Aspiration, Achievement and Abandonment in ‘The World’s Best Country’: Merit and Equity or Smoke and Mirrors?


  • David M. Hoffman
  • Sari Pöyhönen
  • Carine Cools
  • Anatoly Stikhin
  • Driss Habti
  • Taru Siekkinen
  • Thomas Sama



Academic Work, Mobility, Transnational scholarly precariousness, Stratification, Self-Ethnography


Finland is internationally valorised for its education system, quality of life and high-tech, innovative, competitiveness. However, a critical focus on institutional dynamics and trajectories of higher education careers illuminates questions about the reproduction of global inequities, rather than the societal transformation Finland’s education system was once noted for. The purpose of this self-ethnography of career trajectories within Finnish higher education is designed to call attention to institutional social dynamics that have escaped the attention of scholarly literature and contemporary debates about academic work and practice within highly situated research groups, departments and institutes. Our analysis illuminates emergent stratification, in a country and institution previously characterized by the absence of stratification and the ways in which this reinforces - and is reinforced by – the tension between transnational academic capitalism, methodological nationalism and the resulting global division of academic labour that now cuts across societies, manifesting within the one institution Finland’s general population trusts to explain, engage and ameliorate stratification: Higher Education.