Blog


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):
http://bit.ly/hyysurvey

Apply to become a student representative of a health expert group (application period ends on 24 March):
https://hyy.helsinki.fi/en/healthworkinggroupad

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: http://www.yths.fi/en/healthsurvey2016.

** Press release by the Ministry of Education and Culture on the new funding model for higher education institutions, 17 January 2019 (in Finnish), https://minedu.fi/artikkeli/-/asset_publisher/korkeakouluille-uusi-rahoi..., and a statement on the matter published by student unions in autumn 2018: https://hyy.helsinki.fi/en/content/high-quality-competences-and-multidis....

*** 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.
https://guide.student.helsinki.fi/en/article/guidance-corner

 

 

 

 



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.


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

Student health survey 2016. http://www.yths.fi/filebank/4310-KOTT_englanti_2016.pdf
 
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. http://stat.fi/til/opty/2015/opty_2015_2017-03-17_en.pdf

A knocked-over glass of juice is what ended up being the last straw for me. Like any day, I was grabbing food at the Unicafe in Porthania when I accidentally knocked over my glass. Looking at my lunch soaked in juice, I burst into a hysteric cry.

There had been a serious crisis in the organisation I was chairperson for at the time. The situation also drew the media’s attention and answering their questions was surprisingly exhausting. I was very worried whether anyone would ever dare to attend our events again or become an active in our organisation.

My friend whom I had come to have lunch with escorted me to a nearby table and sat me down. The Unicafe cashier took away my ruined meal and brought me a new one - and a pile of tissues. This complete stranger and my friend both asked, in the sincerest of ways, two things: “Is everything okay and is there something I can do?”

HYY’s #everythingokay campaign aims to reduce the stigma around mental health issues and the fear for seeking help. Up to 30% of university students suffer from mental health issues. We all have a mental health and it is completely normal that at times you feel better and at times worse, that’s something I want to emphasize. The most common diagnosis for students is depression but in addition to that we all might experience milder symptoms at some point: sleeplessness, anxiety, isolation, stress and problems with self-confidence. Although these are considered milder symptoms, they can, just as much, cause issues on your mental health and thus are just as much a reason to seek help than other symptoms or causes.

The Finnish Association for Mental Health offers trainings for mental health first aid. HYY organised such training last spring where the focus is on offering the participants readiness to help out and help people seek professional help. It was a weekend-long training held by Päivi Kohta who works as a specialist for Nyyti ry. We gained a lot of information on different mental health issues during the course. What I especially took away from the training was how important it is to talk about mental health issues out loud. It’s important for both helping out the person suffering from them but also to reduce the harmful stigma around these issues.

It is typical that preliminary symptoms are overlooked or not recognized. Early intervention is an important message from other people that no one has to survive alone and that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Early intervention can also reduce the time it takes to get help and eventually recover.

The book Haavoittuva mieli – tunnista ja tue translated from the Mental Health First Aid Notebook describes the steps of mental health first aid, that can help with supporting someone:

  1. Approach, assess and help with the crisis situation, ask if everything is okay
  2. Listen with an open mind and without judgement
  3. Support and offer information and knowledge
  4. Encourage the person to take care of themself
  5. Encourage them, if necessary, to seek professional help

When helping others, you have to also take care of yourself since helping others should never weigh too heavy on the helper. It should also be noted that there is no real or absolute linear structure to helping out. There are no exact “right” ways to do it or “right” things to say. An important thing to realize is also that asking a person about how they are feeling will not deteriorate their condition. Talking about suicide will not encourage a person to attempt it - it’s the other way around. By asking, you showcase sincere concern and caring for the person.

I still can’t remember whether I paid for that lunch but I do remember how I was treated. That same day I sought professional help. I first got a phone-appointment and then a crisis appointment to see a psychologist. Being able to talk with a professional helped me deal with what had happened and how I was feeling.

Organisation activities can, at its best, increase wellbeing. Student organisations and nations offer a place where students can do meaningful things for their community, improve their own skills and create close friendships. On the other hand, at its worst, organisation activities can cause exhaustion too. You, me, any one of us can ask our friend “is everything okay?” or “I’ve noticed that everything is not okay, is there something I could do?”.

