Opportunities for higher education have been weakening in Finland for years. Tighter terms for granting benefits to students has made it more difficult to guarantee a sufficient livelihood, and funding for education has also been reduced. The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) calls for fairness between generations in higher education.
Future generations will face major social challenges, such as dealing with the climate crisis and solving problems stemming from the dependency ratio. It is important to ensure that future generation has the educational expertise and mental capacity to rise up to such challenges. Finland needs more experts, and raising the education level is vital for the country’s future. Therefore more investments are needed.
A variety of decisions have made life difficult not only for the students but also for the higher education institutions. Index increases for higher education funding have been frozen, which has created a chronic financing gap. This can be seen in the quality of support and counselling services to students. More starting places are offered but with insufficient and project-like funding, which is not structurally sustainable. Decisions on higher education policy have emphasised efficiency at the expense of a broad education, and various fees have been introduced to make studying more difficult.
‘Decision-makers seem to be committed to raising the level of education in principle only, without being prepared to make the necessary investments. They also fail to see the connection between income and results. If this continues, we will soon have a generation going into the labour market without the necessary knowledge and skills’, says Akseli Tiitta, SYL’s recently elected President.
Education policy goals must be supported by social policy action. As a result of a lower income, students are forced to spend less time studying and more working. Followed by the cuts in student financial aid in 2017, the weekly time spent studying has decreased by 6.1 hours, while time spent working has increased by 2.8 hours, according to the Eurostudent survey. Viewed in the long term, index increases that should have been made since 1992 have brought down student financial aid by 163 euros.
In order to increase Finland’s educational level, students need support instead of a heavier loan burden. Soon students will have more debt than during the casino economy days in the 1980s. In our current situation, both students and higher education itself need support. Freezing the index increase of student financial aid is effectively taking away yet some more from the little that students have.
‘We students understand our responsibility for our planet and home country. In order to carry our responsibility for them, we need a proper education and a sound mind. We demand that the funding of education be increased to a level that will support and ensure a sustainable future for us all’, concludes Tiitta.
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