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Statement: Finnish higher education dance–one step forward, two steps back

The Student Union (ISYY)

Statement: For immediate release

Finnish higher education dance––one step forward, two steps back

The Student Union of the University of Eastern Finland (ISYY) sees Roope Uusitalo’s proposed cuts from the financial aid for students to be unreasonable. The government platform of Juha Sipilä’s cabinet entails a planned cut of EUR 150 million from the existing EUR 544 million student financial aid budget. In other words, students’ livelihood would be cut by 27.5 per cent, which is completely unreasonable. Meanwhile, students are pushed to graduate faster as the number of months of financial aid would be cut down and the monthly workload requirements increased. In more specific terms, this means that students would be required to gain six credit points per month as opposed to the current requirement of five, which in turn would result in students’ weekly working hours increasing from 33.7 to 40.5 hours.

“How did we lose the appreciation for learning and the will to invest in higher education that brought this nation back on its feet in the 90’s? With these cuts we are basically throwing away all that effort and investment in higher education. It’s as if the intent was to destroy the greatest strength in Finnish higher education––equal opportunity”, states the Chairperson of the Executive Board Juho Ikonen.

These cuts will not only adversely affect students’ livelihood but also their wellbeing. The proposed cuts would reduce the monthly study grant by nearly one hundred euros. In addition, the number of months of financial aid provided for students could be cut by as many as ten, which would further worsen the situation of students. The housing supplement would remain unscathed, however. As the report commissioned by Kela states, the study grant and housing supplement funds are primarily spent on covering the costs of accommodation. Taking into account the high the costs of accommodation in Eastern Finland today, students would have to choose between two options if the proposed cuts are imposed: getting a student loan or a job. Considering that what one eats could be seen as one of the most essential factors in measuring welfare, the Student Union (ISYY) believes it is unreasonable to ask students to fill up their stomachs with debt.

One factor further discouraging students from taking a loan is the difficulty of finding a job after graduating in today’s labour market. Working while studying is not without problems either as it tends to extend the duration of studies. The Student Union (ISYY) is of the opinion that putting an emphasis on student loans creates inequality as not everyone is in the same financial situation. The weight of one’s purse should not dictate who can apply for higher education. Instead, it should be the talent and capability of an individual that are to be fostered and recognised in tomorrow’s Finland. As things stand, however, it would appear we are heading in the opposite direction.

Further information:

Juho Ikonen
Chairperson of the Executive Board
The Student Union of the University of Eastern Finland (ISYY)
044 5768400

Anna-Kristiina Mikkonen
Secretary General
The Student Union of the University of Eastern Finland (ISYY)
044 576 8417

The Student Union of the University of Eastern Finland (ISYY) is a student advocacy organisation, which provides services for students and aims to promote the societal, social and intellectual aspirations of its members. The Student Union (ISYY) operates on the three University campuses in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna.