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.
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.