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Why are you unnecessarily opening the Universities Act?

The Ministry of Education and Culture launched the Vision for Higher Education 2030 project this spring, inviting people from universities and universities of applied sciences as well as central interest groups from various sectors of society to participate. The premises for the vision work were promising, as the development of universities in recent years has been unstable and tied to government terms.

In the final stretch of the vision work, the Ministry of Education has proposed moving legislation concerning universities and universities of applied sciences under a single act on higher education institutions (Helsingin Sanomat 4.9.2017 This proposal has previously not been on the table in any public events – instead, the Ministry has come out with the theme without hearing the communities of universities and universities of applied sciences at all.

The Ministry has been silent on its concrete goals, with the exception of the possibility of joining universities and universities of applied sciences together. The Ministry’s proposal now casts doubts on whether it means to completely rewrite the entire Universities Act.

Many goals worth supporting have been proposed in connection with the Vision for Higher Education project. These include increasing the share of population with higher education to half of each age group, increasingly extensive multidisciplinary degree programmes and increasingly flexible mobility between programmes and higher education institutions.

None of these goals requires new legislation. They can be reached perfectly well without completely reforming the Universities Act and the Universities of Applied Sciences Act.

Increasing – or even maintaining – the share of population with higher education requires taking back the disastrous cuts to education and reinstating public, index-linked funding for universities, which was abolished during the previous university reform in 2009–2010.

Multidisciplinary degree programmes and increased mobility, on the other hand, require replacing cooperation negotiations and savings with peace at the higher education institutions to allow personnel to genuinely have time and resources for long-term development work. The University of Helsinki, for instance, has only just completed an ambitious degree programme reform aimed specifically at establishing broader-based and more multidisciplinary degree programmes than before.

Is the Ministry of Education looking for something entirely different by reforming the Universities Act, then? Are universities and universities of applied sciences being brought closer to each other step by step, making them lose their respective profiles, orientation towards research and working life, in the process? Is the plan to set up tuition fees for second degrees or even for Master’s studies? Or is the aim to change the statutory status of student unions and the principles of university democracy?

Our questions are genuine, as neither the Vision for Higher Education nor the Ministry of Education’s proposal for a legislative reform provides any answers.

We respectfully ask Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen the following: could we abandon legislative reforms dictated from above and focus on developing operations in cooperation with the entire higher education community – in other words, involving students and staff in the process, too?

Laura Luoto, HYY Chair of the Board
+35 850 543 9610

The Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) nominates social sciences students Joel Lindqvist and Ada Saarinen for members of the Board of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) for the year 2018.

In HYY’s Board, Lindqvist has been in charge of city policy and housing. Saarinen, 24, is Vice Chair of the Board and responsible for coordinating advocacy work and communication and students’ subsistence. 

Lindqvist, 23, and a social policy student, has run the municipal election campaign of HYY and the World Student Capital network in Helsinki. The campaign promoted students and young people running for their city councils. For SYL’s Board, Lindqvist brings, first and foremost, his experience from the campaign.

“Now it’s in black and white: Nordea Bank’s economist Olli Kärkkäinen has recently calculated that students are the only group in Finnish society whose income has declined systematically since 2011. In times like these, the student movement needs to be more alert than ever. Next year, we have to put all our effort in making students’ voice heard in the politics and decision-making in this country”, states Lindqvist.

Saarinen, 24, studies political science and already has a long background in the student movement. This year, she has managed the revision of HYY’s policy paper and the campaign for dismantling the household-based nature of general housing allowance. In SYL’s Board, Saarinen would continue her ongoing fight as an advocate for students’ rights.

“The parliamentary elections in 2019 is a chance for the student movement to show its force. We have to make ineluctable policy issues out of students’ socioeconomic status, the importance of education, and the challenges facing our generation”, demands Saarinen.

“Joel’s work with our municipal election campaign has been stellar. Many of our goals ended up in the official strategy of the city of Helsinki. Joel has great a tactical knack for advocacy work and he’s an seasoned lobbyist and a convivial colleague. Ada made our housing allowance campaign happen, and it was widely embraced in mainstream news media. Ada gets things done with great creativity and has a genuine fire in her for working for students’ interests”, praises HYY Chair of the Board Laura Luoto.

SYL elects its Board for 2018 in its Congress 17–18 November 2017 in Tampere. SYL looks after students’ interests on the national level, commenting on questions of educational policy, social policy and international affairs.

Further information:

Joel Lindqvist

+35 840 570 3980

Ada Saarinen

+35 850 595 0328

Laura Luoto, HYY Chair of the Board

+35 850 543 9610

The Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) is one of the founder communities of the Foundation for Student Housing in the Helsinki Region (Hoas) and a significant background figure. We are now looking for three members and three deputy members to the Hoas Delegation for the mandate period 2018–2019. The vice chair of the delegation is also elected from among HYY's members.

The most important responsibility of Hoas Delegation is to supervise the activities of Hoas Board. If necessary, the delegation also appoints Hoas board members. The Hoas Delegation consists of 16 members and meets annually mainly in the spring and autumn meetings.

In addition to statutory meetings, the delegation may convene in order to brainstorm, spar and develop Hoas. HYY provides training and background support for the position. The membership in Hoas Delegation is a confidential post and the members are not paid for the post.

Applicants should have interest in student housing, motivation to act for the purpose of Hoas, which is to facilitate the students' housing situation, and the enthusiasm to develop Hoas. The knowledge of the operating environment of Hoas and the preparedness to cooperate with HYY will contribute to the successful management of the confidential post. In addition, living in Hoas housing, being active in a tenant committee and experience in HYY's activities are considered as advantages. The operating language of the Delegation is Finnish so fluency in the Finnish language is an asset.

Please deliver your free-form application by email to no later than Oct. 11 2017. The application should include the applicant's first names, surname, personal identity number, address, domicile, nationality, email address and telephone number. If you are interested in the position of vice chair of the delegation, please include this in your application. You may also attach your CV.

Please have a look at the Hoas statutes here (in Finnish):

Further information:
HYY's Housing Specialist Sofia Lindqvist,, 050 543 9605

The police have granted the organisers of the demonstration permission to assemble between the student houses until 6 pm on Friday 15 September. Until then, the police cannot and does not intend to intervene with the demonstration, unless there is a threat of violence, for instance.

The Student Union is a multicultural community that opposes racism and does not accept any kind of discrimination. Our values include humanity and responsibility, and we promote these values both at the University, in the Student Union and in society in general.

We will continue to be in contact with the police, and we have made it clear to them that we do not approve of their decision to allow the demonstration to occur on the plaza.

We cannot tolerate that an organised movement that attacks asylum seekers uses space owned by students for activities that cause fear and insecurity, especially in racialised people. Everyone must be able to enter the Student Union’s premises without having to be afraid.

The academic year has just begun, and many international students who have only recently arrived in Finland are using the Student Union’s premises. Their first contact with their new home city and the University cannot be an extremist movement that has repeatedly acted in a violent, racist and threatening manner.

HYY reserves the plaza between the student houses for its own activities from Saturday 16 September onwards, so that it can ensure it remains a safe space for all HYY’s students.