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Aalto University Student Union and the World Student Capital network are disappointed in HSL’s decision on student discounts

Aalto University Student Union and the World Student Capital network are disappointed in HSL’s decision to decrease the student discount and to remove the student discount from single tickets.

In its meeting today, 30 October, the Board of Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) decided to make the student discount in public transport cover all full-time basic degree students regardless of their age. At the same time, however, it decided to decrease the student discount on season tickets bought on travel cards from 50 to 45 per cent and to restrict the student discount so that it only applies to season tickets. The World Student Capital (WSC) network of the student unions of the Capital Region is disappointed in the decision to decrease the discount and to leave single tickets outside the discount.

‘Our goal was to retain the 50% discount in all ticket types. We believe HSL has overestimated the costs of having no age limit for the discount’, Chair of the WSC network Otto Rosenlund states.

Most of students over 30 years of age have previously been left without the student discount in public transport because the right to receive student aid has been a condition for getting the discount. The positive side of the new decision is that students over 30 years of age will now get the discount on the same terms as younger students. This has been a long-term goal for student organisations, and we are happy that we have now achieved it, even though the rest of the decision is a disappointment. The removal of age discrimination from the student discount may lead to new groups of people starting to use public transport, which reinforces the profitability of public transport.

” The student discount for HSL tickets should extend to all students and all student types. What is more, our estimations based on figures provided by HSL indicate that the increase in costs after the expansion of the discount would not be significant. The discount model could have been adjusted later based on the actual costs” comments Aalto University Student Union board member Lauri Seppäläinen.

Aalto University Student Union and the WSC network urge HSL to monitor the effects of its decision on the cost accumulation for student discounts and to return any possible deficit compared to the previous cost level to the student discount through either raising the percentage of the discount or reapplying the discount to single tickets.

The new discount criteria take effect in connection with the zone reform in the spring of 2019.

 

Otto Rosenlund

Chair of the World Student Capital network

Lauri Seppäläinen

Member of board, Aalto university student union

Further information:

Lauri Jurvanen,
Specialist (social affairs), aalto university student union, lauri.jurvanen@ayy.fi +358 50 520 9418

 

High-quality competences and multidisciplinary innovations – no degree factories!

The national funding model for universities is rapidly being reformed as part of the implementation of the Vision for Higher Education and Research in 2030. We see potential pitfalls in the model under preparation, particularly in relation to funding allocated based on education. Furthermore, the changes now planned for the funding model do not offer solutions to the fundamental problems of the universities’ steering and financing system.

What kind of changes are planned to the funding model in terms of education?

In the current funding model, universities have been rewarded for their performance in education based especially on how many degrees have been completed (19%) and how many students have completed 55 credits in a year (10%). The changes being planned now would remove the 55-credit indicator completely and allocate as much as 30% of all funding allocated through the entire funding model to universities based on completed degrees. The new indicator based on degree numbers has a specific problem, however: it is planned to include various factors. Through the normative duration factor, universities would receive the most funding for degrees completed within the normative duration of studies. The second degree factor, on the other hand, would decrease the amount of funding allocated for degrees completed by students who have previously completed a degree at the same level.

…and why do we not support these changes?

Used as an indicator in the universities’ funding model, the number of degrees completed within the normative duration of studies would cause significant risks for the quality of education, its societal impact and students’ opportunities to build personal degrees that best support their own vision for the future.

Particularly in generalist fields, it is important for students to acquire job experience from their own field, even before graduation, in order to get employed. If universities would have financial incentives to urge students to graduate as quickly as possible, students’ possibilities of accepting interesting job offers during studies will decrease. This would result in a situation where recent university graduates would no longer be as prepared for working life as they currently are.

The new funding model indicator would decrease the societal impact of education for another reason, as well: it practically prevents the creation of surprising study modules and competences. If students are forced to study as if through a production line, with no time for experimenting with interesting minor subjects, new ideas stemming from crossdisciplinarity would also be left unborn. As national innovations are needed, students should continue to have the opportunity to study as much as they consider necessary to achieve their desired competences.

The funding model’s indicator on degrees completed within the normative duration of studies would also decrease students’ internationalisation opportunities. It is often challenging to get studies completed during exchange accepted as part of the basic modules in degrees. If universities have a financial incentive to ensure that students graduate in time, they will also easily be tempted to prevent students from participating in study opportunities that delay studies. Unfortunately, the likelihood of exchange studies becoming a financial risk to universities is also boosted by the removal of a separate indicator that encourages studies abroad from the funding model.

The second degree factor is aimed at the same goal as the quota for first-time applicants and the student admissions reform – the goal of all of us only having one chance to choose the right field for ourselves. However, as many of us do not know what we want to do with our life yet at the secondary level, there should always be opportunities for changing one’s field and for lifelong learning. Current working life, too, requires individuals to be able to change.

