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Last spring, we demanded that students should be included if the country’s next government decides to begin the comprehensive reform of social security. At the same time, we asked students to tell us their views and share us their experiences on what social security means to them. We asked what student aid and social security in general mean to students, what they think of basic income and what kind of expectations they have for the comprehensive reform of social security.

The survey was open from May to September 2018, and the link was shared in HYY’s social media channels and our newsletter for members. We received plenty of answers that aptly describe students’ everyday life and subsistence. The answers also demonstrate that students have a lot to say about social security and that they should get their voice heard if the comprehensive reform of social security is begun.

For many respondents, student aid – alongside possible general housing allowance – was an important source of income and enabled studying. The cuts made to student aid last year influence the everyday life of many students. Several respondents hoped that studying would be possible without student loan. Currently, taking out the loan for basic needs in life is practically unavoidable for many. On the other hand, some saw the student loan as a positive thing. As an alternative, some students raise their income level by working part time, occasionally or during the summer.

The household-based nature of general housing allowance, the low level of study grant and the income limits of student aid were considered problematic in many answers. The answers reflected despair and scraping by but also gratitude towards the Finnish social security system. For many, it has provided the opportunity to get into higher education studies, and the society’s support to students is considered important.

HYY, the Aalto University Student Union (AYY) and the Research Foundation for Studies and Education Otus are also making a survey on students’ subsistence this autumn. Student – keep an eye on your email and respond to the survey if you are invited to do so! We will communicate about the results of the survey in January 2019.

Below are some picks from the students’ answers to HYY’s survey on the significance of social security. 

What significance does student aid have for you?

What is good about the current benefit system for students? What is bad about it?

What do you think about basic income, and what would it mean to you specifically, were it implemented?

What does social security in general mean to you?

What do you expect from the social security reform, and what kind of reform would best support students and studying? 

What significance does student aid have for you?

‘Great significance as I wouldn’t have the opportunity to study without student aid. Even with student aid, it is extremely challenging to be below the poverty line for years.’

‘Student aid is very important to me, because the study grant helps me cover a part of my monthly expenses. Without the aid, I would have to work, which would be really tough for me as studying itself is already hard for me because of the depression I have had for a long time. I think it is wrong that the study grant has been cut and students are urged to take out loans. Students who suffer from depression like me, for instance, do not necessarily want to take out a loan out of fear of having to suspend their studies if their mental health problems get worse. Stressing about your financial situation only makes mental health problems worse and increases them, increasing the treatment costs for society at the same time.’

‘It used to be a crucial support allowing me to focus on my studies. After the months of student aid ended, working has slowed down my study progress.’

‘It guarantees I have a roof over my head and a warm meal once a day. When the student aid last decreased, I had to take a part-time job, which delayed my studies by a year but also negatively affected my grades and student life.’ 

‘Many working people see studying as slacking off, even though my studying days were the most mentally taxing period in my life. Deadlines, exams, theses and study success are all pounding in your head. While struggling with studies, you should also find the time to exercise, see your friends and far-away family, network, advocate students’ interests in subject organisations, for instance, take care of a possible relationship and maybe even clean the apartment once in a while – just like anyone else.’

What is good about the current benefit system for students? What is bad about it?

‘The fact that students are practically forced to take out a loan if working is not feasible creates uncertainty for the future: What if I do not get employed for one reason or the other – how will I pay back the loan? What if my salary is so low that I will continue to struggle in working life just as I have been struggling while studying?’

‘The study grant and general housing allowance are fairly adequate if you live alone and manage to get a relatively cheap apartment. However, it is not possible to put any money aside from it, and you are constantly nervous about your studies drawing out for some reason and the months of aid running out. As for myself: I do not have the money to have any hobbies or go to therapy. Large purchases, such as new glasses (around €200–300), have to be carefully considered.’

