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. First up is the National Coalition Party.
The National Coalition Party’s election manifesto contains much-needed initiatives, although many others that are important to students are either missing altogether or are lacking in ambition.
The therapy guarantee is welcome, but the party makes no real investments in student wellbeing
The therapy guarantee is a good initiative from the National Coalition Party. It has become an important theme for the party, and rightly so. The question is how to implement the therapy guarantee when there are not enough personnel available. Both the National Coalition Party’s party congress and the parliamentary group have voiced their support for free psychotherapy training. But in the National Coalition Party’s parliamentary election programme, this line is nowhere to be found. So us students want to know: what is the party’s line, really?
The programme certainly contains fine words about preventing problems with wellbeing, but not a word about students’ livelihoods. Do they not know that low income is closely linked to mental health problems? Compared to the rest of the population, students suffer significantly more from these problems. If the National Coalition Party wants to prevent health problems, we warmly recommend the inclusion of a hundred-euro increase in student grants.
Needed: a change from capitalisation to basic funding
On education policy, the National Coalition Party will stick to its goal of increasing the proportion of university graduates to 50%. Great! In its education policy programme, the party intends to increase the number of university places and to set up a permanent budget to fund them. Hopefully, this means full financial provision for the basic funding distributed through the funding model. Ensuring free education is also critical to achieving this goal, and this must be remembered by the National Coalition Party during the government negotiations after the elections.
The party also wants to increase the autonomy of universities by capitalising them. This would, of course, be a nice addition to the basic funding, but unless astronomical sums are spent, it will not ensure the continuity of the basic activities of universities or achieve the objective of raising educational standards. Otherwise put, the billion euros proposed by the National Coalition Party in its education policy programme is certainly not enough. Moreover, the revenue generated by capitalisation is not the reliable and stable funding that universities need.
We welcome the acceleration of international recruitment and the reduction of bureaucracy in the international recruitment chain. Access to employment is a key factor in the integration of international students and talent.
We also welcome the party’s promise of active and proactive action on European Union issues. European university alliances are also calling for Finland to play a more proactive role. We believe that Finland should advocate for the EU to direct a larger share of its budget and financial framework to education and scientific development. How would the National Coalition Party develop the European education area?
The party also wants to make education more international. In our view, abolishing tuition fees for students from non-EU and non-European Economic Area countries would be a good way to go about this!
Lack of concrete proposals for sustainable development
The party’s promises on sustainable development are welcome in themselves, but they are abstract and lack target dates. We would also like to see clearer provisions to combat biodiversity loss. What resources and priorities is the National Coalition Party committed to in development partnership and environmental policy? Finland has committed at both the United Nations and the EU level to increasing its development partnership budget to 0.7% of gross domestic product, and to halting biodiversity loss by 2030.
We welcome the party’s targets for cost-effective emission reductions – many emission reductions could be achieved more cost-effectively than at present if policymakers could reach consensus on policy guidance on issues such as food production.
What’s wrong with the party’s programme:
- Where is free education?
- How will the party prevent mental health crises without talking about the issue of students’ finances?
- Capitalisation will not solve the higher education funding gap.
What’s right with it:
- A step in the right direction with the therapy guarantee
- Permanent funding for new starting places in higher education
- Cutting red tape for international students and taking an active role in EU activities
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