SYL is the voice of Finnish university students – also in the EU

Did you know that SYL was originally founded exclusively with international activity in mind? SYL´s role as a national advocate for university students is clear to many, but not everyone knows that SYL also does advocacy work within the European Union, both directly on its own and indirectly through its European umbrella organisation European Students’ Union.

On 14‒16 October, SYL, its sister organisation SAMOK, and a few student union representatives took a trip to Brussels to be guests of the European Commission and to meet Finnish EU influencers. We got to know the education policy work of the EU, discussed current topics and explained the viewpoints of Finnish university students to members of the European Parliament. 

Many participants undoubtedly found the trip eye-opening. The Commission officials talked about matters concerning students, such as EU´s funding of research and mobility and EU climate policy, and so brought new expert viewpoints to the student movement’s attention. The Commission also wanted to remind us that they have a lot of prestigious internships for higher education students. The positions are filled each spring and autumn. If you are interested in EU affairs, the internships are an excellent opportunity to increase your competency!

Although EU cannot directly affect the education policy of its member states through its directives, it nonetheless has a significant impact on the daily dealings of universities and students. For example, EU is funding student mobility through the Erasmus+ program. SYL´s aim has been that the funding of the Erasmus+ program will be tripled under the next Commission and that the money will be allocated for its actual purpose: student mobility. The Commission has already recommended tripling the funding, and it is up to the member states now. 

The European Education Area (EEA) and the European network of universities are measures that help build wide-ranging education cooperation in Europe. These projects will bring about significant reforms, as they aim to improve student mobility and recognition of completed studies. The structural development of European universities on such a large scale breaks new ground, which is why it is important that the student perspective is taken into account in all development work.

The EU education policy, along with its Erasmus+ funds and university networks, is constantly presenting SYL with new possibilities for advocacy work. SYL needs to be advocating on behalf of its members also in Brussels, in order to prevent these issues from rolling up in national education policy without warning and with no input from students. 

SYL´s goal concerning EU education policy is clear, and ultimately exactly the same as on the national level the voice of the students needs to be heard every time matters relating to students are decided on.

Heidi Rättyä

Member of the board

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