AYY awarded the students’ Seal of Approval to the quiet room in the Undergraduate Centre

04.1.2018, rosavaisanen

AYY awarded the student’s Seal of Approval to the quiet room that was opened in the Undergraduate Centre in May 2017. The award was presented to Seija Piiponniemi-Lahti, the Head of Security at Aalto University, by AYY’s 2017 Board Member Emmi Kosomaa and International Affairs Specialist Rosa Väisänen.

AYY’s Emmi Kosomaa ja Rosa Väisänen (on the left) awarded the Seal of Approval to Seija Piiponniemi-Lahti and HR Manager Eliisa Lassila. Picture: Eeva Lehtinen.

The Aalto University quiet room was opened for the purpose of private, quiet times of meditation, calming down, praying or just being, and the room can be used by all Aalto students and staff regardless of  their religion, world views and nationality. At Aalto, there are both religious and non-religious people that need a space for prayers and silence during the working day. Opening this room to the public is a great example of the development work of an international university that is aware of the needs of an international community. Thanks to this and the positive user experiences, AYY is happy to give the Seal of Approval to the quiet room.

The quiet room is located in the Otaniemi Undergraduate Centre on the ground floor of the M wing (room M135).

Read more:

Quiet room opens in Undergraduate Centre

Students’ Seal of Approval can be awarded to practices that students have found especially good at Aalto University. By awarding the Seal of Approval we want to give credit to those practices that somehow improve e.g. students’ wellbeing, study meaningfulness, interaction or community atmosphere. AYY’s advocacy sector collects ideas from different areas of the University with the help of students and awards the best ones a couple of times a year!

Intercultural competence is an ethical mindset

15.12.2017, susannakoistinen

Intercultural competences, multicultural interaction skills, call it by any name, but still it’s all about how a person can act in a global world.

European Association of International Education (EAIE) has a yearly conference of over 6000 participants and I had the pleasure of giving a speech there this year in Seville in September. EAIE is a meeting point for higher education institutions looking for partnerships, marketing their international programmes, and most importantly for us, for teachers, researchers and developers interested in international affairs. Five-day conference is full of exposition excitement, workshops and wonderful speakers, and it gave me a lot of new energy for student advocacy work for this academic year.

Sevilla is a beautiful place.

I gave a five minute long Ignite speech about our Aalto is multicultural project, where we gathered information on the experiences of international students and their teachers. Especially we focused on “learning shock”-phenomenon and other challenges to integration (https://ayy.fi/jasenille/kansainvalisyys/multicultural-aalto/). You can see it from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMpqq2ZTcM0

I had the honor of giving also a joint session with professor Wendy Green from the University of Tasmania and Hanna Berentz, a german students, who had studied in the Netherlands. Our session dealt with student participation in different countries. Especially interesting is how student participation is a mandatory part of higher education governance, with strong student unions, but is very limited, unofficial and new in Australia (Our presentation with notes can be downloaded here (PDF): eaie presentation with notes).

Internationalization at home.

It was excellent to get to talk about internationalizing the curriculum with people, whose names I usually just see in the covers of books. Especially inspiring was to discuss the meaning and importance of international competences from a wider point of view than just work life skills or personal development.

Brexit, rising international tensions and climate refugees in the near future raised a lot of discussion. Many speakers stressed the importance of intercultural competences to all people regardless of background, so that we are not polarizing people to winners and losers of globalization. Highly educated privileged people take most out of free movement and globalization, but to others at the moment globalization just means losing their jobs.

Specialist at the spot.

Other big theme at the conference was the understanding of the importance of cultures. You can learn vocabulary by heart, but really understanding the meaning of cultural backgrounds and knowing how to adjust to a multicultural environment takes practice. Many discussions ended to the conclusion that knowing and appreciating one’s own culture is the key to understanding others.

Lastly I must mention a workshop on different academic disciplines and internationality. It was very interesting to ponder on the effect of the scientific background to internationalizing the classrooms. People form hard sciences see internationality and cultures differently from language experts and psychologists. That has to be taken into account when integrating international and multicultural skills to teaching.