‘Living costs in the Capital Region are completely unreasonable, and it simply is not possible for students to cope with housing and living costs with benefits alone. In my opinion, getting into debt and forcing student loans upon students cannot be the primary alternative. Even though many say that the student loan is a free loan, it obviously is not. In addition to this, Kela’s interpretations are problematic – all these interpretations on cohabitation, etc. must definitely be weeded out. It is unreasonable to require someone to provide for another person. Financial matters and questions of providing for others are personal issues, and roomies, for instance, can never be considered liable to provide for each other. It is also incomprehensible that the spouse’s income affects a student’s benefits in a two-adult household.’

What do you think about basic income, and what would it mean to you specifically, were it implemented?

‘I definitely support basic income. Basic income would make getting an education possible for many who can currently only dream about it. Basic income would be a crucial change that would provide a radically more positive direction for my life.’

‘I do not think Finland is ready for basic income yet, as more extensive, comprehensive and realistic experiments are needed, and they need way more funding than the first experiment had. The first experiment was altogether completely insufficient and only based on political interests. That is not how it should be done.’

‘Basic income is interesting and, in my opinion, definitely worth trying out and studying. Basic income would provide a certain kind of security in the present-day working life, which is tinged with uncertainty and odd jobs. Basic income would lower the threshold to become an entrepreneur, for instance, with at least some kind of income guaranteed by the society. Basic income would also be a good support for surprising situations in life, such as illnesses and mental health problems. Anyone can end up empty-handed and anyone’s resources can run dry. Basic income would provide security for such situations. Basic income would also increase regular citizens’ feelings of respect and gratitude for the Finnish state and society.

 

What does social security in general mean to you?

‘If I had been born anywhere else than in the Nordic countries, I would never have been able to study at a university because of my family background. I am very grateful that in Finland I have been covered by a social security system that has supported me and my family even in my childhood but especially during my studying days, making higher education studies possible for me.’

‘To me, social security means an opportunity to feel that I am a part of this society and to succeed in life even though I come from a poor family.’

‘Social security is a safety net. It separates us from many other countries in the world – in a positive way. I am proud of it, and when it undergoes cuts, I am really ashamed and angry. Structural poverty causes senseless human suffering, which social security attempts to prevent. Social security is one of the reasons why I still want to study/live in Finland, even though many other reasons have got me thinking of moving abroad.’

What do you expect from the social security reform, and what kind of reform would best support students and studying? 

‘Remember that cuts to the income and benefits of students with a family make children suffer, too.’

‘I expect decision-makers to really get to know the everyday life of students and the challenges faced by them. Combining work and studies is definitely not without its problems at times. And getting a job while studying is not all that certain. In my opinion, a benefit system that is as flexible as possible would be the most functional one. After all, there are so many kinds of people and situations in life among students.’

‘I expect the reform of social security to improve the financial situation of students and thus their total wellbeing. Increasing the amount of study grant, for instance, would already have a significant impact on students’ life.’

‘I expect the system to become more efficient, but I hope that senseless changes will not be made. Nothing should be taken away from students if we want young graduates to continue to build Finland on the labour market. Having long-term vision is important.’

In its meeting today, 30 October, the Board of Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) decided to make the student discount in public transport cover all full-time basic degree students regardless of their age. At the same time, however, it decided to decrease the student discount on season tickets bought on travel cards from 50 to 45 per cent and to restrict the student discount so that it only applies to season tickets. The World Student Capital (WSC) network of the student unions of the Capital Region is disappointed in the decision to decrease the discount and to leave single tickets outside the discount.
 
‘Our goal was to retain the 50% discount in all ticket types. We believe HSL has overestimated the costs of having no age limit for the discount’, Chair of the WSC network Otto Rosenlund states.
 
Most of students over 30 years of age have previously been left without the student discount in public transport because the right to receive student aid has been a condition for getting the discount. The positive side of the new decision is that students over 30 years of age will now get the discount on the same terms as younger students. This has been a long-term goal for student organisations, and we are happy that we have now achieved it, even though the rest of the decision is a disappointment. The removal of age discrimination from the student discount may lead to new groups of people starting to use public transport, which reinforces the profitability of public transport.
 
