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University of Helsinki Annual Report 2004


Student Union


A Bildungsuniversität and its Student Union

Education and learnedness, which in the Finnish academic tradition are understood through the German ideal of ‘Bildung’, comprise a central value for the work of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY). For HYY, they mean expertise, criticality, freedom of thought and courage to express one’s own opinions. In other words, they serve both as an operational value and a goal. Through its actions, HYY wants to bring a wider approach to the concept to the general debate, to serve as a basis for decision-making, in order to support the pillars of the Bildungsuniversität.

European and global trends will naturally gravitate to Finland, too. The reform of the degree structure, which was in preparation for a few years, was finally adopted at the beginning of August. HYY played an active role in completing the reform and following up its effects. The new grading scales, the new credit system and the development of the Etappi system, monitoring students’ academic progress, were topics of many heated discussions at the HYY Central Office and student cafes.

The Finnish academic community will not be the same after 2005. Restrictions on the duration of studies were imposed while the student financial aid became increasingly loan based and tuition fees were again debated. The proposed study voucher system for covering tuition fees is not in line with the principles of the Finnish school system, which is based on equality. The demands for more efficient operations have been taken quite far. The well-being of the university staff and students are a concern for HYY, a cause emphasised in HYY’s address at the opening ceremony of the academic year. The income and well-being surveys carried out by HYY provided data on its members’ life situation to back up the Union’s work in looking after students’ interests.

For HYY, 2005 was also a year marked by changes in personnel. The Central Office welcomed many new faces as some of the old employees moved on to new challenges, and issues such as working hours, work practices, employment contracts and the new salary system required attention. The Representative Council elected a new Secretary General in May. Arto Aniluoto, M.Soc.Sc., took up office at the beginning of August, allowing Minna Vierikko, the former Secretary General, to return to her studies with full concentration. The Representative Council convened a record twelve times.

The strategy documents of HYY were updated, as has become the regular practice, and the National Union of Students in Finland also drew up a new strategy. In an eventful year, such as 2005, organisations may find internal development and renewing the operational guidelines laborious, as numerous external pressures also need to be met. Hopefully, the hard work of the past year will bear fruit for future HYY activists and enable them to fully concentrate on the core activities, which is to safeguard students’ interests. Students should continue to be interested in a variety of issues, not just those that concern them personally. The academic youth must not become selfish and passive, even if study times are now restricted, requiring even more focused and rapid completion of courses, and the ethos of today’s work life seems to demand this.

A significant achievement for the student movement was the publication of its own university and university town survey Opiskelijan yliopisto 2005 (‘The Students’ University 2005’). Several university ranking lists have recently received much and often uncritical publicity, being based on a variety of criteria ranging from the number of Nobel prizewinners to the frequency of article quotations. The survey carried out by the National Union of Students in Finland focused specifically on the study environment from the student perspective. The large multidisciplinary universities fared relatively poorly in the survey, owing to the fragmented structure of the disciplines represented and the high costs of living in larger university localities.

The best achievement of the year, and the fruit of long and painstaking lobbying, is perhaps the harmonisation of the student discount in the Metropolitan area public transport, which is now set at 50 per cent. The new bus route connecting campuses in the Helsinki metropolitan area has helped lower the practical threshold for multidisciplinary study and research.

Boxing Day 2004 will remain in history as the day when a submarine earthquake created a tsunami, causing unprecedented destruction in Asia. The Executive Board of HYY felt it needed to contribute to the reconstruction of the area affected by the disaster, especially the building of schools, and organised a collection in collaboration with UniCafe.

True learning also means taking care of one another.

Jaana Saarni
Chairman of the Board for the Student Union 2005

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