Laura Wathén
HYY Board Member 2018, Chair of the Board 2019

Laura Wathén

Source: Kitchener, B., Jorm, A., Kelly, C., Lassander, M., & Karila-Hietala, R. (2015) Haavoittuva mieli – tunnista ja tue. Mielenterveyden ensiapu 2. Suomen Mielenterveysseura.

HYYn viestintäharjoittelija Saana Lehtinen ison alppiruusupensaan edessä

Only 66% of higher education students consider their mental wellbeing to be good, reveals the Student health study conducted by the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS) in 2016. According to the same study, around one third of students have psychological difficulties.

The increase in mental health problems experienced by students is alarming. When you consider all the factors related to students’ situations in life that cause them strain, however, it does not seem that surprising that some students’ mental health is affected. Constantly worrying about study progress and whether you have enough money, for instance, is exhausting. Many students work part time along their studies, which adds more stress to everyday life. Weekdays are spent in lecture halls and exams, weekends at work. When many permanently employed people are enjoying their Christmas vacation, students are often working or sending applications for summer jobs, with the application process beginning earlier each year. The boundaries between leisure, work and studying are blurred. Sometimes, everyday life becomes so exhausting to students that they need a vacation from it.

I became exhausted after a couple years of studies in my dream field. Before this, I had moved hundreds of kilometres away from my home city, Helsinki, to pursue my previous student place, become disappointed with my studies, read for entrance exams once again, received a new student place and moved back to Helsinki. I was grateful and happy of my new student place. I wanted to make the most of student life and got involved in subject organisation activities in addition to studying intensively. Besides the studies and organisational activities, I had a physically demanding part-time job where the days occasionally stretched out to ten hours. Other sources of stress were constantly present in my everyday life, too.

In retrospect, I can see the reasons for my burnout clearly, but in the initial rush my new student place had given me, I could only wonder how I could be so anxious with everything I had achieved. I slept less and worse all the time and ate irregularly. One morning, I was so tired that I did not remember how to use a door handle and when I was introducing myself to a new acquaintance, I panicked for a moment as I could not remember my own first name for a few seconds.

When everyday life is causing you anxiety, you should take action early enough. You should not hesitate to use the mental health services of the FSHS. They exist for you.

Students have the possibility and permission to take sick leave just like anyone else. If you do not have enough resources for working and studying, you can apply for Kela’s sickness allowance. Student aid is not paid while you receive sickness allowance, and you need a medical certificate to receive the allowance. The amount of the allowance is based either on your taxable earnings or the study grant and is always at least as much as the study grant. To avoid an interruption in the payment of benefits while you are waiting for a decision on the sickness allowance, you can continue to receive student aid until the decision has been made. After you have been granted the sickness allowance, Kela will automatically stop paying you student aid. When your sick leave ends, you must apply to have your student aid reinstated yourself.

You do not need to stop studying entirely when you are receiving sickness allowance – higher education students may study a maximum of three credits’ worth per month.

In situations related to the lack of study ability, students may call the FSHS’ number for treatment need assessment – you will receive further instructions on reserving a time there. The need for a sick leave is assessed at an appointment with a general practitioner. If needed, the general practitioner will refer the student to a psychiatrist who assesses the need for a longer sick leave related to mental health reasons. If the student has a job and their incapacity for work is related to a part-time job done alongside studies, for instance, they can also contact occupational healthcare on matters related to sick leaves.

Studying is demanding work that causes strain. You should learn to recognise the limits of your wellbeing and ensure that leisure time lets you recover instead of wearing you out.

The sick leave gave me a breather during which I gradually got back my normal sleep pattern. This, in turn, gave me resources I had long been lacking. During my sick leave, I learned how to create new kinds of routines in my everyday life and to explore which things help me cope and which sap my strength. Nowadays, I keep exhaustion away with a simple recipe: at least seven hours of sleep per night, a regular meal schedule and enough time for friends.

Psychiatrist Tarja-Sisko Saastamoinen from the FSHS was interviewed for the text.

