Finland’s Deputy Chancellor of Justice, Mikko Puumalainen issued a ruling this week, criticizing Aalto University in its wide use of English in degree level teaching. The announcement addressed concerns that English had widely replaced Finnish, particularly in the masters education departments of technology and business education.
In an outlining statement on the decision, the justice office also specified that English has become the main language of instruction in undergraduate programs.
The justice department’s intervention comes in response to a joint complaint filed by students at the university in 2021, arguing that the dominance of English instruction was “considerable” and hindering their education. The complaint concerned finance programs in particular – currently not offered in Finnish or Swedish at Masters level.
In response, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice asked the Espoo-based university for an official statistical report on how much of their teaching is offered in Finnish and Swedish, finding that only 5% of masters level courses were delivered in these languages. It also found that English as a method of instruction is increasing.
The Deputy Chancellor of Justice said “In my view, the report provided by Aalto University reflects an outward appearance of linguistic rights at Aalto University and is in contravention of the University Act,” and the department added that the university must address this in order to safeguard the Finnish language and language law.
The Ministry of Education and Culture will also assess whether any further action needs to be taken, between now and the end of October.
Puumalainen noted the Universities Act largely leaves to the discretion of institutions to decide how native languages are used and how many others can be added, but he specified that the use of other languages should not supersede Finnish.
Aalto University has been called to report back on the measures it was taking to rectify the situation.
English in Science Education
Largely regarded as “the language of science” students at other universities across the globe are fighting for their rights to write dissertations and assignments in their native languages.
In 2020, master’s student Ramírez Castañeda at the University of Los Andes in Colombia, drew awareness to the fact that her paper would be rejected for review if written in her native Spanish rather than English.
In response, the scientific higher education community is reviewing the ethical grounds for research publication and arguing that compiling research in a language other than English should never be a cause for rejection.