• ATHENA Project

    Fostering Sustainable and Autonomous
    Higher Education Systems
    in the Eastern Neighbouring Area

  • Focus

    University autonomy and funding reforms
    in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine

  • Objectives

    Transfer of good practice
    Promotion of inclusive approaches
    Capacity building in university management


Delegates from Eastern Neighbourhood universities attend ATHENA training seminar

The first ATHENA project training seminar was held at the University of Helsinki, Finland, on 30 April. Around 60 representatives from partner institutions, national rectors’ conferences and public authorities in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine attended this event, where they learned more about university financial management practices in Europe and in particular Finland.

The objective of the event was to build capacity among these higher education sector staff in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine to enable them to maximise the benefits that enhanced university autonomy would bring. With this aim in mind, the example of the Finnish higher education system is highly pertinent, as an extensive legislative reform programme was adopted in 2008, thanks to which universities may now manage their finances with greatly increased autonomy.

The event started with a presentation from Thomas Estermann, Director of Governance, Funding, and Public Policy Development at EUA, who laid out the main issues relating to autonomous and sustainable financial management in European universities. This included an overview of EUA’s extensive work in this field, highlighting the current trends and practices, such as strategic financial planning and income diversification.

Senior financial managers from both the project’s Finnish partner institutions, the University of Helsinki and Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, then shared their experience on financial management practices at their institutions and explained how they adapted workflows and processes following the 2008 reforms. 

1The first of these speakers was Marjo Berglund, Chief Financial Officer at the University of Helsinki, who gave an overview of the diversified sources of the university’s funding and the internal resource allocation system. Next, Camilla Österberg-Dobson, Financial Planning Manager at the University of Helsinki, explained the structures in place and division of responsibilities in managing financial services at the University. 


The second pair of speakers came from Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki. Tiina Junkkari, Development Manager, first presented the structure of the University’s corporate planning services and the University’s financial strategy, before Jorma Alkula, Chief Financial Officer, explained the internal budgeting processes.

The two sets of speakers from the two project partner institutions demonstrated the variety in financial management structures that exist in a more autonomous higher education system, while also showing that there common principles and trends, as evoked earlier in the day by Thomas Estermann.

2The final presentation came from Tomi Halonen from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, who described how higher education fits into the wider education system, and the principles and practices underpinning public funding of higher education in Finland. The event concluded with reflections from the ATHENA project partners on potential actions in their countries and next steps in the project


All the presentations from the Training Seminar are available on the Material section of the website. Two further Training Seminars are planned, which will be held at the Universities of Coimbra and Amsterdam, in Portugal and the Netherlands respectively. The outcomes of these events will contribute to the development of institutional toolkits, which will act as long-term capacity building tools to enable university staff in the partner countries to benefit from the experience of other systems that have undergone reform processes.


  • Yerevan State University
  • Gavar State University
  • State Engineering University of Armenia
  • State Universities Rectors Council of Armenia
  • Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia
  • Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova
  • Cahul State University
  • Free International University of Moldova
  • National Council of Rectors of Moldova
  • Ministry of Education of Moldova
  • Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev
  • Donetsk National University
  • Odessa National University
  • Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University
  • Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
  • University of Coimbra
  • Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra
  • University of Helsinki
  • Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
  • University of Amsterdam
  • European University Association