The negotiations at Säätytalo are streching overtime. But don’t worry! We’ll help!

Read HYY’s answers to the questions of Antti Rinne, the leader of the preliminary discussions on formingthe government.

We are participating in the student movement’s tradition of following the government negotiations:äivystys.

1. A carbon-neutral Finland that protects biodiversity

a. Are you committed to the goal of stopping global warming to 1.5 degrees? Are you committed to having Finland be carbon neutral by 2035 and become carbon negative rapidly afterwards?
b. What kind of measures do you think the mitigation of climate change requires on different sectors of society?
c. What measures do you consider central in protecting and improving biodiversity?

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our era. We should also remember that it is, first and foremost, a generational issue and, as such, one of HYY’s three main themes in the parliamentary elections. If global warming cannot be stopped in time, students will not have a future world for which all other political decisions are made.

HYY is committed to stopping global warming to 1.5 degrees. HYY ambitiously wants Finland to already achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and become carbon negative afterwards. HYY points out that these goals require structural political decisions: the tax and aid systems of our society must swiftly be changed for them to protect the environment, Finland must advocate for ambitious climate policy in the European Union, and climate and environmental education must be established as part of the curricula at all levels of education. HYY is committed to the UN’s Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which also include themes related to climate and biodiversity.

2. Finland is larger than its size in the world

a. How should the European Union be developed? What are the central goals for Finland’s EU Presidency?
b. Do you accept the goal of increasing Finland’s development cooperation appropriations to 0.7 per cent of gross national income? In what time frame do you consider it possible to achieve this?

HYY, together with SYL, wants to ensure that the voice of students and young people is heard in the European Union’s decisions. For instance, the presence of students in the decision-making process must be ensured in the planning of the European Education Area (EEA). The current methods of hearing young people (such as the EU Youth Dialogue) must also be linked as parts of political processes.

Besides the participation of young people, one of the most important issues to develop in the EU is the appreciation of education in Europe. To improve this, the student movement demands the creation of a position for an education, research and innovation commissioner. Internationality and mobility must be genuinely accessible parts of educational paths all over Europe. To ensure this, funding for Erasmus, Europe’s programme for education, must be tripled, and each EU country must commit themselves to investing at least 2 per cent of their GDP in higher education. In its future multiannual financial frameworks, the EU must invest more in research, education and lifelong learning.

HYY demands that Finland uses at least 0.7% of its GDP in development cooperation as per the UN’s recommendations. As a pioneer, HYY is already using a corresponding share of its annual budget for the same purpose.

3. A safe Finland governed by the rule of law

a. Describe your views on Finland as governed by the rule of law and state your methods for strengthening this. How would you promote the realisation of human rights in Finland? What measures are you ready to take in order to develop the status of national languages in Finland?

The most acute human rights issue in Finland is the Trans Act, which is a violation of human dignity. HYY demands that a comprehensive reform of the Trans Act is made immediately and that the new Trans Act must be in accordance with Trasek’s recommendations. In addition to this, Finland must legally recognise a third gender, and personal identity codes must be made gender neutral.

In addition to the Trans Act, HYY advocates for lowering the age limit for sterilisation and for its free availability for those over 25 years of age, for making military service gender neutral, for abandoning prison sentences for total objectors, for making non-military service the same length as military service, for free contraception for everyone under the age of 25 and for having an individual’s personal choice be sufficient grounds for the termination of pregnancy.

The household-based nature of general housing allowance must be abandoned, as people living together have no legal obligation to provide maintenance for each other without the existence of a marriage. In addition to this, applicants are in unequal positions compared to each other with regard to the decisions they have received due to the insufficient instructions Kela has been given.

The policy decision that students are not entitled to summertime social assistance without taking out their student loan is contrary to people’s sense of justice. Students are the only group of people in Finland that is forced to get into debt for their basic subsistence. Loans are not a part of social security.

4. A dynamic Finland

a. Do you believe that Finland can build itself new, sustainable and export-oriented growth through the solutions to climate change and other megatrends? Do you think it is necessary to create a shared strategy for Finland to secure a strengthening vitality and economic growth based on sustainable development? What would be the key points of such a strategy?
b. What kind of measures should be used to develop the metropolitan area, growing urban areas, regional centres and rural areas?
c. How would you ensure the maintenance and development of Finland’s traffic infrastructure? What is your model for developing its funding?

