University of Helsinki working community against the cuts—a support petition for the students’ occupation

[Note: the petition is intended for people working at the University of Helsinki. This includes both those employed by the University of Helsinki and those who are affiliated with the University of Helsinki. All signatories must state their position in or affiliation with the University of Helsinki when signing. You can decide whether your signature is publicly visible online or not.]

The students of the University of Helsinki continue their occupation, which started on 19 September, at the University's main building. The students are protesting against the government's planned cuts to housing and student grants, as well as the planned immigration policies that discriminate against international students.

The government has planned a series of cuts and changes to the housing benefit that will affect hundreds of thousands of students and other low-income earners. In addition, the government has decided to freeze index increases on a number of benefits—including student grants—for the duration of the election period. If the planned cuts come into force, an independently living adult student will lose on average almost €1,300 during 2027.

The government's proposed tightening of the procedures for granting work permits, permanent residence and citizenship, combined with increasing racism in society, will have a direct impact on international students. They will make it more difficult for students to find a job and build a future in Finland, as well as undermining their well-being, security and capacity to study. Plans to increase tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students will further increase the financial and emotional burden, inequality among students, and global injustice.

The students are calling on the university's management to back their demands. Although the Rector has expressed concern about the situation of students, the university's management has not made a public statement against the cuts. Instead, the rector has publicly applauded the government for increased spending on R&D and higher education starting positions.

We, the undersigned, work at the University of Helsinki. We show solidarity with the students and support the demands of the occupation. We do not consider the reaction of the university management to date to be sufficient. The university management must visibly and resolutely defend the livelihood, wellbeing, and status of all students. 

What is the point of increasing the number of starting positions if the financial and psychological conditions for studying and the status of international students are further degraded? The cuts are being planned against a background of increasingly uncertain employment prospects for graduates in many fields of study. They can also increase the length of studies and stress, as students have to work more while studying to make a living. Already, many international applicants to higher education are abandoning the application process because of, among other things, high tuition fees and Finnish immigration rules.

Students are the foundation of the entire university community, which has been undermined for years. Also, degrading students’ status is not a future-proof policy. The growing concern over subsistence is draining resources from social engagement, which is increasingly needed as social and environmental problems escalate. At the same time, the planned cuts in housing and other social security grants will hit those who are already the most vulnerable in Finland. The planned cuts and immigration policies will increase inequality and reduce the resilience of our society.

We appeal to the Rector and the Board of the University of Helsinki that they publicly support the demands of the students’ occupation:

1. No cuts of housing subsidies. On the contrary, the living conditions of all students—including international students—must be improved. More affordable housing must be constructed!

2. No tuition fees for anyone! Not now and not ever.

3. Mental health services for students must be guaranteed.

4. Universities must stand behind our demands and show solidarity!

We demand that the university takes a stand against racist immigration policies that further discriminate against international students and defend the possibility for students to concentrate on their studies without worrying about their livelihood, regardless of their nationality.

Tommi Mäklin (Postdoctoral Researcher, Mathematics and Statistics, Vice Chair of HYT), Mattias Lehtinen (Researcher, Philosophy), Riku Löf (Doctoral Researcher, Cultural Studies), Otto Snellman (Doctoral Researcher, Philosophy) ja Inka Söderström (University Teacher, Social Work)    Contact the author of the petition