Student representatives develop both the University and their own competence


Developing the framework that ensures the smooth flow of studies does not require a crystal ball, but showing dedication may result in a change in both the University and yourself.

HYY is now looking for students who want to be involved in developing their degree programme into exactly what its students want it to be – in other words, we are looking for student representatives for the steering groups of all degree programmes for the 2021–2022 two-year term.

I believe that these positions are both the most influential and, at the same time, suitable to every single student interested in influencing matters, regardless of the stage of their studies or their previous experience. How can such an equation hold up?

The steering groups of degree programmes define the central principles of each degree programme’s operation, from degree requirements to the planning of courses offered each year. As part of these groups, the student representatives will directly influence their own studies as well as those of all their fellow students. If that is not influential, I do not know what is.

From reactive to proactive

Students’ desire to influence matters often arises from a problem they want to fix. In my job, I have had the pleasure to hear about several success stories of this kind: student representatives have solved problems with exam registrations and the selection methods for study tracks, managed to get the workload from studies distributed more evenly throughout the year and got infamous exam books changed for different ones.

In the best-case scenario, student representatives’ influence in their degree programme prevents these kinds of problems from being created in the first place. This does not require time travel or a crystal ball, just simple dedication to the planning of teaching. Preparing the curriculum and the teaching schedule are opportunities to influence matters in the degree programmes – they provide students with the opportunity to establish clear and equal operating principles, flexible opportunities to complete courses and the emphases students desire in the available courses.

By asking yourself (and, if needed, other students) how these plans will affect us students and what we would prefer, student representatives bring to the table valuable perspectives on whether the plans are leading to smoothly progressing study paths or bottlenecks and issues with legal protection. This is how we get from reacting to problems to proactively developing teaching and the status of students. If that is not influential, I do not know what is.

Work for the community – and yourself

Student representatives work for developing their entire degree programme and community. At the same time, however, they unavoidably develop new skills for themselves.

In a recent  interview, Minea Antila, who acts as a student representative, described what she has managed to influence and what she has learned from the position. Besides the opportunities to influence matters it provides, the best parts of acting as a student representative include the various things you learn in the position. Getting acquainted with the decision-making processes underlying teaching also teaches you all kinds of things, from the secrets of good administration to negotiation and organisation skills. Last year, Paula Karhunen and Aleksi Rytkönen already wrote aptly about the skills you learn as a student representative that are also central in working life – skills that are not just for studies but also for life.

These are not skills that you need to have beforehand or learn them alone. As a student representative, you will have the support of the student representatives’ network and HYY’s training as well as our specialist’s help only a message or a phone call away.

If developing your own degree programme to reflect students’ views sounds like something you may be interested in, do not hesitate to apply to become a student representative! The call for applications is open until Monday 5 October 2020 – and further information is available here.

Jenna Sorjonen

The writer is HYY’s specialist in educational policy who has, in her time, defended the views of her fellow students in quite a few administrative bodies at the University. In her current job, she is in charge of supporting student representatives as well as students’ legal protection and continues to draw inspiration from the passion students show towards advocacy work.