How should we reward universities for education then?

Steering the universities’ profitability restricts their autonomy, which means that particular attention must be paid to the kind of incentives the chosen indicators create – what effects they have on the focus areas of universities’ operations, what kind of goals they help achieve and whether the incentives lead to the kind of universities we want there to be in Finland.

We want Finnish universities to be places where people accumulate as much and as diverse competences as possible. As universities will increasingly act as platforms for lifelong learning in the future, it is sensible to reward them based on the number of completed credits instead of completed degrees. Moving the focus of higher education funding models towards the production of credits has been suggested by the National Union of University Students in Finland, Finnish Business School Graduates and Social Science Professionals in their proposal for a platform model for higher education institutions.* The model aims at encouraging higher education institutions to open up their courses to other people than their own degree students, too. In this model, universities would be rewarded for all credits – for funding purposes, it would not matter whether credits were completed by the institution’s own degree students, degree students from another higher education institution or lifelong learners completing parts of degrees.

Overall, universities need as simple, predictable and transparent a funding model as possible. Research and education activities are a long-term operation where easy wins are not available. Let us give universities the opportunity to work in peace and grow into the best possible versions of themselves, on their own terms.

Noora Vänttinen,
Chair of the Board, Aalto University Student Union

Lauri Linna,
Chair of the Board, Student Union of University of Helsinki

Aapeli Tourunen,
Chair of the Board, Student Union of University of Jyväskylä

Sanni Lehtinen,
Chair of the Board, Student Union of University of Tampere

Inari Harjuniemi,
Chair of the Board, Student Union of University Turku

Ina Laakso,
Chair of the Board, Student Union of Åbo Akademi University

More information: Lauri Linna, +358 50 543 9610, lauri.linna@hyy.fi

* The platform model for higher education institutions by the National Union of University Students in Finland, Finnish Business School Graduates and Social Science Professionals (in Finnish): https://syl.fi/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Ehdotus-korkeakouluvision-tiekartaksi-1.pdf

Student simulator published

Statement
17.7.2018

What would a day as a student feel like? The Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) and the Aalto University Student Union (AYY) have codeveloped a game to illustrate actual problems with students’ subsistence and student aid. A lot is expected from students regarding subsistence during their studies: they should study full time, get work experience and supplement their income with earned income. This equation does not work.

The game illustrates how complex and inflexible students’ subsistence is: the current system is not able to take into account students’ different situations in life and diverse living arrangements. If Finland’s next government starts the comprehensive reform of social security, students must be included in the reform. AYY and HYY support a move to a gratuitous, personal basic income.

‘On basic income, students could focus on advancing their studies, and getting work experience during studies would not be a problem. Students could count on their subsistence in varying situations in life’, Chair of HYY’s Board Lauri Linna states.

Students’ subsistence consists of the study grant, student loan and general housing allowance. The level of the study grant is low, and the share of the student loan in student aid has been raised. As a result, students are getting into debt at record rate. The number of months of student aid has repeatedly been cut, study progress and students’ own income are monitored closely, and there is next to no flexibility. In worst cases, this causes the recovery of student aid with considerable interest, students falling onto social assistance and delays with studies.

As a whole, moving students to general housing allowance has been a good reform. However, general housing allowance is household-based, which means that the incomes of the people you live with affect the allowance. As a result, many students have lost their housing benefits or have had it decreased. The household-based nature of the allowance has also resulted in situations in which roommates are expected to provide for each other even though even cohabiting partners are not liable to provide maintenance for one another.

Working alongside studies is not easy, as students must be able to simultaneously study full time in order to retain their study grant, monitor the low income limits and graduate within the limited time allocated to completing their degrees.

It would be useful for students to work in their own field, establish start-up companies and acquire societal skills through volunteer work during their studies. The system makes this difficult.

‘The months of student aid may be enough for those who manage to stick to target time. Even one life change complicates things, however. This could mean getting sick, starting a family or a couple of failed courses. Students’ social security should not be modelled on those who fare the best’, Chair of AYY’s Board Noora Vänttinen states.

You can try out the student simulator here. You can also meet HYY’s and AYY’s representatives at SuomiAreena this week. Come and play a game and discuss students’ subsistence with us!

Lauri Linna
Chair of the board
Student Union of the University of Helsinki
lauri.linna@hyy.fi
050 543 9610

Noora Vänttinen
Chair of the board
Aalto University Student Union
noora.vanttinen@ayy.fi
040 731 6120

Statement on UniSport’s new website

Statement
18.5.2018

UniSport has created a new website, which both appearance- and contentwise differs from the old one. The new website can be accessed at uusi.UniSport.fi

The new website currently completely lacks Swedish content.