Network of cultures

Passion Drives Success

11.12.2017, ottobergius

I have always been attracted by the success stories about self-made men: sportsmen, leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs… you name it. An interesting observation from those stories is that even though they all have different starting points and a route, they appear to end successfully. After reading dozens of different stories I have understood at least one very simple rule: there isn’t a golden route to success. You should focus on things that you really love and desire, and trust it will lead to happiness.

Besides people, I find the same success factors meaningful for the companies. It maybe sounds naïve, but I think the reason for Accenture’s success, the company I am working for, is different kinds of passionate people with various backgrounds, worldviews, and skillsets. As a combination of skills, the company itself is greater than the sum of its parts.

My passion towards success stories stems from the time when I was a small city boy, who had major dreams but minor circles. Reading interesting stories gave me on the same time desire and perspective to carry on with a can-do attitude. I realized I would be the sum of my decisions and write my own story.

After graduation, I was sure I would head to business school, but otherwise, it was all blur. Studying went well, but I was more interested in overall learning than university grades. The practical business fascinated me more than theory and therefore I decided to start my own businesses. I left Vaasa after three years of studying and ever since, besides my master’s thesis, I have focused on practise; first in banking and currently in consulting. In a way, I perceive my current position as a result of different choices I have made earlier – “connecting the dots” as Steve Jobs has said.

From my point of view, I want to encourage everyone to try different fields in university and listen to internal passion instead of making things that external factors wish you to perform.

Have an efficient and passionate winter!

 

Juuso Pelkonen

Management Consulting Analyst, Financial Services

M.Sc. (Industrial Management), University of Vaasa

AYY awarded the students’ Seal of Approval to ARTS’s University Wide Art Studies

30.10.2017, katarinavesikko

UWAS offers ARTS courses to all Aalto students. There is a varied array of courses on offer. The course selection has been planned and implemented from the point of view of art education, and it offers the possibility for students of different areas of expertise to get to know the arts in a diverse way, from the perspectives of art-inspired thought processes, creativity and culture. AYY encourages multidisciplinary thinking and ways to build knowledge on how art and the creative arts affect the surrounding world. With these grounds in mind, the UWAS studies are awarded the students’ Seal of Approval to signify an awesome practice inside the Aalto University.

 

UWAS is a collection of art courses, available to everyone studying at Aalto. The foremost aim is to understand learning and teaching from a different point of view. The courses can act as gateways to new thoughts and help understand what the role of arts and design are in Aalto, and what opportunities they bring out in the world. Artistic thought is approached on a broad scale. Lifelong learning is one of the key motives of UWAS.

 

The courses are aimed to help students learn innovative ways of working. The studies include a lot of observation and interpretation. The aim is to guide students towards a “what if” style of thinking. From the student’s perspective, the courses are often discussion-based. The studies offer the students insight and depth, help to realize what you already know and how to take a new approach on the things you’ve learned. A student remarked that after one of the UWAS courses, they had learned more on marketing than during their entire marketing studies altogether. The studies enable students to deepen their understanding and to combine their learning and skills over different fields of expertise. The courses do not teach students any tricks or trends, but rather focus on expanding their understanding of things.

Seal of Approval.

IN SHORT: The UWAS courses are for everyone, also for students of technology and business. The courses are organized throughout the year and signups are open even now. If you feel like artistic thinking is hard for you, challenging yourself might be a good idea. If you want new perspectives to your studies or include ARTS studies in your degree, UWAS is a great option.

The Future is Created in Cities

13.9.2017, ottobergius

If someone would have told me 2 years ago that in the future I’d be working for the city, I would not have believed them. My work history is diverse, including sales and marketing, business development and conducting consulting & leadership studies both in Finland and internationally. I also have a multidisciplinary education – I graduated as a Master of Science in Economics from Aalto University School of Business and as a Doctor of Science in Technology from the Aalto University Department of Industrial Engineering and Management (DIEM). Despite this, I’ve never gotten to know anyone in my work or studying career who has applied their knowledge of business or leadership on a municipal level. So, as I was putting the finishing touches on my doctoral dissertation on innovation leadership and musing on the possible employers I might have in the future, I mainly thought of vacancies in big international corporations or the central government of Finland.

I stumbled upon a call for applications that totally changed my way of thinking. The City of Espoo was hiring an economic development manager, whose job would entail developing the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems and leading complex collaboration networks. The job included possibilities to be a part of broad strategy work, but it also had opportunities to help the conditions of entrepreneurship and working on a grassroots level. I decided to apply for the job, and I was hired.