HYY believes that the long-term solutions to both climate change mitigation and employment are born out of investing in education and research. When discussing climate change, however, we should remember that this alone is not enough – we also need quicker solutions. The mitigation of climate change must not be overshadowed by economic interests.

The importance, growth and unique needs of the metropolitan areas must be identified and acknowledged. HYY’s students are especially affected by the housing problem of the Capital Region. HYY, together with the World Student Capital association, conducts active advocacy work towards the cities of the Capital Region in order to increase housing production. As for the state, HYY demands that it takes bold measures to make the prices of rental apartments reasonable all around the country. Increasing housing production must be made easier by concrete decisions such as abandoning the construction norm for civil defence shelters.

Finland must commit itself to the maintenance and development of public transport infrastructure. HYY especially wishes to see investments in climate-friendly rail transport both between and within cities. In the Capital Region, it is particularly important to develop cross-city light rail transit that would link campuses together. Public transport must be accessible both physically and economically for it to act as an attractive alternative to private cars.

5. A Finland of trust and an equal labour market

a. How would you reform family leaves?
b. What are the central measures you would take to achieve pay equality between women and men?

HYY demands that family leaves are reformed according to the so-called ‘6+6+6’ model, so that the leaves would be more evenly distributed between the parents.

Gender segregation in education in Finland, starting with educational background, is among the highest in Europe. Together with the student movement, HYY demands that the state creates a separate programme on equality in education to promote the accessibility of higher education and that this programme takes the gender perspective into account.

7. A just, equal and participatory Finland

HYY’s answers on developing subsistence and reducing inequality are included in our answers to other questions.

8. A Finland of competence, education and innovations

a. Do you acknowledge that investments must be made in education, research, innovations and infrastructure in order to strengthen the foundation of sustainable economic growth? Describe your measures in concrete terms.
b. Do you acknowledge the need for each entire age group to complete an upper secondary level degree at a minimum? Describe the measures you would take to achieve this.
c. How would you ensure that everyone continues to learn and develop their skills throughout their career?
d. How would you promote the status of culture in Finland?

HYY believes that investing in education and research is key not only to Finland’s economic success but also to saving the world. Higher education institutions do valuable work that will help us find the solutions to challenges that concern the entire humankind, such as climate change.

The new government must take measures to ensure that higher education institutions are able to conduct high-quality research and educational work. To do this, the higher education institutions need resources. HYY demands that the university index is in effect for the entire government term. In addition to implementing the university index, resources must be allocated to higher education institutions by increasing their basic public funding.

Besides financial investments, attention must be paid to the way in which the resources are distributed to the higher education institutions. The funding model must be modified in such a way that ensures higher education communities are able to work in peace. The role of performance management – large by international standards – must be reduced, and researchers must be allowed to focus on their research instead of making funding applications. We must remember that research and educational work are long-term activities where easy wins are not available.

HYY thinks that the government must not only make the necessary financial investments in higher education institutions but also promote the accessibility of education. A programme on equality in education must be created to promote the accessibility of higher education.

The best way to promote accessibility is to have free education. HYY demands that higher education that leads to a degree is kept free and that the tuition fees for students from outside the EU and EEA countries are removed. Free education is also the best solution for having the entire age group complete at least an upper secondary level degree. Having free secondary-level studies also guarantees that everyone has equal opportunities to undertake further studies.

Accessibility is an important perspective on lifelong learning, as well. Learning new things and developing one’s skills must be possible for absolutely everyone. For this reason, the financial responsibility for continuous learning must not be placed on the individual. Sufficient resources for higher education institutions make it possible for them to offer accessible education, such as open university studies, for as many as possible.

The student movement has a unique status in Finnish culture. HYY holds both student and other culture in high esteem. The state must ensure that different forms of culture, such as art museums, music events and theatre, are accessible to students from a financial viewpoint, too. Young people must be acknowledged as both consumers and producers of culture.

