“An ECTS credit is a unit based on a vague agreement” and students “decide for themselves how much trouble they want to take regarding their studies.”
This was written by Tuija Siltamäki in her Yle column yesterday, almost making us choke on our coffee at SYL.
Having cleared the taste of coffee dregs from our throats, we were left with a bad taste in our minds. This was yet another instance of spreading ideas that question the diligence and work ethic of students.
During last year’s discussion of students’ summer breaks, the debate culminated in students being compared with fattening pigs. Strong prejudices about the ‘laziness’ of students spread like wildfire, although such a claim has no basis in fact.
Students have plenty of work
Siltamäki says that the recommended 27 hours of work is only indicative, adding that you can get away with less as long as you are ok with lower grades, just about scraping through.
This is not the case, or at least things will change soon. The suggested workload of 27 hours per ECTS credit, which is in line with the Bologna Process, is becoming the guideline target of more and more higher education institutions. Study hours can, for example, be estimated with an Excel sheet, and monitored through a course feedback system.
Sure enough, some courses can still be passed, and with reasonable grades, with a couple of all-night study sessions. But they are becoming steadily rarer.
How about academic success? Not all students stress about their grades, but some have no choice. Their grades may have an effect on issues such as their desired major subject, secondary subject, practical training, student exchange, master’s program or getting a good thesis supervisor.
I wouldn’t advise higher education students to ignore the grades they are awarded.
In addition, the notion that students can decide how much work is required is highly inaccurate. Students’ income is tied to clocking up enough credits in a specified period. If they do not accumulate enough credits, i.e., five per month, they will not receive student financial aid. So passing exams should not be left to chance.
The reality is that students face tough and multiple pressures to complete their studies quickly and with good grades. Many students find this exhausting.
Suggestions to help students keep up with the pace
Despite having a different view of the situation, we share the same hopes and desires as Tuija Siltamäki. Student exhaustion is a serious problem with far-reaching consequences. It can delay graduation and affect the ability to cope with working life, even years later. So it should be taken seriously.
One of SYL’s suggestions has been increasing the number of months of eligibility for student financial aid. This would somewhat alleviate the pressure on students. Another idea would be increasing the study grant, which would reduce students’ financial worries and the need to work alongside their studies.
In terms of study planning, it is important to ensure that teaching staff have the necessary pedagogical skills and that staff numbers are high enough to ensure high-quality and well-organized teaching. This would make studying easier and smoother. Students’ workloads can also be reduced through guidance and higher education counselling, and by providing easily accessible student welfare services.
The main thing, however, is that we agree about the problem. Many students are struggling with their workload and cannot always decide how much there is to do.