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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)