It was, without a doubt, the best decision of my work career so far.

Finland is urbanizing, albeit slower than the countries it’s being compared to, but it is still doing so, at a fast rate. People are moving to areas with easy-to-reach services and where solutions of the future are developed and implemented. There are not many areas like that in a country like Finland. The metropolitan area for example creates about half of our service exports. It is a global trend – humans are finally becoming an urban species. If you want to be in the center of things and get a grassroots contact to central public, private, local and international operators, there’s no better place to be than in a growing city.

And Espoo is growing – to be exact, it has increased in population tenfold in the last 50 years. That’s an incredible pace. The people that live here that are incredible as well; the highest-educated, least sick, and in addition to Helsinki and Vantaa, the most international. The Otaniemi area, measuring at only a few square kilometers, is home to such a nucleus of research and development that there’s not a place that could rival it anywhere in Northern Europe.

Espoo population 1980-2015 and projection models until 2050 (Click to enlarge the picture)

A general expert who is quick on their feet is much sought-after in a field like this. You need to understand the needs of different operators and be able to fit them together. You need to be able to act efficiently in a rapidly changing environment, in addition to working within a strategic timeframe that spans several decades. You also need excellent skills in communications and interaction. I know that the training of an economist offers, due to its multidisciplinary and challenging nature, an excellent background to these tasks. Thus, I recommend that especially business students would keep a closer eye on formerly “unsexy” calls for hire made by the city. The future is created in cities.

Welcome to Otaniemi and Espoo, the Most Sustainable City in Europe, and the most innovative city in Finland.

 

Harri Paananen

Head of Economic Development, City of Espoo

harri.paananen@espoo.fi

 

Why Small and Medium Enterprises Need to Focus on Internationalization of Workforce

22.8.2017, ahtoharmo

In this blog post Alok Jain from AYY’s Corporate Relations section writes about the internationalization of Small and Medium Enterprises and how AYY aims to boost it by arranging My Career in Finland event for the international talent of the Aalto community.

In Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) internationalization of workforce might not be a priority. Usually, the need for the international workforce is felt when SMEs venture into a new market or when it requires specific skills. However, internationalization of workforce in SMEs can prove to be much more useful. In today’s turbulent industrial environment, internationalization can help SMEs in its survival and early recognition of opportunities.

SMEs ride on the wave of turbulence that exists in today’s business environment. The business environment of almost all the industry is changing at a fast pace and it is not going to stop in near future. Change is real and it is coming! The success of most of the SMEs today may be attributed to their ability to foresee opportunities in turbulence and capitalize on it. Consequently, it can be said with utmost certainty, that survival and success of SMEs in future will depend on its ability to ride the wave of turbulence in the respective industry. In such business environment, stability or equilibrium is the precursor to death. Organizational stability is the greatest risk for which SMEs need to plan its strategy. Strategic planning in a complex and unforeseen environment is always a difficult task, however; the positive aspect of a complex environment is that it has the capacity to self-organize! Therefore, to avoid organizational stability, it just needs to be disturbed! The dots do connect, and connect for better if the lattice is disturbed in just the right way!

This is achieved because bounded instability is the breeding ground for innovation. A perfectly stable organizational environment does not generate innovative solutions, nor does a highly chaotic one. A right mix of chaos can instill the capability to innovate. The right mix of chaos can disturb the organizational lattice and reorganize it with innovation! The right mix of chaos can help SMEs survive in the turbulent business environment. The right mix of chaos has always been a key for survival; it is the law of nature. Nature has created diversity to induce right mix of chaos and help survival. The species without diversity among it is the most vulnerable to external threat. This is because a lack of diversity makes it easier for external agents to plan their move against such species.

This is true for organizations as well. People are the chromosomes of organizations. People are the genetic material of the organization that creates diversity and induces right mix of chaos! Such diversity within the organization makes them less vulnerable to turbulent business environment. Internationalization of workforce, thus, is an urgent need of SMEs.

True, SMEs can hire international people to achieve this objective, but here’s the rub: this alone is not sufficient to bring the required diversity and right mix of chaos. The existing social order and organizational culture act as ‘antibodies’ to neutralize the advantage of diversity. Internationalization of workforce can be achieved when the organizational culture allows accommodating different opinions and encourages personal development.