‘We believe that HSL should have dared to try expanding the discount under the current discount model, adjusting the model based on realised costs later. According to our estimate, the annual costs of the student discount would probably not have exceeded the budget framework by much after the expansion’, comments Chair of the Board of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki Lauri Linna.
 
The Student Union of the University of Helsinki and the WSC network urge HSL to monitor the effects of its decision on the cost accumulation for student discounts and to return any possible deficit compared to the previous cost level to the student discount through either raising the percentage of the discount or reapplying the discount to single tickets.
 
The new discount criteria take effect in connection with the zone reform in the spring of 2019.
 
Otto Rosenlund                        
Chair of the World Student Capital network
 
Lauri Linna
Chair of the Board of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki
 
Further information:
Specialist (housing, health, city) Sofia Lindqvist
Student Union of the University of Helsinki
sofia.lindqvist@hyy.fi
tel. 050 543 9605

When I started my studies at the University of Helsinki in 2015, I knew next to nothing about the advocacy work conducted in HYY. To me, HYY was, above all, an organisation whose member I became when I registered for the academic year, providing me with the student calendar I proudly put in my bag – assuring me that I had actually been accepted to study. In addition to this, I saw the Student Union as Alina Hall in the New Student House where I got my first taste of academic dinner party culture already at the beginning of my fresher autumn.

During my years at the University, my understanding of what HYY is and all the things done in the Student Union has grown deeper little by little. As a member of the board of our subject organisation, Media ry, I learned to look outside lecture halls and student parties. I became interested in and excited about advocacy work and started to learn more about the Student Union’s activities.

The Student Union does much more than just organises events, provides the premises for subject organisations’ get-togethers and annually gathers around 4,000 students to compete in the unforgettable Fresher Adventure. HYY advocates students’ interests so diversely that you should be aware of the work it does and the influencing opportunities available to every student.

All advocacy work is not always visible from the outside. From a student perspective, it may often seem like everything just goes on as before. In reality, though, HYY’s active advocacy work has successfully prevented several changes that would have weakened students’ position. In 2015, for instance, the Student Union managed to prevent the removal of the investment subsidy for student housing production. Had the subsidy been removed, the rental level of new student apartments would have increased by 10%. Without the Student Union’s resources for advocacy work and the work it has done, the conditions for students would now be significantly weaker than they are.

It is well-known that students have tight finances. HSL’s student discounts and whether they will remain on the current level have recently been discussed widely. Did you know that HYY had a crucial impact on the uniform 50% student discount being taken into use in 2006? Exchange students have been entitled to the same discount since 2010. Currently, HYY is working hard to retain HSL’s student discount as high as possible and to expand it to cover students over 30 years of age without any separate conditions.

Throughout its history, HYY has made efforts to increase affordable student housing. It was a central figure in lobbying the City of Helsinki to increase its annual production goal for student housing. As a result of this advocacy work, the city increased its goal for student and youth housing production to 300 apartments in 2012 and the goal for just student housing production to 300 apartments in 2016. These changes will alleviate the apartment shortage faced by students.

In addition to the above, HYY strives to make combining studies and life with children possible. Since the early 2000s, Little HYY has been offering temporary, affordable child care for the children of students. With the help of the child care service, parents have been able to participate in exams and lectures as well as to study independently. Unlike municipal early childhood education, using Little HYY’s services does not remove the right to receive child home care allowance. Working together with the University and the City of Helsinki, HYY is currently developing a flexible, part-time child care service that is more extensive than Little HYY and would not remove the right to receive the allowance.

Thanks to HYY, I can also afford to enjoy the theatre and art museums as a student. HYY cooperates with institutions such as the Finnish National Theatre, the Ateneum Art Museum and the Helsinki Art Museum, all offering discount tickets and days of free entrance to students.

However, what has convinced me of students’ influencing opportunities and the value of the work done in HYY the most has been working as a communications intern in the Student Union. The people working around me have an enormous amount of vision for issues such as student housing, subsistence, equality and developing teaching as well as the passion and skills to advance matters. I want to use my vote as a statement and as a wish for this to remain the case in the future, too.

