05.12.2017

Minna-Riitta Luukka: Successful organisational renewal requires cooperation

Uncertainty, suspicions, fears and even resistance are part of any process of renewal.During my four years as a dean I have had the chance to get familiar with change management in practice.This is because the most drastic organisational changes at JYU have been made in our faculty.

My first term of office as the dean of the new Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences is coming to a close. The new faculty was created at the beginning of 2017 when the Faculty of Humanities and the Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy merged.  At the same time, we carried out two departmental fusions as well: language and communication studies became a single department, as did music, art and culture studies.

The changes have gone surprisingly well.One guarantor of success was that the staff had the chance to discuss and plan for the future openly.Even more importantly, the fusion was seen as an opportunity to deepen cooperation and create a faculty profile distinctive from other universities.The starting point was good because there were already many common interests, and now these have become even deeper.

The changes did not stop there, however. The Universities of Jyväskylä and Vaasa made a bold strategic move with a transfer of business, unprecedented in the Finnish academic world, in which the whole degree education of languages moved from Vaasa to Jyväskylä at the beginning of August.This was an administratively complex change that has demanded a lot of work from the management and staff of both universities.The change was a substantial one, maybe even painfully so, especially for people in Vaasa.

Much of the staff is already working for JYU, even though some are still located in Vaasa.Students, however, are not that easy to move from one university to another, even in the case of a transfer of business.They have the right to choose when they will move or if they will complete their studies at the University of Vaasa.So far, slightly over 100 bachelor’s and master’s students and over 30 doctoral students have moved to Jyväskylä.

Our new faculty and its five departments are home to more than 500 researchers and teachers. The number of students is over 4,500, meaning that almost every third student at JYU is a humanist or social scientist. These numbers underline our strong profile as both a research and educational unit.

Maybe one demonstration that even large-scale organisational renewal can succeed is that, despite the changes, the faculty’s results in the wellbeing survey were very positive – among the best of the whole University.Without the great effort and open-minded attitude of all participants, managing such a change would have been difficult.I would therefore like to thank all who were affected by the change – departmental heads, staff and students – for their help and cooperation.

Now more than ever, the world needs humanists and social scientists. I am certain that this structural renewal have made us even stronger. United we are more.

Minna-Riitta Luukka, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

This text is the second in a series of columns in which the Rector, vice rectors and deans will share their views on different aspects of academic leadership. The series brings the University leadership closer to the everyday work of the University community by shedding light on the thoughts and perspectives of decision-makers.

The series is edited by Anitta Kananen.