancient culture, which has included the subject areas of ancient material culture and archeology of ancient Rome and Greece. The ancient culture study unit can be completed with a scope of 15 or 30 credits.

The funding for the whole, which has come from the Academy of Finland, is coming to an end.

– We have discussed whether it is possible to put some funding into it. No department wants, for example, a task that becomes vacant for them to be transferred here and reduced from somewhere else. In this situation, we do not have funding for this, says Pirjo Hiidenmaa , dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Helsinki .

It is about an optional study unit. It is not a mandatory entity that is part of the degree structure.

– We continue to teach Latin and Greek language and culture, literature and history as before. This is normal teaching planning and development, reforming the curriculum, says Hiidenmaa.

At the University of Helsinki, you can study, for example, the Latin language and Roman literature for a 180-credit bachelor’s degree and a 120-credit master’s degree.

According to the statistics of the study administration of the University of Helsinki, two students have completed the 30 credit units per year, and three students have completed the 15 credit units per year.

– It is worth noting that we teach ancient culture in the theological faculty, in connection with ancient languages, classical languages ​​Greek and Latin. Ancient religions, mythology, art history, philosophy, literature, history, ancient heritage in European languages ​​and cultures are taught. We have an awful lot of antiques in the curriculum, Hiidenmaa lists.

According to Hiidenmaa, the teaching that will be lost with the abolition can be found, not exactly the same, but partially, in the studies of languages, history and philosophy.

– It’s not about a centuries-old tradition. These entities became available in 2018, says Hiidenmaa.

“There is a risk that students will go abroad”

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Symposion, the subject organization for students of classical subjects, sees the matter differently. It has sent a statement to the dean, which describes that ending the teaching of ancient culture at the University of Helsinki would mean the end of the teaching tradition that started in the 18th century in all of Finland.

– Ancient culture or classical archeology is not taught anywhere else in Finland. If the lecture teaching ends in Helsinki, it ends in all of Finland. The risk is that students will go abroad, says chairwoman Sofia Vierula of the University of Helsinki’s ancient languages ​​and cultures subject organization Symposion.

Hiidenmaa admits that he does not know this matter exactly. Classical languages ​​and antiquity are taught at the University of Turku.

– All universities can develop these as they wish. The sad thing is that in other universities they stop first, then everything depends on Helsinki, then Helsinki is the one who is reprimanded, says Hiidenmaa.

But is the tradition that started in the 18th century breaking at the University of Helsinki?

– The teaching of ancient languages, cultures and history is not going away. I don’t see that removing individual courses would be as dramatic as what is being described here. It is an exaggeration to say that this tremendously fine tradition is broken here, Hiidenmaa sees.

According to Vierula, the courses have had a huge number of students.

– They have been popular among archaeologists, students of art history and history, students of languages ​​and students of Middle Eastern cultures.

According to Vierula, relatively few courses have been organized because the teaching resources have been very small.

– It has been difficult to complete the wholes quickly, Vierula says.

The symposium brings the dean together with several organizations in the humanities. The organization will also make an international address that everyone can sign this week and will organize a discussion session open to everyone.

Sipilä’s savings curve is visible

The students have received a notice that the Study Units would end in the summer. A transition period of one or two years has been shown.

– The information is a bit unclear to us. I myself have received the most feedback from students about how to complete already started study units, says Vierula.

– From our point of view, this is a long-standing situation. The lectureship has been left unfilled in 2018, the second lectureship in 2020 and the third lectureship in 2021. It can no longer be justified by the fact that this roughly targets our field, Vierula says.

There used to be two lecturers in Greek language and literature, now there is one. The second lecturer is replaced by a professor of Greek. There were two lecturers in Latin and Roman literature, the other became a professor.

– At that point, it was not possible to fill the second grove rat. This was part of the [ Juha Sipilä (centre)] government’s decision in 2016 to put universities on a savings course. The University of Helsinki lost 100 million euros, Hiidenmaa reminds.

In four years, the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Helsinki lost three million euros.

– It has been a tough austerity. Since 2016, our faculty has had to leave many positions unfilled, explains Hiidenmaa.