Saana Lehtinen

The writer is HYY’s communications intern and a fourth-year student of media and communication studies. In her work, she is a daily witness to the devoted and competent way people work in the Student Union to improve students’ status.

HYY is looking for a candidate for the board of Svenska Studerandes Intresseförening (SSI) for 2019. SSI is an umbrella association for Swedish-speaking and bilingual students. SSI’s main tasks include publishing the Studentbladet magazine and organizing events for Swedish-speaking and bilingual students. The members of SSI are, in addition to HYY, Aalto University’s Student Union (AYY), Arcada Student Union (ASK), Teknologföreningen and HYY’s Swedish-language student nations Nylands Nation, Östra Finlands Nation, Åbo Nation and Vasa nation.

SSI’s board for 2019 will be elected at the association’s fall meeting 27.11.2018. Each member association will name their own candidates for the board. No more than two candidates can be chosen for the board from a single member association.

Applicants should send their freely written applications to HYY’s registry (kirjaamo@hyy.fi) by 23:59 on the 4th of November 2018. HYY will select its candidates based on their fluency in the Swedish language, their knowledge of HYY’s Swedish-speaking community and their previous experience of the administrative work that comes with working on a board. HYY’s representatives are expected to stay in close contact with HYY’s board on matters related to SSI. HYY’s candidate will be chosen according to the abovementioned criteria, so do bring them up in your application.

HYY’s Board will go through the applications and choose HYY’s candidates in its meeting on the 8th of November 2018. The applicants will be informed of the results afterwards. We also hope that anyone applying to become HYY’s candidate can make it to SSI’s fall meeting on the 27th of November, where the new board will be elected.

For more information regarding SSI’s board and SSI as an association, please contact HYY’s and SSI’s board member Sebastian Österman (sebastian.osterman@hyy.fi).

‘The Chair of Kronos has traditionally run as a candidate in the Representative Council elections on HYAL’s list’, the Chair of HYY’s Board at the time told me in autumn 2007. It was a comment that defined my life and use of time for the following eight years. After three active and rewarding years in my subject organisation, I was leaving the history students’ own positions behind me. Luckily, I had active and more experienced people encouraging me and explaining why I should join the Student Union’s activities and what I could learn from them.

The Student Union won me over. It was fun to run an election campaign with a good team, new things in HYY were interesting and politics felt worth influencing. Reforming the operating grant model for organisations and relocating our premises when the third student house was completed took over my free time quite efficiently – and I was not even sorry for it. Learning new things and influencing matters in HYY were inspiring by themselves.

I was already somewhat familiar with organisational affairs and influencing study affairs from my subject organisation. However, the Student Union managed to surprise me with its diversity: we got to build a more sustainable city, campaign for the climate act and debate with top researchers on the funding of education. We were able to safely learn new things in a group where someone always knew a bit more about their own theme and knew how to instruct us novices. At the same time, we got to constantly develop the things we learned and apply them on the organisational field.

The importance of communication was also emphasised: organisations did not care how many nights the Representative Council members spent negotiating in the meeting rooms of the New Student House if we did not tell them about the victories we achieved. Being in active contact with your own field – the communities on whose mandate you were acting in HYY – was an indicator of the success of all activities. This was a vital lesson for my later working life and political activity.

After the years spent in HYY, me and many of my independent friends continued advocacy work by joining parties. On many evenings, we have reminisced about the past and compared the things we learned in the Representative Council to our current responsibilities, in larger and smaller parties. We have often concluded that out of all the election campaigns we have run, none have so far beaten the organisation of our Representative Council campaigns. Later, as a vice council member of the Helsinki City Council, I have also come to appreciate the structured and civilised manner of discussion in HYY’s Representative Council.

The Student Union offered me another degree and cornerstone of competence to accompany my master’s degree. My degree in arts is now complemented by everything acquired during my years in HYY: negotiation and lobbying skills, skills in campaign and project management and, most of all, the vast network of skilled, familiar people from HYY who now act in different sectors of society. Because if anything, HYY taught me how to cooperate. To trust and to earn the trust of others. To accept and take responsibility. To envision and work hard at the same time. If you are still thinking whether it is worth it to join, I encourage you not to hesitate. The adventure in HYY is sure to pay itself back!