Saana Lehtinen
HYY’s communications intern

Further information:
https://www.kela.fi/web/en/eligibility-sickness


November 30 is the Day for Free Education. Free education with high quality by international standards was long one of the cornerstones of Finnish society. Free education in higher education institutions came to an end last year when tuition fees were set for students from outside the EU and EEA countries.*

The tuition fees predictably decreased the number of new students. The number of international students in Finland had increased for the entire 2000s, but the trend was reversed after the implementation of tuition fees. This is not a desirable development, as Finland should be an attractive option for international experts for the sake of our entire society.

Throughout the history of higher education, internationality has been its lifeblood – and this applies to Finland, too. International students give Finnish students opportunities for internationalisation at home as well as diversify the student community in Finland. International students also bring along valuable networks and skills. For the internationalisation of companies, students’ language skills, networks to other countries and understanding of different cultures may be significant advantages.

Expanding the financing base of higher education institutions was used as a justification for the tuition fees. However, there were only 277 students who paid the full tuition fee in Finnish higher education institutions last academic year, as the majority of those liable to pay the fee received a grant from the institutions. Some higher education institutions have reported a profit from the fees, but their implementation has also caused costs for the institutions. The grants, administration and development related to the tuition fees all demand resources. Many higher education institutions are making significant investments in international marketing and student recruitment using various means that are definitely not free.

The advantage that Finland has had in the eyes of international students has long been free high-quality education. Our current international students have told us that in addition to the reputation and quality of the education, their choice to study in Finland was influenced by free education. We should keep hold of both of these trump cards. The challenges often faced by students who have chosen Finland concern a lack of language skills, finding friends and getting employed.

We asked international students to tell us about their thoughts on tuition fees and studying in Finland. You can read about the students’ experiences below. The comments come from different kinds of students: those who pay the entire tuition fee, those who have received a grant and those who are citizens of EU and EEA countries. We have also included a comment HYY received in spring 2018 from a person who had been admitted to study and was now asking for advice after not receiving a grant. In the autumn, they told us that they had not found a way to pay the tuition fee but got accepted to study in Germany where there are no tuition fees.


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“I've been accepted to Master's Programme in Neuroscience in University of Helsinki, which I'm really happy for. But unfortunately, I wasn't awarded a scholarship. Considering the amount of tuition fee and very low currency of Turkish lira, neither me nor my family don't have the possibility to pay that big amount of money. I've been searching for other scholarships for a long time both in Turkey and abroad and on internet portals like scholarshipportal, but I can't find any to cover this amount.

I will cover all my living and other expenses by myself. But unless I find a funding for covering my tuition fees, I won't be able to come to University of Helsinki sadly. It's been my dream for many years and I worked very hard for this, and now when I'm chosen with a good ranking (6th out of 20th), I really want so much to be a part of this programme and your university and the student union.”

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“I think the tuition fee is a huge burden for me as well as my family. Actually, I think it's a huge burden for each student from non-EU countries. And due to this reason, I believe  some excellent students give up or  lose their opportunities to study here. I am trying my best to study now and hope that I can get the second year scholarship. I have to find a part-time job which may take up a lot of time and also make me feel so tired every week. Anyway, it's my own choice and I will get over it. But I think it would be better to cancel the tuition fee for us.”

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“I could not have come to study as a master's degree student if I needed to pay tuition fees for two years. I feel like it limits the people from outside EU to come to study in Finland, where it used to be an option without tuition fees.”

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“The tuition seems to be quite high for international students. While no tuition fee was implemented until two years back, and I did not expect UH to fix such a high fees just for international students.”

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“As an EU citizen, couldn’t be happier. I thank the people of Finland this opportunity, which I’ve tried to repay many times.”

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“I do not pay tuition fees but 15,000 euros a year is extremely expensive and without a scholarship I would probably not attend this university, unless we had more funding/work opportunities.”

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“I’m a master student from Japan in European and Nordic Programme under Faculty of Social Science. I am interested in Finnish history, specifically the period between 1939-1945, and topics revolve around the remembrance of the war, and how current time is affecting its interpretation. I was one of the first batch of students after the introduction of tuition fee at this university. I came to Helsinki because of my interest in it, and Helsinki offered English master’s programme in Nordic Studies.