9. Comprehensive reform of the social security system

The comprehensive reform of the social security system will take several election terms. Are you willing to combine different benefits and accept a unified level for benefits awarded on different grounds in such a way that the reform would increase employment, raise the level of education, reduce poverty and inequality, and improve participation?

The social security system must be extensively reformed for it to reflect the changed operating environment of our society. HYY’s view is that the best way to reform social security is to have a gratuitous basic income that is paid every month to all individuals of age who are covered by Finnish social security. The basic amount of basic income must ensure sufficient basic security. In addition to the basic amount, additional means-tested aid may also be granted.

Everyone, especially young people, must have the opportunity to try and sometimes fail, to experiment and to seek their own career path. Basic income creates the security that makes it possible for people to study, act as an entrepreneur, employ themselves, and accept short and occasional work. Failures and setbacks should not be punishable – instead, people facing them should be offered support.

At the legislative stage, an extensive evaluation of generational impact must be made. The status and agency of young people in society must be strengthened, and the trend of increasing inequality must be stopped.

The basic income experiment carried out in 2017–2018 must be continued and expanded to cover a larger group, for instance, students. The tentative results of the experiment already tell us that the recipients of basic income considered that their wellbeing had improved and trust increased. Basic income did not make people passive, nor did it reduce their willingness to participate in the measures of the labour administration. These results are encouraging and give reason to continue the experiment.

In the long term, Finland should entirely move to basic income, but as an immediate measure to improve the subsistence of students, an increase of one hundred euros per month must be made to the study grant. General housing allowance must be made personal so that the income of one’s partner does not affect the amount of allowance.

10. State your starting point for reforming social welfare and healthcare.

As a whole, HYY is satisfied with the fact that the new act on higher education students’ health care put an end to the uncertainty over the FSHS’s future. We also gladly welcome the fulfilment of the student movement’s long-standing goal, equal healthcare. Now that the structures are in working order, it is time to develop the content. Mental health services, for instance, are in need of improvements, and the role of psychotherapy in the FSHS’s services must be clarified.

Due to the social and healthcare reform, the FSHS’s services and the social work and health services organised by municipalities and counties will also have to be reconciled. In this way, no student would fall through the net simply because student healthcare does not provide social services. In addition to this, sufficiently wide-ranging services in fields not covered by the FSHS must also be guaranteed for students. Investments must be made in the services of gynaecologists and dermatologists in particular, as they will no longer be included among the services offered by the FSHS. In health policy, HYY is particularly worried about the mental health of students and the resources for mental health services.

More information:
Anna Lemström

1. Euro elections are the second-largest elections in the world – there are as many as 400 million people eligible to vote!1
2. Voter turnout in Finland has traditionally been low (39% in the last Euro elections2) – this makes single votes more important!
3. The decisions made by the European Parliament have a direct effect on your everyday life.3
4. Finland’s EU Presidency begins at the beginning of July. This means that these are exciting times for our country too!
5. The following years are crucial in stopping climate change, and the decisions made by the European Parliament may have more impact than decisions made at the national level.4

Why would you not vote? Voting in the Euro elections is a chance to practice democracy and influence decision-making at an international level. In addition to this, it is just as easy as in any other elections!





More EU!


It is time to vote again soon! This time, we will turn our eyes on Europe. Who will be representing us at the European Parliament for the next five years?

Voter turnout at the European Parliament elections has not traditionally been very flattering. This spring, there is also the risk of an election overdose: after months of buzz surrounding the parliamentary elections, there might not be enough energy for the Euro elections. Furthermore, both the parties and the media have focused their resources primarily on the parliamentary elections. However, a lot is happening this year at the EU level too. Finland’s EU Presidency begins in July, and we have a chance to focus attention on important issues, such as education and the status of science, due to the new European Parliament having just been elected.