Katri Korolainen 

The writer spent the best years of her youth at the New Student House. She acted as a member of HYY’s Board in 2009 and its Chair in 2010 as well as the Chair of the National Union of University Students in Finland in 2011. She is also the former Secretary General of HYY. Currently, she is acting as the Director in charge of communications and advocacy work at Nuori kirkko ry.

[Unfortunately, the links embedded in text are only in Finnish]

When I think of a random weekday from the past year, I often imagine myself sitting in various places: as a student representative in the meetings of administrative bodies or at the Student Union’s office. Besides this, I spend my time on studying, which often translates into sitting in lecture halls or in front of my laptop at home. What all these aspects of student life have in common is an abundant amount of sitting – students spend an average of 9–10 hours per day sitting.

It is no coincidence that students spend a great deal of their time each day sitting. Just imagine a regular lecture hall and teaching situation: students are often sitting for several hours listening to lectures, with only short breaks in between. Besides the fact that, pedagogically, such a teaching situation makes students passive, it does not encourage students to move sufficiently for their wellbeing, either. Lecture halls in universities generally do not have opportunities for standing up, not to mention having exercise breaks. The day continues with lectures that require more sitting, the days turn into weeks and at some point we realise that we cannot study or stand up for university democracy because of aches and pains in the upper back. Who will accumulate the credits for the University or bring student perspectives to negotiation tables when an increasing number of students are suffering from constant pain in their neck, shoulders and back? The situation is not made any easier by the fact that the University staff is facing the same problems day after day – based on empirical observations in meetings, constant sitting is tormenting the staff of the University just as much as it is students.

Because of worries like the ones described above, Sunday 16 September was a pleasant day: I got to think about rolling my feet and the centre of gravity during my step for the first time in a long while when preparing for a run. Running shoes had been fetched from storage and the exact length of the heel-to-toe-drop in millimetres forgotten when the Student Union of the University of Helsinki invited students to participate in the ‘Espoon Rantakymppi’ 10-kilometre run for more versatile study facilities and a study culture that encourages people to sit less. A total of 13 students arrived from different subject backgrounds, and even though the Aalto University sponsored 1,700 members of their university to participate in the run, we did not lose out to them in terms of impact: our campaign garnered attention from university managements all across Finland, and talks of reforming and developing teaching facilities to become more ergonomic rose to the surface once again at the University of Helsinki. In addition to this, the stunt increased the interest of the management of the University of Helsinki in sponsoring members of the University community to participate in running events, which would serve to increase our community spirit besides encouraging people to exercise.

In addition to all of the above, our group of runners were in great spirits throughout the event, and the running went smoothly, too. During the run and the preparations for it, I felt that the audience was encouraging me to exercise and to break the everyday routine of sitting – I would love for every single student and member of the University community to experience this in the future when hanging out at the University or attending meetings and lectures.

Vice Rector Tom Böhling, in charge of campus development and the wellbeing of the University community, has, in a recent interview, taken it upon him to create an environment in which it is as easy as possible for the personnel and students to do their job. This is an ambitious goal, and it has been a pleasure to note how the new rectors have showed a desire to invest in the wellbeing of the members of the University and the construction of communality. The first step towards everyday routines that include more exercise at the University is to decrease sitting, and the solution to this is reforming both the facilities and the culture. The Finnish Student Sports Federation (OLL) has collected tips for taking breaks from sitting for both teachers and students.

Our running campaign was only the beginning – now we are challenging everyone at the University of Helsinki to a literal uprising from sitting by adding one act that decreases sitting into their weekly routine. Only healthy members of the community will retain the joy of learning and creating new things.

Topias Tolonen
Board Member (Higher Educational Politics, International Affairs, Communications)

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 two members and two deputy members to the Hoas Delegation for the mandate period 20192020.

