I seem to return to this topic annually, but budget cuts to student welfare have turned out to be a recurring theme in Finnish politics. Last year, the current government promised that it would not cut student allowances. A year later, they might be able to argue that they've kept their promise, semantically, but one can't really claim that the situation is getting any better for students in Finland. The next parliamentary elections might prove critical as regards student welfare for the foreseeable future. The ever-exciting question remains: will students remain as a perfect target for austerity, or will we be able to elect representatives that fight for our rights? Here's a collection of the most recent government decisions that directly hurt students and their welfare (and my apologies for the links in Finnish). Keep them in mind next time you pick who to vote.
1) Student healthcare cut 4 million euros How about that! Four million is some 10% of Finnish Student Health Service's (YTHS) budget, representing 67 annual man-years. Currently, 640 people work for YTHS, meaning we could see less psychiatrists, dentists, and other specialists after the cuts take effect. Even the reduced services might show as a larger bill for students, as YTHS is also funded from student union membership fees. Furthermore, healthcare will not be available for students at universities of applied science, as was originally planned.
2) Student housing cut c. 2 million euros For a 50m² HOAS flat, the cut could result in a 12,5 € monthly increase in rents. So in addition to being sick, you might also get to do fieldwork back at your mom's flat.
3) Student allowance and (possibly) student loans won't be available for a second degree The government decision to disallow student allowance for students doing a double-bachelor's or a double-master's degree attacks what's left of academic freedom. The problem might be more marginal than 1) and 2) above, but so is the phenomenon the cut's supposed to tackle, raising questions over the quantity (and quality) of savings achieved by the decision.
4) Research struck for 50 million Dafuq. The Academy of Finland faces 50 million in cuts to its research funding between 2015-2017, which probably won't help landing that research grant after graduation.
5) Overall university funding cut 50% for 2015 Believe it or not, all institutes of higher learning see their index support halved for 2015, cutting government spending by 16,5 million euros. Maarit Valo, chair of the Finnish Union of University Professors, says many were prepared for even worse. Aalto University was the first to announce plans to reduce 130 employees as a response to adverse developments in university funding. A round of bingo to pick the next uni to show people dem doors?
Homework: How does the outlook of higher education look in Finland, based on the latest government decisions? How do you think the government sees research and teaching in Finland? Do you think your work as a student and a possible academic employee is appreciated by politicians? Discuss over a can of Pirkka beer. It's the one we might be able to afford.