The student movement[1] is advocating for the accessibility of education in the Euro elections. We believe that education should be accessible to everyone regardless of socioeconomic background or wealth. Mobility related to studying, working and travel must be made easier within the EU. The EU must guarantee a civil society where young people and underrepresented groups have a genuine possibility to influence matters, from the local level up to the level of the Union itself. Representational democracy must be given a more central position in the EU’s political activities. The European Parliament is the Union’s only directly elected institution – its power in the EU’s decision-making processes must be increased.
The Euro elections should interest all of us – after all, many decisions on issues that concern Finland are made at the EU level. However, voter turnout among young people in the previous Euro elections in Finland was a measly ten per cent: a total of 90% of those aged 18 to 24 did not even vote for Donald Duck in the elections.[2] By contrast, 66% of young people in Sweden voted in the 2014 elections[3]. Why is it, then, that we young people in Finland do not vote?

It is not a question of us not feeling at home in the EU. In fact, according to a report by Eurooppanuoret[4], 81% of young people in Finland consider our membership in the EU a positive state of affairs. Young people identify as European, and no wonder. Our generation has grown into an ever-internationalising world in which geographical distances have lost their importance due to the internet’s development.
In order to vote, however, young people require information. The media should report more on the European Parliament, do it more regularly and take positive developments into account, too. Currently, news on the Parliament’s activities often focus on negative issues only – in other words, on bans set by the EU. News should also be more reactive and topical – reporting on issues that have already been practically decided is not enough.

The Euro elections and influencing opportunities in the EU deserve more news coverage, too. If young people believe that their votes are meaningless and their opportunities to influence matters non-existent, it is no wonder that they cannot be seen at the polling stations. Public discussion should highlight the things that the EU has to offer to young people. Do young people know what kind of opportunities the Erasmus programme offers, for instance?
In light of the above, I am challenging you to write and talk about the EU and the Euro elections. Discuss the things that the EU offers, how the EU’s decisions affect Finland and how young people in Finland can influence matters. Let us make sure that young people know that voting in these elections also matters!

Linda-Liisa Kelokari
Member of HYY’s Board


You’ll never find your way to the dance floor
if the soles of your feet aren’t tender enough
to allow you to walk without a care
past the serpent without frightening it
over the roots of mountain pine
without harming them

- Pentti Saarikoski (translated by Anselm Hollo)

We live in a time when young people are experiencing climate anxiety, a well-founded fear for the earth. Politics has focused more on the national economy and increasing debt while disregarding the actual debt that will be left for future generations for too long. Climate change has been swept under the carpet; climate change has been ‘it which must not be named’, to reference a popular fantasy series for young adults.

Young people are not about to let the biggest problem humankind is facing go past them. Climate strikes and marches have been organised on a global scale – we want the change to happen now. A national students’ climate strike will also be organised in Finland on 5 April and a climate march on 6 April . Students participating in these events have an enormous opportunity to influence matters. Small streams of influencing grow into rivers, but we need an ocean. We need courageous and radical policies.

Eight parliamentary parties have reached some sort of a consensus on the importance of climate policy. Unfortunately, the goals are in no way sufficient. During the last governmental term, increases in forest cutting that would considerably reduce carbon sinks should they be realised were advocated for, for instance. Finland should already be carbon neutral by 2030, and to achieve this, we must not only reduce forest cutting but also make significant changes in energy production as well as the tax and aid systems of our society. Awareness of the importance of the theme must be increased by including environmental education in the curricula on different levels of education.

Impactful climate policy must not remain within Finland’s borders. Finland must do everything it can during its upcoming EU Presidency to prevent the climate from warming more than 1.5 degrees. Beating climate change requires all of Europe to join a united front.

Currently, we are naïvely looking down a cliff. Now is the time to make decisions that have previously been avoided and evaded. If we do not act now, we have already given up. Future generations also have the right to find their way to the dance floor, without harming the roots of mountain pine.

For this reason, we demand!

- Finland to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
- The tax and aid systems of our society must quickly be changed to become environmentally sound.
- More ambitious climate policy in the European Union.
- Establishing climate and environmental education as part of the curricula on all levels of education.

Aleksi Rytkönen

The parliamentary elections are held on Sunday 14 April. HYY has two main election themes related to higher education policy: resources for universities must be secured by increasing their basic public funding and higher education must be free for absolutely everyone.