To facilitate this AYY is organizing a career event targeted to international members of the community with the name ‘My Career in Finland’ on the 21st November of 2017. The event is expected to see participation from 400 international students representing 95 different nationality. The event features different career related workshops, talks and networking opportunity with companies. Register an employer stand at the event now! Follow this link to know more about the event.

Alok Jain
AYY’s Corporate Relations Section


Blog text Adapted from Pascale, R.T. ‘Surfing the edge of chaos’, Sloan management review, 1999.
http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/surfing-the-edge-of-chaos/

Survey on health care services and health insurances of international students – the alarming results

15.6.2017, movaska

Students from outside of the EU/EEA need to have a residency permit to start their studies in Finland, and having a private health insurance is one of the requirements for getting a residency permit. Degree students of all nationalities are entitled to a home municipality in Finland and can use public healthcare services. Students from EU member countries can use public health care services with a European Health Insurance Card. All university students who are members of any student union can also use the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS/YTHS). However, international students do not have access to KELA benefits (unless they work in Finland for a certain time period).

Aalto University Student Union (AYY) in cooperation with the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) has conducted a survey on the use of these healthcare services and health insurances among international students in Finland. The survey was produced by the research foundation Otus. The anonymous survey collected 475 answers from students in Aalto and Helsinki universities, 246 of which were degree or exchange students from Aalto University.

In the survey we wanted to find out how well international students know the health service providers, how do the health insurances work and what kind of channels are used to get information on these issues. In the next sections we will first go over receiving care, then health insurances and issues with these.

 

Receiving treatment

In this section we will present results on how well international students received treatment. One of the questions was how well international students received required health care services while staying in Finland. These results are covered in table 1.

 

Table 1. Have you received the required care or health services in Finland? (n= 303)

 

There is a clear difference between students who have come from EU/EAA countries and students from outside EU/EEA in attainment of health care services. Only 64% of non-EU/EEA students said they felt they got the required treatment always or on most occasions, whereas 81% of EU/EEA students report the same.

Out of the students from both EU/ETA and other countries those who did not always receive the care they needed brought up different reasons. These results are represented in table 2.

 

Table 2. If you have not always received required healthcare, how often did you receive care despite these reasons? (n= 475) (NB. there was an option to choose several reasons)

 

The main reason for not getting treatment among participants was not knowing what their insurance covered. 64% of the respondents felt that unawareness of these issues lead to them receiving required treatment sometimes, seldom, or never at all. The other major reasons were not being aware of available services and being deemed not eligible for aid by health care services.

 

Health insurances used by international students

In this section we will go over different health insurances used by international students and their experiences with applying for compensation and dealing with insurance companies. These questions were asked only from students from outside EU/ETA for whom the insurance is required.

There are several health insurance providers international students use. The insurance recommended by Finnish authorities and universities is SIP Insurances, according to a tendering process done in the early 2010s by a consortium of universities. SIP Insurances have a market share of 26% among the respondents. As seen in table 3, other popular insurances are Swisscare (27%) and International Student Insurance (13%).

Table 3. Health insurance provider (n=323) 

 

The respondents were also asked about the process of acquiring an insurance. Only 38% of the respondents felt they had received enough information regarding the contents of the insurance and the terms of compensation, as seen in table 4. Buying an insurance does not seem to be a difficult process for the respondents, but it seems that students just get the insurance for the sake of getting the residency permit – without really knowing how the insurance functions or what its coverage is.

 

 

Table 4. Opinions on getting the insurance among students with insurance (n= 323)

As seen in table 5, the biggest problem of getting insurance was not knowing what kind of insurance one should buy, which 35% of respondents found to be an issue. 30% felt it was difficult to find information on the different available options. According to the official report the most popular source of information were university pages (32%), Migri web pages (22%), friends (21%) and Study in Finland web pages (19%).

Some students (4%) found that their general health, such as pre-existing conditions made it hard to get an insurance. This is extremely worrisome and against the principle of equality.

 

Table 5. Issues when getting the insurance (n=323)

 

Table 6. shows the issues stated above as complied into different insurance providers. Note that in some of these the amount of answers was very low.

