Free for publication on 9 March 2021
The National Union of University Students in Finland demands the Government to invest in universities and students in the framework budget review. The deep gap in core funding for universities needs to be bridged. In addition, students’ poor social security and declining ability to cope require investments now. Let’s stop the ticking time bomb!
The Government will meet in April to review the framework of general government finances for 2022–2025. It is now time for the Government to live up to expectations of rectifying the education and student financial aid cuts made by the previous government. In the mid-term review, the Government will show how highly it values Finnish universities and university students.
The gap in core funding for universities needs to be remedied
One-off funding of EUR 6,000 per place accepted was allocated for the last year’s decision to increase starting places in 2020–2021. SYL is concerned about the quality of education, as an even larger number of students is educated with relatively less funding. We therefore call for the funding gap to be remedied, with EUR 10,000 allocated for each additional starting place. This requires an increase of at least EUR 100 million in the annual budget for universities in the long term.
“The historic education cuts made by the previous government have left a permanent funding gap in the activities of universities. Starting places cannot be increased sustainably without adequate resources. It is now time for Marin’s Government to rectify the situation”, President of SYL Annika Nevanpää says.
SYL’s repair kit for the quality of education:
- The annual budget for universities must be increased by at least EUR 100 million.
Investments in students’ well-being and social security
Students’ poor means of livelihood take resources away from studies, cause stress and may lead to studies being delayed or even interrupted. The current student financial aid conditions are strict, its level is low and duration short. Student financial aid must be strengthened in such a way that it better secures students’ livelihoods and full-time study, and reinforces the basic conditions for a good and balanced life. SYL demands that the conditions of student financial aid be curtailed or harmonised and that the study grant be increased to the level it was before the 2017 cuts, as four of the five parties sitting in Government promised before the parliamentary elections.
“The flexibility measures introduced for student financial aid and separate EUR 6 billion investment in projects to support the well-being and guidance of students during the coronavirus period have been very much needed and will help many in acute distress. However, if we genuinely want to support the long-term well-being and coping of students, student financial aid needs to be improved. It is now time for the student-friendly Government to live up to expectations and invest in students’ weak social security!”, Nevanpää points out.
SYL’s toolkit for the development of student financial aid:
- The study grant must be increased to 335 euros per month, i.e. to the level before the cuts made in 2017.
- The number of student financial aid support months must be increased to 55 and the division of support months into degree levels must be removed.
- The limit of 20 credits per academic year must be removed.
- Increasing the income limits for student financial aid by 50%.
Long-term support for mental health and coping
During the coronavirus period, several studies have shown that the mental well-being of students has collapsed. Even before the pandemic, the OECD estimated the total cost of mental disorders for Finland to be EUR 11 billion per year. One in three disability pensions is already granted on mental health grounds (Finnish Centre for Pensions 8 April 2020). SYL supports the therapy guarantee and the free provision of psychotherapist training.
“Unless significant efforts are now made to promote well-being, it is likely that the mental health challenges and illnesses that have emerged during the coronavirus period will become chronic. The mental health symptoms experienced by students have increased throughout the 2000s, and now is high time to do something about this situation that is completely unsustainable”, Nevanpää sums up.
SYL’s first aid kit to support mental health and coping:
- Allocating sufficient resources for the implementation of the immediate access to therapy.
- In the future, psychotherapy training should be organised as ‘special’ rather than ‘further’ training. Sufficient resources should be allocated to the reform.
- As a pandemic measure, access to rehabilitation psychotherapy supported by Kela (Social Insurance Institution of Finland) must be significantly but temporarily facilitated.
President of SYL Annika Nevanpää
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