Working for free higher education is an eternal battle for the student movement. Unfortunately, higher education has been subject to a fee for students coming from outside the EU and EEA countries in all higher education institutions in Finland since 2017. The reform has been a failure from the perspectives of both the higher education institutions and the students. The tuition fees have not provided the higher education institutions with much of an income, but they have caused some costs.*

For many students coming from outside the EU and EEA countries, the tuition fees have created a significant challenge for studying in Finland.** No wonder – not many skilled and talented people born in Finland have an extra 15,000 euros lying around for a tuition fee either. Apparently, the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy Etla, which suggested fees for all students, and Universities Finland UNIFI, which proposed fees for second higher education degrees (both proposals in Finnish), do not understand this. Studies show that even a small tuition fee decreases the entrance to higher education studies of those with limited means. Free education is thus the best guarantee for the accessibility of education. HYY demands that higher education is kept free and that the tuition fees for students coming from outside the EU and EEA countries are removed.

In addition to promoting the accessibility of education, the Student Union urges the future government to implement the university index on a permanent basis and to make a significant increase in the level of basic public funding for universities. This is important because we students are not separate from the rest of the university community. Our wellbeing and the smooth flow of our studies are largely dependent on how the University is doing as a whole. Many of the everyday challenges of students – the backlogged Student Services, for instance – are caused by the universities simply not having enough resources for running their operations. Now is the time to change course and elect decision-makers who are ready to invest in higher education and research into the parliament. The importance of higher education and research for our wellbeing and the future of the earth is simply irreplaceable.

HYY is participating in the #researchmatters (#siksitiede) campaign. It is the entire Finnish university sector’s parliamentary election campaign for investments in research and education launched by the University of Helsinki. You can check out the campaign here. We recommend joining the campaign to influence matters and try to achieve a more university-friendly Finland. Good ways to take part have been listed in Flamma – just choose your own, and remember to vote. Let us make the change together!

We demand the following:

- Basic public funding for universities must be increased.
- The university index must be implemented on a permanent basis.
- Education leading to a degree must remain free for everyone.
- A programme of educational equality must be drafted to promote accessibility in higher education.

Paula Karhunen

The writer is a member of HYY’s Board in 2019 and one of the three persons in charge of educational policy on the Board.

* We discussed the problems of tuition fees for students coming from outside the EU and EEA countries in an opinion piece (in Finnish) in Helsingin Sanomat in January.

** We collected thoughts from international students on tuition fees and studying in Finland in autumn 2018. You can read them here.

This text is a part of a blog series in which members of the Student Union’s Board discuss their thoughts on HYY’s three main advocacy themes for the parliamentary elections.

Justifiable poverty? 

Poor income levels during studies are perfectly understandable, are they not? After all, it will all be compensated later, when the higher education graduate is racking up millions to their bank account. Besides, young people must grow up and learn to survive in our cold, hard world.

It is a regrettably widespread belief that poverty during higher education is justifiable. However, this thought process is rarely taken to its conclusion. Future millions offer no comfort to a student who cannot buy the medication they need due to a lack of money. And when your bills go into debt collection, talk of ‘an investment in your future’ sounds like you are being mocked. The standard of living and quality of housing in Finland have generally speaking increased in recent decades, but students have been left behind. Students have been the biggest losers of this decade’s economic policy. At the same time, people who are now thirty will earn less than the previous generations, and higher education no longer guarantees a permanent job.

Students are the only group of people forced to get into debt for their basic subsistence. In practice, students are not entitled to social assistance – the last-resort financial assistance guaranteed by the Constitution of Finland – without first having taken out the full amount of student loan. In fact, even if the student decides to buy the medication they need, they are likely to be paying for it with borrowed money. Students are currently getting into debt at a record rate, and an increasing number of students can look forward to being 30,000 euros in debt at graduation.

It is unsustainable to believe that being a student makes suffering in poverty justifiable. Studies have proved that financial difficulties affect both physical and mental health. 70% of our students report that financial difficulties also affect study progress: working – which most only do to secure their basic subsistence – slows down study progress. There is a young generation studying in our higher education institutions that will be exhausted, disillusioned and in debt when they graduate and enter working life. Is this truly the recipe for making Finland a global pioneer?