 

‘Table 6. Insurances as complied by different providers.

 

Conclusion

International students are required to have a private health insurance in order to commence their studies in Finland, but they are left alone with the problems they face with insurances. There is not enough information provided by the authorities, Study in Finland page or the universities, and when compared to similar pages in other European countries, the level of detail on Finnish pages is rather low.

Finnish authorities and universities only thinking about providing international students with degrees is unsustainable. A more holistic approach to internationalisation of universities is needed in Finland. Putting efforts into developing degrees and teaching is important, but if basic services like health care, banking or immigration services have grave problems, Finland is hardly a dream destination. What needs to be taken into account is the whole experience of integrating international students into the Finnish society, and problems with basic needs such as healthcare reflect negatively on the image of Finnish education.

International students have the right to a well-functioning, affordable and accessible insurance, as well as proper information on healthcare and health insurances. Issues with health care and adequate compensation for health care costs need to be taken very seriously. If Finland truly wants to welcome its international students, all parties involved need to step up their game. A new tendering process is needed, as the health insurance now recommended by the universities and authorities has the gravest problems and lowest customer satisfaction among students. Immigration authorities, universities and the National Agency for Education need to sit down together and start developing solutions.

 

Milla Ovaska, Specialist, International Affairs

Aalto University Student Union

contact: international(at)ayy.fi

AYY Branding 2.0

17.5.2017, katarinavesikko

The branding train keeps rolling on! So far we’ve collected statements and analysed their results – even our strategy document is starting to look good to go. That means that the ground work for the project will soon be a thing of the past, and as summer arrives, we will enter the more visible part of the process as we start tackling the challenges that the visual and communicational reform calls for.

AYY Branding x Futurice x Aalto Marketing Society present: Crash Course to Branding

One of the event highlights of the spring was the Crash Course to Branding event in April. 30 students from Aalto and other universities gathered together to spend a relaxed afternoon, finding out more about branding in general as well as the new AYY branding project. The event was organized in collaboration with the Aalto Marketing Society and Futurice, who also kindly provided us with an amazing location for the event.

 

 

The event began with Futurice’s experts’ introduction on branding, which gave everyone present a comprehensive overview on what branding really means. In addition to the basics of branding, the speakers presented examples of particularly successful branding events, such as last year’s two-week plumbing renovation that caused quite a fuss. If you want to find out more about the basics of branding, check out our previous blog entry: https://ayy.fi/blogi/2017/03/23/ayy-branding-1-0/

Aalto Marketing Society’s chairperson Henrik Lähdesniemi led the participants into a discussion about community branding using AMS’s re-branding project as an example. The marketing students’ association Aalto Marketing Society, founded in 1999, underwent a thorough brand renovation in 2016: the name was changed along with the policies and visual look, resulting in a completely re-branded organization. Lähdesniemi gave advice on what organizations and communities should pay attention to if they want to renew their brand and what to expect in the process. You can check out Aalto Marketing Society’s new, re-branded look on their website: www.aaltomarketing.fi

 

 

The last part of the day’s agenda was AYY’s own re-branding project. Futurice’s Brand Vision Sprint was used as a branding tool for this. The participants were divided into several small groups to ponder on how to create a unified Aalto identity, which would also respect the other identities found within the Aalto community. This resulted in six different visions and brand outlines constructed with the help of the Vision Sprint Canvas templates. If your association’s brand needs a facelift, Futurice’s Canvas templates and other methodical tools are available free of charge on their website: http://futurice.com/blog/how-to-do-brand-design-the-lean-way and https://www.leanservicecreation.com/

What’s next?

The next steps for the branding project include meeting several more of our stakeholders. As we make our way to e. g. Mikkeli, the brand strategy document makes its way to the Representative Council, and in the summer, we will hopefully have a signed and finalized version of the strategy. The brand working group will draw up an action plan based on the strategy, which will be used to guide us through the practical implementation of the remainder of the process. During the summer, we will put our hands to the plough and create a solid groundwork for AYY’s new brand that can be moulded during the years, if need be, as well as evaluated by clear performance indicators.

– Noora

AYY Branding 1.0

23.3.2017, katarinavesikko

A brand? What exactly is it? Since when have we had one of those, or have we ever had one?

