SAMOK and SYL: Government Programme hits students below the belt

Statement of SAMOK and SYL. First published on 27.5.2015.


The national unions of higher education students in Finland, SAMOK and SYL, are shocked, disappointed, and angry at the plans presented by the new government. The Government Programme published 27 May weakens students’ standing in many ways. Students’ livelihood, housing, free education – all the Finnish cornerstones of education are under fire.

“We do understand the need for adjustments in state finances, but we cannot accept such one-sided cuts. Research shows that those with a higher level of education are also those who have the longest and most productive work careers. What sense is there in cutting where the expected profit for state finances is excellent? This is preposterous!” boom presidents Joonas Peltonen (SAMOK) and Jari Järvenpää (SYL).

The Government Programme includes huge – 150 million euro – cuts to student financial aid and it proposes to completely remove the index binding. This entails is a mind-boggling 20 per cent cut in the current budget for student financial aid. It also means that the real value of student financial aid will continue to lag far behind. At one stroke, students are hit extremely hard. It seems the new government wishes to ensure that the situation will not improve in the future either.

The cutbacks aim at saving money, but the government also hopes for shorter study times. The effect of these cuts is the opposite. The most significant factor slowing students down in their studies is insufficient livelihood.

“Such cuts aimed at students – the societal group with most limited means – are shocking and go completely against the State’s stated objectives. This decision will lengthen study times, further decrease the number of students on student financial aid and punish those who are meant to be building a future in Finland. Decisions like these are no way to build a Finland at the forefront of knowledge and innovation,” underlines Peltonen and Järvenpää.

The livelihood of students is targeted in other ways as well. The Government Programme also slashes construction of student housing. The investment subsidy for student apartments is completely removed. This has a direct effect on both the number of apartments available to students as well as on students’ rent expenditure. There will be fewer apartments, rents will rise, and students will suffer.

SAMOK and SYL continue to strongly oppose the introduction of tuition fees for students from outside the EU and EEA regions. Tuition fees do not contribute to an open and international society, rather they disable it. The new government says it wants to increase work-related immigration, while simultaneously blocking the most effective route for it.

Economising in education by decreasing the number of Master students is not sustainable and will lower knowledge and skills levels. An important asset for Finland is our highly educated population. Weakening this is not by any means in Finland’s best interest.

The Government Programme provides no assurance whatsoever for students. The future of student health care is left completely undecided. SAMOK and SYL appeal to the government to at least take care of students’ health.

“The reforms of social affairs, health, and financing must enable a functioning system for student health care. Secure the operational preconditions for Finnish Student Health Services (FSHS) and extend the services of FSHS to also students at universities of applied sciences. Give us this at least!” plead the presidents.

Contact details:
President Joonas Peltonen (SAMOK), +358 50 389 1000,
President Jari Järvenpää (SYL), +358 44 906 5007,

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