Demanding better together

Student circles often share an annoyance towards the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Kela. Trying to calculate the permitted amount of earned income with Kela’s calculators, sending explanations on study progress and figuring out whether you are now entitled to social assistance can make even the hardiest navigators of the bureaucracy maze frustrated. Even though Kela could also improve in many ways, the majority of complaints should be addressed to Arkadianmäki. Decisions on the major policies concerning the actual foundation of students’ subsistence are made in the Finnish Parliament – not in Kela. And these policies have not been painting a pretty picture for students lately – around half of the students of the University of Helsinki live under the poverty line because of them.

In the 2019 election spring, HYY and the entire student movement are demanding better together. With the reform of social security being among the major goals of nearly all parties, the time is ripe for a discussion on the status of students’ subsistence. Finland’s social security system was created during a very different time. There is a pressing need for a comprehensive reform, and students are at the forefront loudly demanding it. We need a reform of social security, and we need students to be included in it. In the long term, only a gratuitous basic income can genuinely answer the needs of citizens in today’s world – with studying, working life, entrepreneurship and light entrepreneurship, parental leaves, sick leaves and numerous other situations in life blending together, and the need for a stable, secure foundation of subsistence increasing.

But as the latest mess with the social and healthcare reform has proved, large changes do not happen quickly. Students, however, cannot afford to wait. Each day we wait translates into fewer euros in students’ wallets. For this reason, our short-term goal – with ‘short term’ here being equal to ‘at this very instant’ – is to increase the level of the study grant by one hundred euros per month. In the end, this would only be a moderate increase to the study grant compared to its level before the cuts of 2017. The general price level is increasing, not to mention the level of rent. Would it not be reasonable to include the study grant in this trend.

At the same time, we wish to remind everyone that general housing allowance, which now covers students, too, is a household-based benefit – which is contrary to everyone’s sense of justice. The housing allowance must be updated to the 2000s: we must acknowledge the fact that roomies do not add their incomes into some big collective pot. The new parliament must finally make general housing allowance personal.

Stable and sufficient subsistence provides students with a foundation on which they can build their life. It is the most important thing society can offer the future experts of Finland.

→ General housing allowance must be made individual-based so that the income of the people you live with does not affect the amount of allowance.

→ The study grant must be increased by 100 euros per month.

→ Students must be involved in the comprehensive reform of social security.

→ The best way to reform the social security system is to move to gratuitous basic income.

Anna Lemström
Member of the Board in charge of subsistence issues

Read more about the subsistence situation of the students of the University of Helsinki and the Aalto University here.

Once upon a time, there was a group of enthusiastic but slightly uncertain students. Their task was to promote their fellow students’ health in cooperation with student health care. However, they did not have other information than their own experiences on how their fellow students were doing and what health-related challenges they faced. This made it difficult to get a proper grasp of the task, which frustrated them a bit.

The frustration grew into a desire to investigate how their fellow students were really doing. In autumn 2018, HYY organised a workshop for the student representatives of the FSHS’s health expert groups recruited and supported in their task by HYY. The product of the workshop’s cooperative work was the wellbeing survey. The purpose of the survey is to answer the question: how are the students of the University of Helsinki doing?

The Finnish Student Health Survey tells us that as many as 30 per cent of higher education students report having psychological difficulties. According to researchers Juhani Saari and Tiia Villa, students’ problems with subsistence becoming chronic, loneliness and lack of discussion support from loved ones explain the increase in the occurrence of psychological symptoms when compared to the early 2000s. The University is more powerless in the face of subsistence problems than in the fight against loneliness. Do the students of the University of Helsinki feel like they belong in some group?

At the university level, the results of the wellbeing survey can be utilised in the preparation of decisions that concern the entire University. This is especially important right now, as the new funding model for universities, which will take effect in 2021, will direct universities to make as many students as possible graduate in target time. Healthy students are also able to study smoothly.

At the faculty level, the results can be analysed both independently and in relation to other faculties’ average results. In which issues should your faculty improve and in which can it share its knowledge to others? By taking action against any weaknesses that are discovered, by deciding how to improve the situation and by investing in the chosen methods in a systematic and goal-oriented fashion we can improve students’ wellbeing while promoting the University’s goals.

