Case Study

Tampere University

Interview conducted 4 November, 2020  Compare case studies

Tampere University is a new Finnish institution, formed in 2019 from the merger of the University of Tampere and the Tampere University of Technology. As a result of the merger, Tampere recognized it had a unique opportunity to redesign its policies to implement a fair and responsible model for faculty hiring, promotion, and tenure. External factors also influenced Tampere’s decision to critically examine the ways research and researchers are assessed; the Academy of Finland, a large governmental funding body in Finland, signed DORA in 2019.1

The dynamic for change at the university is largely top-down. The tenure-track model was prepared by the Human Resources Department, in consultation with university leadership (Provost, Vice Presidents, and Deans), and final approval was given by the university Academic Board. While the actions were top-down, the process for change was stimulated through bottom-up feedback from academic researchers. The new hiring and promotion models are now in place, and Tampere is gathering feedback from the university community with the aim to make additional improvements as needed. 

Who: Organization profile

Country Finland
Profile of institution comprehensive university or equivalent
Number of FTE researchers > 1,000
Organization of research evaluation faculty/department levelsInstitutional/university levelresearch unit levels
Who is involved? academic leadershippolicy staffresearch department staffresearch support or management staff

What: What changed and the key elements of change

Tampere University is a new Finnish institution, and the second largest university in Finland. It was formed from the merger of the University of Tampere and the Tampere University of Technology in 2019. Because of this, Tampere University has the unique opportunity to design and implement a fair and responsible model for hiring and promotion.

Tampere is using DORA principles as a starting point for creating their new system. While the work is ongoing, careful attention has been paid to creation of job announcements and calls for faculty applications. In addition, Tampere is establishing review guidelines for applications as well as advice on establishing application review guidelines. As such, current faculty recruitment policies emphasize fair and equitable evaluation practices with appropriate and flexible assessment methods.2

Tampere is gathering feedback from its academic community with an aim to make additional improvements. Future and more comprehensive evaluation policies and practices are in development, with a focus to specify career progression and research quality.

Why: Motivation for change

The formation of Tampere University involved the merger of two university cultures. As such, the merger was a window of opportunity to implement a new fair and responsible assessment system.

Changes at Tampere were externally motivated in part by the commitment of the Academy of Finland, a large governmental funding body in Finland, to responsible academic assessment. The funding model under the Ministry of Education and Culture has shifted away from quantitative proxy-based indicators toward a model that also includes more qualitative criteria. University leaders at Tampere used this funding shift, as well as the Academy of Finland’s signing of DORA in 2019, as leverage to stimulate local change.

The desire to be more transparent about evaluation criteria, specifically the indicators used for hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions, was a key internal motivator to reimagine academic assessment at Tampere. But change was also driven by the overarching desire to promote a responsible research culture on campus.

One major obstacle is the use of external evaluators for hiring and promotion decisions. While the instructions are to follow responsible evaluation practices, and explicitly articulate Tampere’s commitment to DORA principles, many external reviewers have trouble understanding these practices and instead are submitting application reports based on quantitative indicators or that emphasize publication venues. Tampere is addressing this challenge by providing instructions and guidelines for evaluators on what and how they should be evaluating applications for hiring and promotion.

One positive result of Tampere’s commitment to fair and responsible evaluation is the ongoing discussion centered around the question “What does responsible research assessment look like?” This discussion, and the resulting increased awareness of responsible evaluation practices among its faculties, hopefully guides Tampere’s researchers to act as “good practice” ambassadors when they are involved in external review for other institutions. 

How: Processes and dynamics for developing, implementing and managing change

The dynamic for change at Tampere is largely top-down: the universities that came together to forge the new institution had different tenure-track models, so a unified one was needed. The tenure-track model was prepared by HR personnel before the university merger, in consultation with various bodies of the previous universities, including scientific councils, and with final approval by the university Academic Board. While the actions were top-down, the process for adding guidelines for fair evaluation was stimulated through messages from academic staff and external signals from the Academy of Finland on responsible assessment.

Even though the evaluation system changes and implementation of DORA principles were broadly accepted, there were observed difficulties in actualizing change on campus due to old and entrenched systems. For example, the evaluation of research “quality” in Finland has been based on a publication classification system initiated by the Ministry of Education and Culture that links funding to publication venues. While this system was not designed to evaluate individual researchers, it has been misused in hiring and promotion decisions for individual researchers. Now Tampere is informing and training evaluators across campus about responsible evaluation. They also provide instructions and descriptions for external evaluators on how to implement fair and responsible assessment, in accordance with DORA principles.

Additionally, Tampere has recognized the need for alignment between the call for applications and the evaluation criteria. To create this alignment, evaluators must “think ahead” and determine what they are looking for and how they will evaluate applicants before posting job announcements.

Ongoing efforts are centered around gathering feedback with the aim to make improvements. Additional plans are to expand the responsible hiring and promotion practices to all academic staff (e.g., lecturers and senior researcher positions).

Future efforts will expand the evaluation system to include research assessment. This process is currently underway and involves discussions within the Science Council on what indicators will be used to evaluate research quality, and which units will be evaluated in the university-level research assessment exercise. 

Specific obstacles faced were: limited awareness of research assessment reform and its potential benefits; lack of evidence on potential benefits of research assessment reform; lack of institutional capacity (e.g., skilled staff, support structures); and lack of coordination among the relevant actors within the institution.

When: Timeline for development and implementation

Tampere University was established in 2019 as a result of the merger of two Finnish universities. New fair and responsible hiring and promotion policies have been put in place. Tampere is currently gathering feedback on the new practices, with a focus on its tenure-track system. In addition, they are providing guidance and instructions on fair and responsible evaluation. More comprehensive policies are in development.


  1. Academy of Finland confirms support for responsible evaluation of researchers (2020). Retrieved 22 November 2020 from:
  2. Recruitment policy, Tampere University (2019). Retrieved 25 November 2020 from: