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At present, 56% of young people in each generation start higher education studies. Moving from upper secondary to higher education has slowed down since 2007, and the quota for first-time applicants, implemented in 2016, has strengthened this development. Young people are making calculated choices, fearing that they will make the wrong one – and this results in them not accepting their secondary choice out of fear of losing their first-timer status.

Instead of quotas for first-time applicants, entrance into higher education could be made easier by increasing the number of student places, like Hannu Karhunen suggests in his opinion piece for Helsingin Sanomat on 17 May. However, an increase in student places also requires increasing funding for higher education institutions. To educate an increasing number of students in a high-quality fashion, higher education institutions require not only the reinstitution of the university index but also a significant increase in the level of their basic funding.

Ensuring that higher education institutions have good financial operating conditions is of primary importance, as students need more than just a study right to increase their skills. The best way to ensure the accumulation of skills is quality instruction. In addition to the number of higher education graduates, it is thus extremely important to pay attention to the quality of education, which can be developed by improving learning environments, counselling practices and the ratio of students per teacher. All this requires resources. Higher education institutions should also increasingly cooperate in providing instruction and do this in a manner that is open and flexible from the student’s perspective.

In addition to degree students, instruction should also be provided to lifelong learners. It is important that we provide all citizens with opportunities to educate themselves. Education is especially important now that we have global challenges such as climate change that we need to solve. Besides knowledge, education provides people with understanding and empathy, both of which have a crucial role in building a better world.

Increasing the number of higher education graduates and promoting continuous learning require investments in universities and universities of applied sciences. The new government must look after the quality of education by increasing funding for higher education institutions as well as support the choices of young people by removing the quota for first-time applicants.

Paula Sajaniemi
Chair of the Board
Student Union of Tampere University

Paula Karhunen
Member of the Board in charge of educational policy
Student Union of the University of Helsinki

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: bit.ly/päivystys.

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
anna.lemstrom@hyy.fi

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!


1https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10761267?fbclid=IwAR0Vr0EfaDum0VwtZRzrPunBSp5hb...

2https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10771352

3https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10761267?fbclid=IwAR0Vr0EfaDum0VwtZRzrPunBSp5hb...

4https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10761267?fbclid=IwAR0Vr0EfaDum0VwtZRzrPunBSp5hb...

More EU!

02.05.2019

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

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[1] https://syl.fi/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/SYL_eurovaalitavoitteet_2019_v...
[2] https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10197507
[3] https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10197507
[4] http://eurooppanuoret.fi/2018/03/eurooppanuoret-selvitti-suomalaiset-nuo...