For all of this to be possible, HYY’s wellbeing survey needs a convincing number of respondents. Thank you to everyone who has already completed the survey! If you have not responded to it yet, please do it as soon as possible. In addition to helping HYY and the student representatives of the health expert groups to conduct more impactful advocacy work for yourself and your fellow students, you can also participate in a raffle for wellbeing-themed product prizes after completing the survey!

Now, during March, HYY is once again looking for new student representatives for the health expert groups. This time, they will not have to depend on their own and their friends’ impressions, as they will get to use the data provided by HYY’s wellbeing survey on the students of their own faculty. Hopefully, they will be just as enthusiastic as their predecessors – but with added certainty thanks to the data.

Complete HYY’s wellbeing survey here (survey closes on 31 March):

Apply to become a student representative of a health expert group (application period ends on 24 March):

Sofia Lindqvist
HYY’s specialist (housing, health, city)

The implementation plan of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s Vision 2030 road map was published at the end of January. It is good to see that the intention to develop the wellbeing of the staff of higher education institutions is included in it: one of the road map’s development programmes aims at making higher education institutions the best workplaces in Finland.

In addition to personnel, attention should be paid to students’ wellbeing. We live among the conflicting pressures of several factors: besides completing studies, we should be securing our subsistence, creating networks to help with our future employment and saving the world. No wonder that research indicates that one third of us have problems with mental wellbeing.*

Unfortunately, the results of the Vision 2030 work are also likely to cause our wellbeing to suffer. The new funding model for universities was prepared under the vision, and the model takes effect in 2021. The funding model rewards universities based on the number of students graduating from them as well as how the students graduate. Universities will receive the most funding from the state for students who graduate in target time, whereas they receive the least funding for students completing their second degree.*

This means that universities will soon have new financial incentives to get students out of them as soon as possible. This will surely influence everyday studying a lot, too. In the Student Union, we hope that student-friendly methods would be used to encourage the completion of degrees – we are in need of investments in our wellbeing, not sticks. Appropriate investments would include sufficient study psychologist services, flexible methods of completing courses and a study environment free of bullying. High-quality study counselling also helps us graduate. Thankfully, development work for this has already been begun at the University of Helsinki – a good example of this is the students’ own Guidance Corner, which opened this February!***

Besides the promotion of study counselling and student wellbeing, another issue that is becoming topical for higher education institutions is making the changing of fields of study smoother. As the state is making it more difficult to complete a second degree through the funding model for higher education institutions as well as the quotas for first-time applicants, it is important for students to be able to change direction during their studies. Few of us know what we really want to study or what kind of job we want when we are older at the time of applying for our first student place.

Let us work together as a university community to ensure that we at the University of Helsinki adapt to the funding model in as student-friendly a way as possible!

Aleksi Rytkönen
The writer is one of three persons in charge of educational policy on HYYs’ Board.

* The FSHS’s Finnish Student Health Survey 2016:

** Press release by the Ministry of Education and Culture on the new funding model for higher education institutions, 17 January 2019 (in Finnish),, and a statement on the matter published by student unions in autumn 2018:

*** The students’ own Guidance Corner opened in the Kaisa House in February 2019. In the corner, students are provided with low-threshold guidance and advice related to issues such as wellbeing, job-seeking and digital skills.





The Student Union of the University of Helsinki turned 150 years old this year. The Student Union has now reached a mature age, but it also has an eventful youth behind it. As early as the 19th century, students were involved in building this country, creating its standard language, flag, identity and the Maamme national anthem. Students fought on both sides in the Civil War and did their part in establishing the country’s political and economic system after the war. In the 1950s, students started to become worried about the situation in developing countries and were involved in bringing development cooperation to Finland.

Student radicalism flourished when the Student Union turned 100 years old. The Old Student House was occupied because the Student Union was considered to have become disconnected from students’ everyday life. The Student Union was considered an important but remote community. Unlike 50 years ago, during this Anniversary year the Student Union has emphasised the need for strengthening communality and the need for equality. Different ways of keeping all students involved have been considered.