The AYY brand working group seeks answers to these questions and many others. The process has started with full throttle, and the progress of the brand work can be followed from here on out in the regularly updated blog, found right here!

Our first piece will shed light on what is happening with the brand work and what is afoot in the project. In addition, our brand work group member Milla will present some of the work done at the Chairperson Seminar.

A Short Explanation of Brand Work

AYY has not undergone systematic brand work before. So why start now? Is it not just pointless façade polishing?

In short: No. In more words and lots of marketing jargon: No; brand work is an analytical and strategic process, where the core values of a brand are identified from a large collection of data. Based on these, a vision, identity and strategy are created, from which concrete action plans are derived. Finally, the brand is implemented into action. After the whole process, the relevance of the brand along with its success are measured, and encountered faults are corrected. In this stage the idea is to create a full understanding of AYY’s situation.

Sounds hard to grasp?

In practice, it means that instead of pondering on nice visuals, planning hoodie prints and coming up with snazzy slogans, it is about a lot more in-depth work. Branding does not mean merely a visual and communicational ‘sprucing up’, but pondering on the whole existence of AYY and considering the role of AYY in the student community, society and actually pretty much everything, in addition to communications and the visual outlook. This covers living, services, organization, visual outlook, identity, activities, culture, communications and pretty much every situation where AYY meets different parties or people.

Tähän mennessä olemme kartoittaneet käsitystä siitä, miltä AYY näyttää omien ja ulkopuolisten toimijoiden silmin. Tähän mennessä kysymyksiä on esitetty yhdistyksille, muille ylioppilaskunnille ja AYY:n kunniavaltuustolle. Maaliskuun aikana tavoitteena on kerätä vielä enemmän vastauksia eri tahoilta saadaksemme mahdollisimman laajan kuvan nykytilasta ja toiveista.

-Noora

So far, we have been mapping how AYY shows itself in the eyes of its own members and outside parties. Thus far, we have posed questions to associations, other student unions and the Honorary Delegation of AYY. During March, the aim is to gather even more answers from different parties to get a comprehensive picture of our current state and wishes.

– Noora

The Voice of Associations was Heard in the Chairperson Seminar

The first Chairperson Seminar of the Aalto student organizations and associations was held on Tuesday, March 14th, which brought together chairpersons from different organizations and associations. One of the main topics in the seminar was brand work, its presentation and stages. The brand section was opened by our brand coordinator Henrik Lähdesniemi, who presented what brand work is in practice – and most of all what brand work is not. You may read the presentation on the brand process from the latest issue of Aino: https://ainolehti.fi/aino/markkinointi-kylteri-neuvoo-nain-luot-brandin/

After the official presentation, there was a workshop session, where the chairpersons had the chance to discuss the brand with a member of the board or a brand work group member moderating the discussion. Because one of the central aims of the brand work has been to include as many internal stakeholder groups of AYY as possible in the work itself, each participant organization or association received a series of questions before the seminar, which was also presented to the AYY board beforehand. All the questions were not straightforward; some were high-flown ponderings on, for example, what the AYY brand currently is.

These kinds of questions were mused on by the chairpersons and their respective boards before the seminar. Thus, the discussion could be undertaken based on the answers of the boards, and the chairpersons brought forth their viewpoints regarding the current state and aims of the AYY brand.

I myself led a workshop for four student organization chairpersons. We discussed especially about what the AYY brand is now – or do we even have one. In addition, we discussed how much AYY should be tied to Aalto’s brand. We agreed on many issues, but some topics sparked lots of serious discussion.

After an hour of discussion, the conclusion was that we really have a genuine need for brand work, and that we have a lot of work set in front of us. On the other hand, it was awesome to see how active the associations and organizations had already been in tackling the subject. Most groups had discussed the questions with their boards, and the ongoing brand work was considered important indeed!

-Milla

A Change in Study Pace Requires a Change in Culture

16.3.2017, katarinavesikko

This blog ties in with the statement by AYY released on the 9th of March: https://ayy.fi/en/blog/2017/03/16/ayy-studies-are-not-made-more-fluent-with-scholarships/

During the year 2015/2016, 31.1% of students registered as actively studying at Aalto completed at least 55 credits. Out of the percentage of bachelor students, meaning those who have started their studies 0-2 years ago, 44% managed at least 55 credits. The number is problematic, because university studies have been set to be completed in five years, meaning about 60 credits per year on average; the student allowance is also measured to last for that amount of time. It is hard to believe that only half of students want to complete their studies in five years, if the target time would be achievable. This mantra related to the length of studies is an old cliché that has been repeated since the 19th century, but the whole problem should obviously not be denied.

