SHS statement against the government’s plans for students

The student movement is protesting because of the obvious negative consequences of the current government’s plans for students. Several of the current government parties made promises in the spring that have now been broken. The government’s current plans do not protect students’ finances and make the situation for international students in Finland significantly worse. SHS stands behind its members and all students affected by this. The Student Union cannot accept these proposals that inevitably will make student life in Finland more difficult.

The current government proposes, among other things, to freeze the index for student financial aid. This means that the aid would not be adjusted for inflation and would therefore decrease in the upcoming years. In addition to freezing the index of student financial aid, the government also plans to significantly reduce the housing allowance. The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) has calculated that a student living alone in Helsinki can expect 70 euros less in housing allowance in the coming years. At the same time as the government wants to cut support, they want to increase the maximum amount of the student loan. If you take out your entire student loan over three years, it will be about 6,000 euros more than before.

The solution, according to the government, is to support work alongside studies and for the state to guarantee more student loans. SHS has for a long time advocated and continues to support the already increased income limit for students. In 2023, the income limit was increased by 50 percent compared to 2021. Many business students benefit from work experience in addition to their academic studies as it gives them valuable experience for their future career. However, the forthcoming plan proposed by the government does not make everyday life easier for students in any way. Students should not have to work hard and take on additional debt to be able to study in Finland. Cutbacks and increased student loans pave the way for an uncertain everyday life and future. It takes a toll on mental and financial health. SHS cannot agree to this.

In addition to cutting students’ income, the government also wants to cut investment support for special groups, which include students. The task of student housing foundations is to build new affordable student housing. They cannot do this without adequate investment support. Students need student housing. You cannot cut both ways and leave students with less in their pockets and even less opportunity to get affordable housing.

During the previous government term, the Ministry of Education and Culture set a target of tripling the number of foreign bachelor’s and master’s degree students by 2030, and for 75% of them to find work and stay in Finland. According to the proposed government plan, international students, coming from non-EU countries and studying in English will have to pay at least 1500 euros per year for studying at the universities and UAS’s if they started their education after August 2017. These measures will increase the number of students dropping out of universities, as many of them still apply to universities that offer 100% scholarships, and rely on them in their education plans.

Proposed measures of increasing the period of residence for achieving permanent residence permit and citizenship will make Finland significantly less attractive for internationals to choose Finland for getting their education. The law on residence permits, introduced in 2022, giving more freedom for international students in achieving residence permits has boosted the number of incoming student applications by 62 percent, according to the Finnish Immigration Service. These achievements will be eliminated by the proposed measures and will crucially impact the needs of Finland in attracting international specialists.

SHS welcome an international university environment and value the skills and expertise that international students bring to the Finnish labour market. The government’s proposal does not promote the desire to come to Finland to study nor to stay in the country. Reasons why international students leave Finland after graduation include difficulties in finding work, poor career prospects and difficulties in integrating into Finnish society. The potential new measures to limit the time between jobs to three months will only increase the number of international students leaving Finland, as a significant proportion of international students indicate that they have experience of looking for jobs longer than three months, especially for their first job after graduation.

The Student Union is politically neutral, but can still take a stand on political issues and support independently selected themes in order to promote the interests of the Student Union and the best interests of the Hanken students. Since the government’s plans lead to a more difficult student life for a large amount of our members, SHS is against what the government proposes. The support system should give everyone the same opportunity to afford to study and should therefore be reviewed regularly. Student financial aid should be increased in line with changes in costs, cuts should not be made to housing allowance and income limits should be sufficiently high so that dedicated working students do not lose financial aid. SHS welcomes internationalisation and does not want to approve measures that make it more difficult for international students to study and stay in Finland.

Text: Emilia Öfverström, board member and responsible for Academic Affairs

With the help of: Tatiana Terenteva and Emma Lindvall, members of the Advocacy Committee. 

SHS Board 2023

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