Increase in student places not enough to cultivate education

At present, 56% of young people in each generation start higher education studies. Moving from upper secondary to higher education has slowed down since 2007, and the quota for first-time applicants, implemented in 2016, has strengthened this development. Young people are making calculated choices, fearing that they will make the wrong one – and this results in them not accepting their secondary choice out of fear of losing their first-timer status. 

Instead of quotas for first-time applicants, entrance into higher education could be made easier by increasing the number of student places, like Hannu Karhunen suggests in his opinion piece for Helsingin Sanomat on 17 May. However, an increase in student places also requires increasing funding for higher education institutions. To educate an increasing number of students in a high-quality fashion, higher education institutions require not only the reinstitution of the university index but also a significant increase in the level of their basic funding. 

Ensuring that higher education institutions have good financial operating conditions is of primary importance, as students need more than just a study right to increase their skills. The best way to ensure the accumulation of skills is quality instruction.

In addition to the number of higher education graduates, it is thus extremely important to pay attention to the quality of education, which can be developed by improving learning environments, counselling practices and the ratio of students per teacher. All this requires resources. Higher education institutions should also increasingly cooperate in providing instruction and do this in a manner that is open and flexible from the student’s perspective. 

In addition to degree students, instruction should also be provided to lifelong learners. It is important that we provide all citizens with opportunities to educate themselves. Education is especially important now that we have global challenges such as climate change that we need to solve. Besides knowledge, education provides people with understanding and empathy, both of which have a crucial role in building a better world. 

Increasing the number of higher education graduates and promoting continuous learning require investments in universities and universities of applied sciences. The new government must look after the quality of education by increasing funding for higher education institutions as well as support the choices of young people by removing the quota for first-time applicants. 

– Paula Sajaniemi, Chair of the Board, Student Union of Tampere University 

Paula Karhunen, Member of the Board in charge of educational policy, Student Union of the University of Helsinki