The level of education does not rise on its own

Greetings from the Kick-off Seminar of the National Union of University Students in Finland!

Laura Rissanen wrote in Aamulehti on 11 January on the topic of raising the universities’ objectives for degrees. The increase in the number of students has unsurprisingly raised a lot of discussion and also been a relevant topic here in the seminar.

To raise the level of education in Finland is an excellent goal. Nevertheless, we need to remember that this does not happen on its own and increasing the number of students is not a shortcut to happiness. The government programme includes a goal to increase the level of competence in Finland at all levels of education. This goal is not reached merely by multiplying the number of competent people but by ensuring that the quality of education at least remains on the same level. Sufficient resources are vital for the quality of higher education.

In addition to increasing the number of students we need to investigate the methods to improve the circumstances that affect how many people complete their studies. Out of those aged 25–34, 60% already begin studies in higher education. If more people completed their studies, it would already suffice to reach the government’s objectives for higher education. However, this requires investments as we need to enable studying by securing students’ income and well-being. The reason that students delay or discontinue their studies cannot be that they have to work to secure their income.

We students do not second the model mentioned in Rissanen’s opinion piece that would only make the first degree free. Without the option of a free second degree, the opportunities to move to a different field would be limited. The field for which students initially educate themselves might not meet their expectations. Individuals also should not be punished for unexpected changes in the job market that require them to update their competences.

It is good to remember that even at this moment, the education in Finland is not free for all. International students that come from outside the EU and EEA countries have to pay tuition fees. These tuition fees cost 80,000–12,000 euros in Tampere. The majority of students required to pay the tuition fee are nevertheless eligible for scholarships provided by Finnish universities.

We want education to be free for all students, including international students and those taking a second degree. Free education has historically been Finland’s biggest act to promote equality and its accomplishments should not be run down with short-sighted action.

-Ella, TREY Board 2020, Educational affairs and equality