This is a problem for the university, because the target score of 55 credits per year is one of the grounds for university funding. 10% of university basic funding is based on this indicator. The indicator has been implemented in the university funding model, because the Ministry of Education and Culture uses it to enforce universities to ensure that their studies are of high quality and well organized. The Universities Act requires universities to offer their studies in a manner that they can be completed in five years, and the funding model supports this demand.

University funding has been under pressure for the last couple of years, so each university is aiming to improve the efficiency of their degree programmes. It is good to see, however, that the funding model is a zero-sum game: if a university improves its scores, its funding is not increased, but the increase is split between universities while favouring the ones that have received good results. Aalto has regrettably lagged a bit on this indicator, even though it is doing well in general. Other universities have increased their percentage of quick students more than Aalto.

Universities are aware of the things that support and hinder studies. For example, during the years 2011-2014, Aalto took part in the Kyky-project, which even produced tangible material to improve study enthusiasm and study ability in order to make studies more fluent. The programmes behind it, Campus Conexus and the Opiskelukyky project, along with other studies and surveys, aimed to find out what kinds of things support students in moving forward in their studies. During the last few years, we have also received practical examples from inside Aalto and other universities on how studies have been made smoother without cutting back on student wellbeing, happiness or adding to the workload of students. New information is flowing in from for example the bachelor survey, student wellbeing survey and the Aalto AllWell survey.

 

Grounds for slower study

 

Students have different reasons for studying slowly. Some of them are choices, some depend on circumstances. They may be explained in a simplified manner by using the groups defined by Elina Pekonen in her master’s thesis.

  1. Injuries and sickness

The accessibility of students’ physical and mental surroundings and students’ health problems, along with mental health problems, are some of the biggest factors when studies slow down. These are closely tied with studies slowing down due to indoor air quality problems. Aalto has laudably made efforts to improve accessibility, and the steps taken on campus will, in the long run, make it so that accessibility will no longer be an issue. Regrettably, according to the health survey made by FSHS, about a third of the students have had issues regarding mental health. This can be tackled on a local level with means that support mental health, but universities could also work towards a situation where mental health problems are taken seriously and implement solutions to support accessibility if these problems emerge.

  1. Social and cultural barriers

Not everyone feels that they are welcome at the university, despite efforts to increase inclusivity. For example, an ethnic minority background, age or other issues may affect how one feels as being part of the group. This has great significance, because connecting to your studies largely comes through social interaction, which cannot happen when one feels alone in their studies. Aalto and AYY are doing work related to multiculturality together, but removing these barriers requires conscious monitoring also on the individual level.

One important issue is the culture within a school or a study group. The atmosphere surrounding a person can support one’s studies or hinder them.

  1. Difficulties in learning

Dyslexia or other problems in learning are a partial factor in studies slowing down. Several parties offer peer support and accessibility programs can help when organizing studies, but qualifying to receive support can be a challenge at times. The time available for study councillors and study psychologists is limited, and a large impact can be made by teachers with a keen eye. We can ask ourselves how well the university staff can guide students struggling in their studies, and do we a have good enough path from there on out.

  1. Financial challenges

Financial challenges are truly a problem, especially in the capital region. Living costs add up to 72.1% of the income of a student living alone in the capital region. Financial stress ties in with mental health problems and problems in life in general. Financial problems affect the study pace from two angles: During studies one has to work to get by, but working threatens to stretch graduating, so one runs out of student allowance months. In regards to student allowance, it is extremely important that studies can advance at a steady pace. Aalto has unified some of its conventions, but regrettably the credit received for internships, for example, can still end up being less than the required minimum of 5 credits a month.

