According to the last year's student survey of the Ministry of Education and Culture, university students study an average of 29 hours per week. This amount may seem small but few students have the opportunity to focus only on their studies during the academic terms. Nearly one-third of university students across the country spend over 20 hours per week on paid work. As much as 70 per cent of the students of the University of Helsinki engage in paid work during the academic terms. The main reason for work is to secure income, but the need to get involved in the labour market is also an important reason to work during the academic terms.
”Students are too easily accused of laziness and the slow progress of studies. Progress at the target pace requires that a student has approximately 1,600 working hours per academic year. The active teaching period at university is, however, just over 30 weeks a year, and the student is required to work an average of almost 50 hours per week during the semesters. When you add paid work and some kind of a social life, it is no wonder if you don't get much exercise or sleep”, summarises the Chairperson of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki Leena Pihlajamäki.
When the summer comes, students work even harder. During the summer, students mostly work full-time or even over 40 hours per week – if they just manage to find work. If a student does not find a summer job, they cannot be unemployed either. Students must prove at the social office that they are active in job hunting or are not offered suitable summer courses in order to receive social assistance.
In HYY's opinion, too many sanctions are already used to restrict the study pace. The current requirements cause unreasonable pressure on students and the effect is visible as the student's ill-being. More than half of Finnish students suffer from a variety of health problems which hinder the progress of studies. One tenth of students suffer from psychological symptoms.
According to Finnish Centre for Pensions, approximately 700 under 35-year-olds are annually granted disability pension. The value of the loss of contribution for the state per one person who is granted disability pension at the age of thirty is over 1.5 million euro. HYY demands that more attention is paid to the students' coping and the study ability. Pressure piled on students is ultimately expensive both for the students' health and the national economy.
HYY requires that social policy targeted to students must take a new direction. Student financial aid must be made more gratuitous, a transition to receiving other benefits must be made more flexible and studying with the sickness allowance must be enabled. A good solution could also be a basic income which would replace the current benefits. Work during studies must be accepted as part of the career also in statistics. The study ability is just as important as the working ability and we students do not want to lose either of them.
HYY's Board Member Anni Hirsaho, firstname.lastname@example.org; 050 595 0328
Opiskelijatutkimus 2010. Korkeakouluopiskelijoiden toimeentulo ja opiskelu. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön julkaisuja 2010:18.
Ristipaineessa. Tutkimus Helsingin yliopiston opiskelijoiden työssäkäynnistä, työkokemuksista ja ammatillisesta järjestäytymisestä. Teemu Kemppainen Student Research Foundation Otus.