The Student Union is like a small municipality within the city. It gathers students from all around the country and the world together and provides them with a community, a safety net and fun activities. Communality can also be thought of on a larger scale, as part of the urban community and Finland: social exclusion and deprivation are challenges faced by growing cities. Mental health problems among young people have increased, loneliness has become more common and the segregation of residential areas has begun. There is a pronounced need for communality and, for this reason, it is important that students’ communality in our city expands outside our own community, too.

The new era does not call for us to isolate ourselves within our communities – we need to do things together and take responsibility for problems that are not in our own backyard or just around the corner, too. This requires us to redefine neighbourliness and what is considered common. Communality must be viewed on a larger scale than as just a feature of our own community. The new era must be seen as readiness to take action against injustice in society and as people power used to defend education and human dignity.

The Student Union must continue to boldly be radical and ready to both cause disapproval and shake up existing power structures if they are in the way of progress. It must have the courage to act for those in the weakest position in society and those whose lives are characterised by a lack of prospects and deprivation. The Student Union must participate in common activities aimed at building a better city for all and dare to have grand visions, demand the impossible and realise it.

When I imagine the next 150 years, I see a Student Union that uses its communality as a resource for promoting equality, sustainable development and education. I see a Student Union that actively defends values that are important to students in the city and in society. I see a Student Union changing the world.

Suvi Pulkkinen

The writer is the Chair of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki. She has studied sociology and politics of education at the University of Helsinki and was active in various organisations and in the Student Union during her studies.

Kuvassa Noora Paakki nojaa kaiteeseen vanhan talon portaikossa

I am sure you remember the feelings you experienced when receiving the following message: ‘Congratulations, you have been accepted to study!’ The emotions may have been thrillingly exciting, with maybe even some fear mixed in – but ultimately surely excited, happy and satisfied. After your studies began, however, the realities of how challenging and straining studying can be entered the picture. The extreme stress of studying cannot be denied, and life management skills take a large role in all the confusion.

Both external and internal expectations often grow during studies, and your ability to tolerate and manage stress gets put to the test. The amount of brainwork you must do also increases and your life management skills face a real test. Not to mention if you are also working simultaneously with studying: over half of the students in universities and universities of applied sciences work while studying. In addition to these issues, other factors related to your situation in life, conditions and individual characteristics influence the strain you feel during studies. All in all, this mixture forms a real challenge to holistic wellbeing.

When thinking about these challenges that people face during their studies, we should think about ways to alleviate the strain and to make a challenging period in life slightly easier. Does the old saying ‘work hard, play hard’ still ring true? I believe it would be more fitting to say that working hard requires you to take a harder look at your wellbeing.

There are many ways to look after your own wellbeing and coping. The old saying I mentioned is often linked to substance use as a means of relaxation. It is an undisputed fact that parties and substance use are a part of student culture, but substance use among students today has decreased, whereas the number of non-drinking students has doubled since 2000. Substance use has not been observed to alleviate strain in the long term, only occasionally and in the short term. For this reason, you should turn your attention to other methods of stress management. 

Instead of short-term methods to alleviate stress, the methods proven to work the best are those that you can use in everyday life – during the day, in the evening or during weekends. In addition to this, it has been shown that leisure-time activities as such do not necessarily help you recover. It is the related psychological connections, such as relaxation, self-fulfilment, feeling of control and taking your mind off everyday life and work, that increase coping.

Everyone should think about and recognise the methods to alleviate strain and stress that work for themselves and give them back the resources they have spent while studying. Could some of the following methods to escape the routines work for you?

  • Physical activity or gaming
  • Enjoying nature
  • Crafts
  • Cultural or art hobby, such as movies
  • Time spent together with friends, family or pets
  • Writing or photography
  • Doing sudokus or crossword puzzles
  • Necessary, aimless lounging around or being idle

Please remember that hard work requires you to take a harder look at your own wellbeing. For this reason, you should focus on the things that help you recover and provide you with genuine relaxation during all the confusion of everyday life.

Noora Paakki
Programme planner, Nyyti ry
‘KUPLA – Students reforming substance use culture’ project

Student health survey 2016.
Sonnentag & Fritz 2007. The Recovery Experience Questionnaire: Development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 204–221.
Statistics Finland: Education statistics – Employment of students 2015.