Fuzzy Privatization and Decline of Democracy at the University of Helsinki

Taavi Sundell, Teivo Teivainen


Privatization is often used as a self-evident concept, overlapping with corporatization, marketization, commodification and neoliberalization. Our analysis, focusing on changes in the legal status and decision- making procedures at the University of Helsinki, explores the fuzzy nature of privatization. One of our claims is that the fuzziness helped prevent efficient resistance and therefore also enabled less democratic forms of governance.

We will explore the ambiguous nature of the privatization process. We will analyze argumentative strategies about the reforms, focusing on explicit and implicit references to the processes of privatization and corporatization. The role of fuzziness became less important once privatization had taken crucial steps. At that moment, the argument that in some important sense the university had become part of the sphere of private economy became a justification for transforming the decision-making system of the university. References to the university being increasingly private, financially autonomous, and economically responsible become justificatory tools for dismantling democratic elements of the university’s decision-making system. We will also analyze how privatization can affect democracy through changes in the allocation of public funding to universities.

Published on 20 Apr 2017 in WORLD SOCIAL and ECONOMIC REVIEW Issue 8, April 2017 – The Political Economy of the University INC.