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Reforms to student financial aid and education in the Government's structural reform – information package for students

23.09.2013

The Finnish Government made a number of decisions that will also affect the student's everyday life in connection with a budget discussion at the end of August. So how should students be prepared? HYY drafted a concise information package on the reforms that concern students. It is still unclear how the decisions will be implemented exactly, and therefore we do not have any definite information about their impacts. HYY will monitor the situation and report about the reforms in more detail, as soon as they are known.

The future students' period for student financial aid will be shortened by five months. Based on the decision, new students will be entitled to a total of 50 student financial aid months starting in the autumn of 2014. The monthly study grant will be increased with the incurred savings. The current estimated amount is approximately thirty euro. The number of student financial aid months and the amount of the study grant of the current students will remain unchanged.

The Government decided that legislation concerning normative graduation time limits in higher education institutions is made stricter. Currently, students admitted to study for both the lower and higher academic degree have the right to complete the degrees within a period that is two years longer than their combined normative time limit (normally five years). The Government decided that this legislation will be reviewed and possibly made stricter. Again, this change is unlikely to concern the current students.   

At best, the decision to enable year-round studies would result in the fact that all faculties of the University of Helsinki would provide more teaching in the summer and other opportunities to take courses. At present, most of the faculties of the University of Helsinki offer some kind of  opportunities for summer studies. The Open University also organises plenty of courses where the degree students of the University of Helsinki can participate. However, the University's autonomy includes decisions concerning teaching and therefore we cannot draw direct conclusions about how the objective will affect the students. 

Currently, the University's state funding is based on completed degrees (24% of the funding) and the number of students who complete at least 55 credits per year (11% of the funding). Based on the Government's decision, the relevance of the latter in the funding will be increased in the future. The reform of the funding base is a way to direct the University to accelerate graduation, which the student union hopes to be implemented by streamlining study paths. However, if there are major fluctuations in the university funding, it may also cause problems for students.

Clearing a backlog of applicants means that study places should be increased in professional fields, in particular. In the current and previous years, study places have been increased in the fields of medicine and law at the University of Helsinki and other universities in Finland. However, it is not yet known in which fields and which universities the increasing of study places will be implemented.

The Government also decided to emphasise the importance of the matriculation examination in student admission. Universities are autonomous, which means that they have the right to decide on their own student admission and applicable criteria, among other things. Therefore, the implementation of the entry, which emphasises the significance of the matriculation examination, depends on the attitude of the university and faculties.
Changes to the general housing allowance also concern some of the students. The structural reform package also decided that means-testing for the general housing allowance does not take into account 400 euro of earned income per the receiver of the aid for a six-month period from the beginning of the employment. It is unlikely that students covered by this aid have been considered separately yet, and they will have separate income limits for the study grant and the housing allowance.