  1. Time management and combining studies and life

These are problems that universities can tackle in more tangible ways. Teaching studying skills, organizing orientation courses and providing students with supporting information on how to commit to one’s studies in order to succeed in them are some of these tangible means. A few years ago, grumbling could be heard from the part of the universities whether this kind of “handholding” is something that they should be required to do, but those complaints have quietened down as knowledge of these tools and evidence on their success has spread. Regrettably, few students are able to fathom how important it is to prioritize studies and connect with them, especially during the first years of studying. Regrettably few teachers also build elements into their teaching that support self-regulation skills. Universities are also poor at supporting students in planning their time allocation. It is sometimes impossible to plan your studies and the related workload for more than half a year ahead, not to mention planning a three-year bachelor degree programme.

  1. Barriers related to teaching and study guidance

Lastly, we of course have barriers related to the actual studies, which are almost too numerous to list. AYY collected some of the most significant ones last year during the commentary round and in discussions with people in charge of studies. Workload, schedules, unpredictable combined effects, inflexibility, lack of summer studies, rarely held courses, poorly designed courses, the inconsistency of student counselling, different practices between schools, and many other factors have often been brought up, not to mention the challenges related to finding information.  We are happy to say that things are constantly developing for the better in the degree programmes. However, we are still facing fundamental problems, such as excessive workload. It would be very important to highlight the functional reforms implemented within Aalto and elsewhere. Using digital aids and other methods to make big lectures more interactive, for example, has resulted in huge improvements in learning results without making the content easier or lowering the bar, which some people still seem to be afraid of.

 

What should we do?

 

Different barriers can be dismantled with different methods. Work related to the organization of studies is being done all the time, and the university also has the duty to promote accessibility. Some stones at Aalto have still been left unturned. It still takes four weeks for teachers to check exams, and the next chance to take that one missing course could be a semester away. It is difficult to do anything about the amount of the student financial aid or the cost of living, so we are left with the most interesting alternative, which is the students’ choice to study at the intended pace or slower. Unfortunately, the situation is often left unresolved, or individual methods such as scholarships are offered as solutions. Too often people just complain about how students run off to working life in the middle of the semester, although Aalto is particularly well-known for its working life relations. Employers should also be reminded of the fact that students who work should also be able to complete their studies properly in order to maintain good cooperation.

There has been too little research-based discussion at the Aalto University about how studying can promote commitment and help create motivation. Motivation is often seen as some kind of intrinsic characteristic, even though commitment, perseverance and study skills can be created through studying. These means are not just magic tricks – they are about designing and implementing good teaching and guidance. No teacher should be left alone in this. Development measures are constantly being implemented at the Aalto University, such as conducting wellbeing surveys and taking action based on them, organizing continuous pedagogy training, and developing online learning possibilities. Unfortunately, the conversation still seems to be stuck in place.

The universities that have improved their results and are showing more success than Aalto according to the 55 study credit indicator have not reformed just their curricula, academic counselling and scheduling, but also their internal culture. For example, they have clearly communicated that the increases in funding will be used to improve education, and the students have been provided with highly personal guidance services and contacts. The resources have been used to improve the system, giving everyone a chance to study with full commitment and at the target pace. The students have also done their part: they encourage and help each other out when they see their friends starting to slow down their pace. Changing the culture takes time, both for the teachers and students, but life is not a race. The university is a place for learning, not for maximizing the results of financing model indicators. As many students as possible should be made to understand how committing to a target-oriented study pace can be of help with their own studies.

 

Sources:

Material from the Campus Conexus project: http://www.campusconexus.fi/

The Opiskelukyky model, developed as part of the project: http://www.opiskelukyky.fi/english/

Elina Pekonen (2010): Esteitä opintopolulla? Opiskelijoiden kokemuksia esteistä ja esteettömyydestä Kuopion yliopistossa. http://epublications.uef.fi/pub/urn_isbn_978-952-61-0132-3/urn_isbn_978-952-61-0132-3.pdf

Everyone can find out more about the newest trends in university pedagogics and education experiments through the Yliopistopedagogiikka magazine: https://lehti.yliopistopedagogiikka.fi/

Results of Finnish universities according to the 55 study credit indicator: https://vipunen.fi/fi-fi/_layouts/15/xlviewer.aspx?id=%2Ffi-fi%2FRaportit%2FYliopistokoulutus+-+v%C3%A4hint%C3%A4%C3%A4n+55+op+suorittaneet+uusi+-+yo.xlsb

 

More information:

Petteri Heliste, member of the Board

Susanna Koistinen, educational policy expert