The General Assembly of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) 2017: The vision for higher education to be implemented in an encouraging way, taking the long-term view


General Assembly Statement

The General Assembly of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) considers the goals
of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s vision for higher education to be good in the main. However, the Assembly demands that the target is primarily achieved by incentive measures and that in future years, education must be properly invested in.

“A roadmap to enable the implementation of the vision must be developed using sustainable tools in cooperation with the entire higher education field. A thorough impact assessment and community commitment to change is a prerequisite for delivering a common vision,” reminds Riina Lumme, President of the Union.

The Ministry of Education and Culture has appointed a parliamentary follow-up group to monitor the vision work. The follow-up group will be heard in the preparation and should not be bypassed in the vision’s continuation work when created a common vision for the higher education in Finland. For a sustainable and forward-looking university policy, it is important that the follow-up group be taken seriously and kept up-to-date so that vision work binds all parliamentary parties. The ministry must understand that with urgent preparation, one can not sustain sustainable development.

The General Assembly urges that universities should be left to get on with the work of bringing the ongoing reforms to completion. The agreed measures and changes should be given sufficient time and trustworthy measurement to be adopted by the higher education field. Further cuts and rushed preparation are no longer acceptable.

Student-centeredness is an important part of the vision. If new skills are to be sought in Finland, students should be given the opportunity to flexibly assemble their degrees from different courses. As first step towards increasing flexibility, SYL proposes a national platform model where students from participating universities can freely choose courses from other universities. In the long run, the open platform should also be available for the needs of continuing education and higher education experiments.

However, having a high-quality, flexible education is not enough if graduates end up worn out and over-burdened. If future generations are to be better educated, resources need to be allocated to the development of education, pedagogy and student support services. A good study ability leads to a good working ability and a productive workforce. One of the goals of the vision for higher education is to reduce the number of universities and increase the efficiency of resources. However, the structural debate should be based on the competence needs in working life rather than the number of universities, and to consider accessibility.

The SYL General Assembly does not consider mergers between universities and universities of applied sciences as a single legal entity to be the right way. “The different profiles and tasks of universities and universities of applied science need to be upheld. Higher education must be free of charge and accessible to all, so that we can maximise the full potential of the young generation,” outlines the newly elected 2018 President, Miika Tiainen.

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