Student life is so much better than it was in a small private university in Japan. Despite some issues with studies and bureaucracies, mostly because my programme is a new one, as well as general system change in all parts of the university, I feel that education offered here is great. Outside studies, students are treated in a way that promotes independence, while having channels to seek support when necessary. I quite like it.

Coming from Japan, tuition fee itself is not new. But personally, I did not like the bureaucracy with scholarship, which was meant to help mitigate the negative effect. The whole process for awarding the scholarship seemed to have been done in a way that weakened the desired effect. Most of the recipient did not show up in 2017 without redirecting it to other candidates, and second-year grant was selected based on earned units and grade only, giving some significant disadvantage due to the selection timing and individual curriculum structure. Considering these issues, I have to say scholarship system has a lot to improve if university wants to have the effect they initially desired.”

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"I think tuition fees put Finland at odds with its value in equality. Although it can be argued that money cannot buy the experience, the reality is I can get an educational experience at any place not just Finland. I wouldn't say I regret my decision but, overall, I feel that if I had been given a second chance, I will choose to come only with a scholarship."

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“After having done my bachelor degree in physics at the University of Amsterdam I realized that I am interested in pursuing research in Mathematical Physics. Thus, the University of Helsinki was a natural choice since the Mathematical Physics group at the Faculty of Mathematics is one of the best in the world.

I am currently a recipient of the “be one of the best scholarship’ program. Given that the scholarship program was introduced at the same time as the tuition fees for non-EU master students, I as a scholarship recipient am largely unaffected by the introduction of tuition fees.

In the long run the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU international students will likely decrease the number of non-EU students at the University of Helsinki; however the introduction of the scholarship program would plausibly increase the amount of high quality non-EU students hence the net policy effect is yet to be determined.

Having been in Finland and at the University of Helsinki for slightly more than a year I must say that I have enjoyed my stay to the fullest extent. The interaction between faculty members and students is quite informal thus giving the students an excellent opportunity to get involved in research early on in their careers as well as be a part of the decision making process at the university. Furthermore, the presence of many student organizations allows one to experience the unique student culture in Finland.”

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“I was doing my exchange studies for two semesters in 2017 and working for a company since April, 2017 and did some research work during the summer of 2017. I had an indefinite work contract for 2018 and I applied for my residence permit renewal as work permit for which I was supposed to get permit type A. As mentioned permit A sets you free from those fees. However, the company went bankrupt and I only knew in December, 2017 almost when I was about to get the permit which was awaiting decision then. So I started working full time at the university starting January 2018 until the present time and did some independent studies while waiting the decision and the master's acceptance.


The permit took 9 months to process. I got a B permit and they asked me to pay the fees for which I had to manage to provide the money before august 31st and I was working so hard to save money. I was enrolled with all my studies for the program completed beforehand and for what I had to pay I only have the master thesis to be done in a very short time so I can graduate by the end of 2018 and get a refund for the spring term. This is not how I wanted my thesis to go and any delay will cost too much.

Being a student at the university of helsinki is a good experience. The flexibility of studies and being able to learn what you are interested in and having variation in teaching methods proves to be successful. Also as a staff member pursuing my interest in research it is an encouraging environment for research.I had been working in the private sector as a web developer for 6 years before coming to Finland and I found my skills appreciated here.

My thoughts about the tuition fees is that they are not fair. It would be more fair to pay for courses you are taking and some fees for the study place and other fees for courses and other services than having them in a chunk of 15 000. In my case 15 000 just to do my thesis which I am doing as part of my job.

I like being in Finland and I had to start over in terms of career and life and I plan to continue living here and continue my PhD studies. The delays with migri and the fear of being kicked out are a constant stress that all other people from outside EU are suffering from even though they are students and researchers. The constant struggle and the fear of not being able to extend your stay cuts the focus on the goal for being here. Life would be much easier if we had equal chances to be able to focus like everyone else who don't have to worry about these things and that will make a big difference."


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More information:

Hannele Kirveskoski
Specialist (subsistence, international affairs)
050 543 9608
hannele.kirveskoski@hyy.fi

Anne Soinsaari
Specialist (higher education policy)
040 8291 256
anne.soinsaari@hyy.fi

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