The old website (UniSport.fi) is translated to Swedish, even though the translated version is inadequate in function and most of the links on the Swedish pages lead back to the Finnish site. The Swedish website has now and then had straight up false information regarding schedules. The poorly functioning Swedish website has led to Swedish-speaking customers being less inclined to use it, which explains the low rate of usage. Swedish information as physical guideposts are as good as non-existent in UniSport’s facilities, so there will be no Swedish information on UniSport at all without a translated website.

The decision-making process that led to the exclusion of a Swedish website was unclear. The operative leaders made the decision and it was discussed in UniSport’s board, but the board did not make the decision. The possibility of having the issue discussed by the University of Helsinki’s Board for the Development of Swedish Affairs and Teaching was proposed, but it never happened. The Hanken School of Economics has recently become one of UniSport’s owners and was consulted regarding the matter, but the student unions have not been heard. This is regrettable, since students are UniSport’s largest group of customers.

The exclusion of a Swedish website for a company that is owned by three universities with Swedish as an official language is unacceptable.

The University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Hanken School of Economics have a total of 5000 Swedish-speaking students. Many of these students do not speak or use the Finnish language. The exclusion of a Swedish website leaves Swedish-speaking customers in a weaker position than others, as they are unable to get information on UniSport’s services in their mother tongue. The decision also gives the impression that Swedish-speaking customers are not equal to other customer groups.

It is of the uttermost importance that UniSport decides to maintain a functioning Swedish version of the new website, and we demand UniSport’s leaders to cover this issue.

Noora Vänttinen, Chairperson of AYY’s board
Lauri Linna, Chairperson of HYY’s board
Henna Konsti, Chairperson of SHS’s board

Opinion: Swedish is one of Aalto University’s three languages

For release 25th of April 2018

The Aalto University Student Union AYY and Teknologföreningen TF are worried for the position of Swedish-speaking students at Aalto University. AYYs theme for 2018 has been well-being and equality, and the language issue is essential. TF has long upheld discussion regarding these matters in meetings with the university management, and there have been promises to tackle the problems.

According to feedback we’ve received, Swedish-speaking students encounter challenges both in everyday teaching situations and when consulting administrative services. For example, updating and maintaining Swedish study related information on the web is often neglected, and study counseling is not always available in Swedish. Being forced to discuss such matters in a non-native language causes an inconvenient situation for the student. The language an exam should be determined by a simple choice made on WebOodi, but in practice this often requires some negotiation, which puts the student in an uncomfortable position.

Aalto has three working languages: Finnish, Swedish and English, enabling everyone to flexibly take part in all daily activities at the University. Following the agreed-upon guidelines and policies is important, in order for students speaking a minority language to have equal opportunity in education and efficient legal security.

If you feel like your student rights are not being fulfilled as they should, there are three options:

  1. Talk to the teacher in charge of the course.
  2. Talk to the student representatives, association study affairs responsibles or to the AYY advocacy experts. AYY, student representatives and study study affairs responsibles work together: the student union carries out advocacy in the scope of all of Aalto and supports the student representatives. The best answers on questions of a specific field of expertise can be found from the staff members in charge of student representatives and from study affairs representatives. Advocacy pertaining to Swedish-speaking students in Aalto is carried out especially by TF.
  3. You can also contact the head of the degree program or the head of learning services of your school. You should also talk to your co-students, since the problem might concern several students.

More information:

Suvi Vendelin, study policy correspondent of the AYY Board, suvi.vendelin@ayy.fi, 0407524692

Victor Granlund, vice chairman of the board, Teknologföreningen, viceordforande@tf.fi, 045 1381738

Minna Mäkitalo, Specialist (Academic Affairs), minna.makitalo@ayy.fi, 050 520 9438

AYY Condemns Inappropriate Behavior

Yesterday, on the 8th of February 2018, the Student Magazine Aino published the story “Sisäpiirivitsi” (“Inside Joke”), which discussed the discriminatory speech and behavior found in the Aalto community. The story also mentioned a few student associations by name.

After the publication of the story, the author, Sonia El Kamel, and Aino’s editor-in-chief, Emilia Mäenmaa, have received a huge amount of feedback. Lot of the feedback has been positive, praising the article, but there has also been some critical feedback. Some of the feedback was totally unacceptable, vulgar and personal.

Aino is an independent publication that operates independently from the Student Union and is committed to following the guidelines for journalists. Nevertheless, its employees are employees of AYY. As an employer, AYY has a zero tolerance regarding threats, vulgar speech and other poor behavior towards our employees.

AYY condemns racism and discrimination strongly and unequivocally, and we do not accept any kind of discriminatory behavior within our community.

The theme raised in the article was discussed at AYY’s central office when the Secretary General was interviewed for the story. The publication of the article and the discussion it has created have shown that there is still much work to be done to promote equality. That is why AYY thinks that it is extremely important to have a broader discussion about the subject throughout the entire Aalto community.

More information: Secretary General Niko Ferm (050 520 9415, niko.ferm (a) ayy.fi)