The result of the government formation talks led by National Coalition Party leader Petteri Orpo, ‘A Strong and committed Finland’, was published on Friday 16 June 2023. The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) is concerned about the conditions for studying, which are further weakened by the measures in the government programme.
‘The building blocks of a good student life are an adequate income for a decent life, a peaceful pace of study and affordable housing. All of these are now being cut’, President of SYL, Lotta Leinonen commented.
SYL is particularly concerned about students’ livelihoods. SYL sees the drastic cuts to housing support as devastating, while at the same time construction subsidies for special need groups are being cut. In other words, income is being cut at the same time as rents for student accommodation are rising.
‘Students are the only group being forced to live in debt and the government’s footsteps do not seem to be leading the way out of this. The debt demon is dancing and the reed whistle is blowing’, Leinonen concludes.
However, SYL sees the plan to reform financial aid for students in the programme as an opportunity to bring students up to the level of adequate income. This should be done primarily as part of an overall reform of social security, as the governing parties themselves promised in a party survey conducted by students before the elections.
In contrast, election speeches about the importance of international students for Finland’s skills shortage received no response from the government programme. SYL is shocked by the increase in tuition fees for students from outside EU and EEA, which puts further pressure on the pace of studying.
‘The aim of the immigration policy in the government programme seems to be to make it more difficult for people to integrate and move to Finland. This will not solve the skills shortage and the major demographic challenges of the future, but will only worsen them’, Leinonen stresses.
Despite this, the government’s intention to provide permanent residency in Finland to those who have completed a higher education degree is commendable.
As regards education, the government commits to increasing the number of available student places in higher education institutions. However, the programme does not allocate additional funding to increase the number of student places, even though almost all government parties committed to increase the basic funding for higher education in a party survey of students. To achieve this goal, a permanent additional annual budget of around €190 million should be allocated to higher education.
‘The lack of adequate funding makes the education attainment goal unconvincing. Increasing the number of available student places without sufficient funding is already a burden on the university community’, Leinonen points out.
SYL commends the government for its plan to improve access to mental health care by making psychotherapist education partially free of charge. SYL sees free psychotherapy as one piece of the solution to the severe mental health crisis.
SYL followed the government negotiations in front of the House of Estates every day throughout the negotiations. SYL looks forward to working with the government.
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