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. Next on our list is the Christian Democrats (kristillisdemokraatit, KD).
The Christian Democrats’ election manifesto leaves us wondering whether improving the position of university students or the state of education in Finland is a priority for them at all.
Income for students with children before all others
Judging from the party’s election manifesto, KD’s ambitions to improve students’ incomes are meagre. It only mentions student financial aid twice, and only in the context of students with children. KD wants to raise the annual student financial aid limits for these students. However, it should be remembered that raising the annual income thresholds does not come free for the state – it could cost up to €260 million annually.
According to the 2019 Eurostudent survey, 55 per cent of students with children support their family with student loans, as student financial aid and the general housing allowance are insufficient. KD’s proposal to raise the annual student financial aid limits for student grants is a labour policy goal, and would not actually improve the tough financial situation that students with children are in.
Cutting the housing allowance for students is a rotten idea
KD’s election manifesto also deserves criticism for the proposal to move students back to a separate housing allowance. We interpret this proposal as referring to the former housing supplement connected to student financial aid. The financial plight of students will not be helped by KD’s policy of major cuts. At worst, KD’s proposed transfer would result in a cut of €264 per month for students living alone. KD’s proposed cuts to the housing allowance would be devastating for students with children and other students on a low income.
SYL’s view is that our proposal to increase student financial aid by €100 and keep students within the scope of the general housing allowance would also best address KD’s concerns.
The will to solve the mental health crisis
In their election manifesto, the Christian Democrats are emphatic about their concerns for young people’s mental health. KD wants to facilitate access to mental health services that are less intensive than psychotherapy, such as brief therapy periods. In addition, the party wants to introduce a guarantee for access to therapy for all age groups. The purpose of this guarantee would be to ensure that patients can start psychotherapy treatment within four weeks of applying. A particularly welcome reform for tackling the mental health crisis would be to make psychotherapist training free of charge. KD also advocates this initiative.
Quality education and internationalisation
The party deserves praise for wanting to increase the number of starting places in higher education for sectors where there is a labour shortage, such as social and health services and early childhood education. KD also wants to focus on the quality of education and its accessibility – great! However, as SYL sees it, these aims could only be achieved if the additional study places are fully covered by the basic funding allocated through the funding model. Without adequate basic funding, addressing the skills shortage will not be possible.
KD also wants to promote internationalisation by increasing the number of English-language education programmes and streamlining the recognition of qualifications obtained abroad. That’s a great idea, too! By contrast, the Christian Democrats deserve criticism for their proposal that international students graduating in Finland be granted an automatic work permit. The idea is a step in the right direction, certainly, but students would be granted a work permit only if they have secured a job. Of students from other European Union countries and from European Economic Area countries graduating in Finland, 36 per cent find employment in Finland within one year after graduation. The corresponding figure for other international students is 50 per cent. To encourage international students to stay in Finland after graduation, they must be granted a residence permit.
- Graduating international students would only be granted a work permit
- Destroying the student housing support system
- Students’ income virtually forgotten about
- Training for psychotherapists to be free of charge
- More internationalism!
- More starting places for study in sectors hit by labour shortages
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