The implementation plan of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s Vision 2030 road map was published at the end of January. It is good to see that the intention to develop the wellbeing of the staff of higher education institutions is included in it: one of the road map’s development programmes aims at making higher education institutions the best workplaces in Finland.
In addition to personnel, attention should be paid to students’ wellbeing. We live among the conflicting pressures of several factors: besides completing studies, we should be securing our subsistence, creating networks to help with our future employment and saving the world. No wonder that research indicates that one third of us have problems with mental wellbeing.*
Unfortunately, the results of the Vision 2030 work are also likely to cause our wellbeing to suffer. The new funding model for universities was prepared under the vision, and the model takes effect in 2021. The funding model rewards universities based on the number of students graduating from them as well as how the students graduate. Universities will receive the most funding from the state for students who graduate in target time, whereas they receive the least funding for students completing their second degree.*
This means that universities will soon have new financial incentives to get students out of them as soon as possible. This will surely influence everyday studying a lot, too. In the Student Union, we hope that student-friendly methods would be used to encourage the completion of degrees – we are in need of investments in our wellbeing, not sticks. Appropriate investments would include sufficient study psychologist services, flexible methods of completing courses and a study environment free of bullying. High-quality study counselling also helps us graduate. Thankfully, development work for this has already been begun at the University of Helsinki – a good example of this is the students’ own Guidance Corner, which opened this February!***
Besides the promotion of study counselling and student wellbeing, another issue that is becoming topical for higher education institutions is making the changing of fields of study smoother. As the state is making it more difficult to complete a second degree through the funding model for higher education institutions as well as the quotas for first-time applicants, it is important for students to be able to change direction during their studies. Few of us know what we really want to study or what kind of job we want when we are older at the time of applying for our first student place.
Let us work together as a university community to ensure that we at the University of Helsinki adapt to the funding model in as student-friendly a way as possible!
The writer is one of three persons in charge of educational policy on HYYs’ Board.
* The FSHS’s Finnish Student Health Survey 2016: http://www.yths.fi/en/healthsurvey2016.
** Press release by the Ministry of Education and Culture on the new funding model for higher education institutions, 17 January 2019 (in Finnish), https://minedu.fi/artikkeli/-/asset_publisher/korkeakouluille-uusi-rahoi..., and a statement on the matter published by student unions in autumn 2018: https://hyy.helsinki.fi/en/content/high-quality-competences-and-multidis....
*** The students’ own Guidance Corner opened in the Kaisa House in February 2019. In the corner, students are provided with low-threshold guidance and advice related to issues such as wellbeing, job-seeking and digital skills.