‘A skilled Finland’ reform table of the government negotiations has asked the Ministry of Education and Culture for alternatives to further restrict education to first-time students. The ministry has proposed solutions such as fees for a second higher education degree, directing higher education funding so that universities receive less money from those undertaking a second degree, and developing student selection processes that favour only first-time students.
The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) considers the Ministry’s proposals irresponsible as increasing fees and limiting further education will shatter the educational foundation of our welfare state.
For a long time, Finnish educational thinking has cherished the principle of an education system where an individual can explore themselves, change fields, and study as far as their abilities allow. Now, these opportunities are being restricted only to those who have enough money. This is based on misleading thinking where education is seen as a finite resource, the number of people pursuing a second degree is large, and students are seen as greedy for their desire to be educated or find a suitable field for themselves.
The number of people undertaking a second degree is marginal; only 3% of those who graduate with a higher education degree undertake a second degree of the same level within 7 years of graduation. The desire to improve one’s employment prospects or finding the most suitable field only at a later stage is often behind the undertaking of a second degree.
‘Society’s resources are best used when a student can study in a field where they are motivated and want to work’, says SYL board member Roosa Grönberg.
The reform table recognises the need to increase the funding of starting places to raise the level of education, but the means discussed would hardly finance the starting places. Earning from the fees of a second degree on such a scale that something would be left for the universities is impossible. The reform table has also discussed the expansion of the open university student selection pathway. Even the Ministry’s investigation states that the expansion of the pathway would hardly finance the starting places.
‘Significantly expanding the open pathway would strengthen the development of fee-based education and significantly impair the accessibility of education’, reminds SYL board member Jenni Suutari.
SYL sees that starting places can be sustainably funded only by raising the basic funding. Increases in starting places open up further education opportunities for an even larger proportion of first-time students. A comprehensive offer of continuous learning provides flexible opportunities for updating skills for those already in working life, thereby reducing the pressure to undertake overlapping degrees. In addition, improving throughput by investing in guidance and support services is essential so that initiated studies are carried through to degrees.
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