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 kirjaamo@hyy.fi no later than Oct. 28 2018. The application should include the applicant's first names, surname, address, email address and telephone number. You may also attach your CV. We hope to receive applications from persons with different backgrounds.

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

Further information:
HYY's Housing Specialist Sofia Lindqvist, sofia.lindqvist@hyy.fi, 050 543 9605

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. HYY is now looking for one committed member for the Hoas Board for the term of office 2019–2020.

The administrative organs of Hoas include the Board and the delegation. The Board is responsible for the managing of operational activities and is in charge of Hoas finances, also with their personal property if necessary. The Board elects the CEO and guides their work, decides on Hoas strategy and other issues, which are not decided by the delegation. In order to attend to this official post properly, the representative is also required to participate in other events of Hoas administration and interest groups, in addition to meetings. The membership in Hoas Board is a responsible official post, for which a reasonable remuneration is paid. 

According to Hoas regulations, the maximum composition of the Board is 10 members and HYY appoints three of them. The Hoas Board includes experts from different fields, who often have been involved in the student union in their study years. Politicians often represent the cities of the capital region. In addition, Hoas residents have their own representative in the Board. Applicants are required to have close contacts to the student world, cooperate actively with HYY, and have knowledge of the operating environment in Hoas and the motivation to work for the purpose of Hoas, which is to facilitate the housing situation of students. Of the board member we are currently seeking, we especially desire knowledge in customer understanding and service design. Know-how in a field that supports the work in the Board, such as real estate, finances, IT, communications or HR expertise is considered an advantage. The operating language of the Board is Finnish so fluency in the Finnish language is required.

We hope to receive applications from persons with different backgrounds. Informal applications (max. one page) with CVs should be submitted by email to kirjaamo@hyy.fi no later than 28 Oct. The application should include the applicant's first names, surname, address, email address and telephone number. The HYY Board appoints the member for the Hoas Board during the first half of November after a possible round of preliminary assignments and interviews. HYY may also appoint a person from outside the applicants.

Read the Hoas regulations (in Finnish).

Further information:
HYY's Housing Specialist Sofia Lindqvist, sofia.lindqvist@hyy.fi, 050 543 9605

Helsinki is the capital of Finland as well as the living room of all Finns. Helsinki is the city of those working, studying and living here. Helsinki is our common city.

The Student Union of the University of Helsinki has always had a close connection to the city. It should be obvious to everyone today that universities increase the appeal of modern cities. Our business life, research and culture would all be much poorer without the University of Helsinki. In addition to this, students bring about changes in the way our city is managed.

I was in the Representative Council myself as a representative of the HYY Greens. I was an active member of HYY’s Social Policy Division where we influenced matters such as the social situation of students with a family, family services, student housing, subsistence, mental health services, psychosocial support, disabled students’ opportunities to get about and the accessibility of the city. We organised events, brought up issues and wrote.

It has been a pleasure to note that these kinds of ways of influencing have not disappeared anywhere. Influencing matters in the Student Union is pretty similar to the advocacy work I currently do from the perspective of the entire Helsinki. Work done in the Student Union has become more efficient, and the management of Helsinki hears the students’ message ever louder and clearer, too. These messages have a lot of influence on the shape our city takes in the future.

What does the recipient of students’ messages think of them, then? That they are well thought out and the result of good decision-making. The issues have been debated and deliberated. And, most of all, that students care about the issues.

When you receive a message from HYY, you can be sure that they come from people chosen to represent the diverse voices that students themselves represent. We know that students care about who represents them. We should take such parties seriously. Receiving the messages is also made a lot easier by the fact that a large portion of the current decision-makers are also products of HYY.

Please indulge me as one such decision-maker reminisces a bit: I remember when I returned from an Erasmus exchange in Berlin. I had separated from my cohabiting partner during the exchange and returned to Helsinki without a home where I could go to. Studies were not going all that well either, and I decided to apply for a job as a project researcher to get something else to think about. HYY soon won me over. I made HYY a report on students’ wellbeing and subsistence. Similar reports still have an important role today in sketching out students’ situation.

