Students’ mental wellbeing has collapsed, and more and more students get burned out before they even complete their studies. This dangerous development must be stopped as soon as possible. As the government is incapable of solving this untenable situation by increasing the students’ income, SYL is demanding that the perpetual right to study is restored to university students.
There have been various attempts to make students graduate faster, from structural reforms to cuts to student finance. Limiting study times has been seen as an efficient way for society to reduce the costs of education. The basic idea is that time spent studying is expensive for society, and by cutting down on study times it is possible to lengthen careers, which are currently deemed to start only after graduation. SYL feels that it is wrong to see studies as something that is separate from the rest of life and society. The division between studies and a career is artificial, and it is also the main reason that it is seen as problematic when study times are extended because of work.
The maximum study time was set at its current level during the Universities Act reform in 2005. Graduation times have been shortened since the reform, but at a cost. Because of the tight schedules fewer and fewer students take part in student exchanges, even though internationalisation is important for both the individual and Finland. The constant pressure to graduate as soon as possible reduces students’ willingness to seize opportunities which would increase their cultural capital.
In addition to lost opportunities, the short study times also cost students their health. Research has shown that students’ wellbeing and coping really is at stake. Because of an insufficient income, tens of thousands of students work during their studies. When a student’s proper working day is over, they then have to do a second day’s work to get a sufficient income. The pressure causes illness and burnout. The total costs of the degree restrictions are high when you include the effects on students’ health.
The “incentives” which have been built into the financial aid for students also demand almost superhuman performance from students. In reality they are more like extortion, as the financial aid stops if students do not achieve the required number of credits or graduate within the target time. This suggest a suspicious and cynical attitude towards students in society, as it is thought that the students’ only aim and purpose should be to graduate as quickly as possible. A student should not be a cog in a wheel, but a human being.
Students have received a lot of sympathy and encouragement recently, but the extortion related to graduation times and income continues. If the government is not prepared to improve the financial circumstances of students, then extending the study times is the only remaining option to reduce the plight of students. This is why SYL demands perpetual rights to study for university students.
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