SDP’s promises sound good but will they deliver?

Leading up to the parliamentary elections, the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) writes blogs about various parties’ election programmes, weighing the pros and cons from students’ viewpoint. The second in this series is the Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP).

SDP has highlighted education in a big way, but their plans regarding higher education and higher education students are rather feeble in the current situation.

SDP’s proposal for improving student livelihood misses the mark

SDP has expressed in its election programme that it is hoping to improve students’ livelihood and reduce the emphasis on loans as part of student financial aid. Great! Currently some 75 per cent of students must take out a student loan to cover their daily expenses. The party wants student benefits to be included in the social security reform. Their plans point in the right direction, but nevertheless fall short of the ideal. SDP does not propose concrete methods to ensure sufficient livelihood for students in the future. We also fail to understand why SDP wants to reduce the amount of loans in the financial package, while we could do away with student loans altogether. In SYL’s parliamentary election campaign, we demand an increase of 100 euros in student financial aid to enable students to focus on their studies and cope with inflation.

How committed is SDP to raising the education level?

SDP has been boldly calling for raising Finland’s level of higher education to 60 per cent in the 2030s. It’s a beautiful thought, but quite lacking in concrete steps. The Ministry of Education and Culture is aiming for 50 per cent of the young age group to be in higher education by 2035. This target requires an annual investment of EUR 177–190 million in the basic funding of higher education. We would love to see this become reality, but how serious is SDP about prioritising this ambitious plan?

There is not a single mention of free education in the election programme. For a long time, SDP has been marketing itself as a champion of education, highlighting this in their Suomi koulutuksen kärkimaaksi campaign to make Finland a top education country. SDP’s plans for higher education are, nevertheless, rather slim, and free education is conspicuous by its absence. Free education has been under heated debate recently – which is why SDP should be vocal about it if it wishes to be seen as a champion of education.

More international students to Finland!

SDP gets points for its international student policy. Their election programme displays a clear desire to increase the number of international students and improve their employment prospects in Finland. SDP’s solution is to increase co-operation between higher education and companies and to prevent all manner of discrimination in the working life. We, too, want to make Finland a more attractive country to study and work in. How is SDP planning to attract enough students and experts into Finland?

What are SDP’s priorities?

In early 2023, Sanna Marin said that SDP will not work together with the Finns Party in the same government owing to the parties’ differences in basic values. However, we do expect the social democrats to express their policies regarding higher education students. Will the social democrats enter government if cuts are made in education or student livelihood?


  • Where is free education?
  • SDP offers only words and nothing concrete to improve students’ livelihood
  • You promise to raising the education level but offer no means to higher education


  • Improving international students’ employment prospects
  • An ambitious goal of increasing the higher education level
  • Reducing the proportion of loan in student financial aid is a step in the right direction

Further information:

Lotta Leinonen
044 906 5004

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