As I walk to work through the Senate Square this autumn, I see groups of freshers who are just beginning their studies. Before that, I have walked past my old department of sociology on Unioninkatu and the building of the Faculty of Social Sciences where I worked at a clinic for dermatology and venereal diseases as a general upper secondary school student. I started my studies in sociology in Franzenia, which today is a city-run day care centre. The city has changed a lot, but HYY’s activities remain strong. It is good that some things change while others do not. Students themselves, however, are on the side of change – and that is good.

Sanna Vesikansa

The writer is the Deputy Mayor for Social Services and Health Care in Helsinki. In HYY, Vesikansa acted as a project researcher in 1994–1997, a member of the Representative Council and a member of the Social Policy Division.

The Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) nominates Bachelor of Arts (Education) Krista Laitila for the Chair of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) and Student of Social Sciences Titta Hiltunen and Master of Science, Student of Social Sciences Topias Tolonen for members of SYL’s Board for 2019.

Laitila, 25, a student of educational sciences, has acted as the Vice Chair of HYY’s Board this year, being in charge of coordinating the HYY150 Anniversary year and its main advocacy themes. Her other areas of responsibility have included advocacy work on the status of students with a family as well as spreading equality and improving University democracy in the administrative bodies of the University of Helsinki.

 ‘The Parliamentary elections, European Parliament elections and possible county elections are important influencing places for the entire student movement. As SYL’s chair, my goal would be to promote free and accessible education and support for the coping and mental health of the young generation in particular. The student movement should also be involved in promoting equality and making it visible in the everyday life of students’, Laitila states.

Titta Hiltunen has been in charge of matters related to students’ subsistence, advocacy work related to regional and parliamentary elections, and city and housing advocacy work in HYY’s Board this year. Hiltunen, 26, a student of political history, has been developing new ways of influencing for the student movement, including the student simulator, a game that highlights the various challenges students face with their subsistence. In addition to this, she has filed a complaint with the Parliamentary Ombudsman on the Student Union’s behalf about the interpretations of household in connection with general housing allowance. In SYL’s Board, she is motivated by the upcoming comprehensive reform of social security.

 ‘A major objective for the student movement next year is to get students included in the comprehensive reform of social security. Students are people like anyone else, and social security that cover basic needs in life is their right just as it is everyone else’s’, Hiltunen states.

Topias Tolonen, 24, has been in charge of communications, educational policy and international affairs in HYY’s Board. His tasks related to international affairs have concerned tuition fees for students from outside the EU and the EEA, students’ participation, and the University’s internationalisation strategies in particular. In addition to this, he has developed HYY’s processes of reactive communication and been an active participant in advocacy work within the University.

 Tolonen, who has studied applied mathematics and is currently studying economics, has accumulated experience especially in developing the internationality of the Finnish higher education field. ‘Finland’s EU presidency is an opportunity for SYL to bring forward the values of the Finnish student movement both during the presidency and during the period leading to the European Parliament elections. Our national higher education field is on the threshold of internationalisation, and the following years are critical for the future of Finland’s higher education field. The EU Presidency gives SYL an opportunity to show Europe how advocacy work in educational policy is conducted in Finland and, at the same time, to promote the accessibility of education more widely’, he explains.

‘Laitila’s experience in advocacy work is convincing. She has a vision for developing the organisation and a good approach to leadership. Hiltunen has strong expert knowledge and is motivated to create a more equal student movement. Tolonen is a creative expert who is inspired by both international advocacy work and educational policy’, Chair of HYY’s Board Lauri Linna describes the candidates.

SYL elects its Board for 2019 in its Congress, held on 16–17 November in Otaniemi. SYL looks after students’ interests on the national level, taking a stand on issues related to educational policy, social policy and international affairs.

Further information:

Krista Laitila
krista.laitila@hyy.fi
050 5950328

Titta Hiltunen
titta.hiltunen@hyy.fi
040 8270361

Topias Tolonen
topias.tolonen@hyy.fi
040 5345896

Lauri Linna, Chair of HYY’s Board
lauri.linna@hyy.fi
050 543 9610

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