Thursday, 15 October 2015

Tamy's VotingAid





My name is Lauren Stevens and I’m a British international degree student studying the Master’s Degree Programme in Global and Transnational Studies. I am standing as a candidate for Tamy's Representative Elections (Edustajistovaalit). As an international and LGBT student, I recognise the importance of representing these and other smaller groups and ensuring that our voices are heard. I want (to try) to learn Finnish but also realise that not every international student has the opportunity to do so. Therefore I believe that more international students could participate in activities and events if resources provided in English were improved. Even though international and exchange students are a big group within the university, we can sometimes be forgotten about. Electing an international student to the Council of Representatives could make a big difference to our inclusion and visibility. Furthermore, I am against the Finnish government’s proposal for the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU students. I am standing as a candidate for the Greens (Vihreä lista) because I support acceptance and open-mindedness and I think the issue of climate change is becoming increasingly important. This is an issue that can be challenged on campus by improving awareness, facilitating cycling, minimising waste and increasing recycling facilities. Please vote for me if you would like a representative who genuinely wants to voice your concerns and if you relate to some of the issues which I have raised. If you would like to chat or ask a question please feel free to contact me using the contact details provided below or comment on this post.


Every student at UTA can vote and this year the votes are cast electronically only. Advance voting is open 26th - 30th October 9am - 8pm. The official polling days are 3rd November 9am - 8pm & 4th November 9am - 6pm. You can compare the candidates and find a person whose ideas match yours using Tamy's voting aid tool. It is possible to change the language to English in the upper left corner. Below are my answers to the questions which are also displayed in Tamy's voting aid tool.









All Vihreä lista (Greens) candidates
Vihreä lista (Greens) Facebook page

My candidate profile on the Vihreä lista (Greens) Facebook page
Vihreä lista (Greens) blog
Vihreä lista (Greens) Facebook group
The Green List's and the Green Left's election party Facebook event



About you
My name is Lauren Stevens and I’m a British international degree student studying the Master’s Degree Programme in Global and Transnational Studies. (Minä puhun vain vähän suomea, mutta minä opiskelen suomen kielen kurssilla, koska haluan (yrittää) oppia!) As an international and LGBT student, I recognise the importance of representing these and other smaller groups and ensuring that our voices are heard. I want (to try) to learn Finnish but I understand that not every international student has the opportunity to do so. Therefore I believe that the limited resources provided in English should be improved. I am standing as a candidate for the Greens (Vihreä lista) because I support acceptance and open-mindedness and I think the issue of climate change is becoming increasingly important. This is an issue that can be challenged on campus by improving awareness, facilitating cycling, minimising waste and increasing recycling facilities. Please vote for me if you would like a representative who genuinely wants to voice your concerns and if you relate to some of the issues which I have raised. If you would like to chat or ask a question please feel free to contact me using the contact details provided below or comment on this post.
Age
22
Gender
Female
Electoral coalition
Vihr. (Greens)
Subject field/degree programme
Master’s Degree Programme in Global and Transnational Studies
Instagram
Youtube
Department
The School of Social Sciences and Humanities (YKY)
Facebook
Twitter
Website


My answers (in bold)
0 (disagree) - 100 (agree)
My comments
1. Basic degree programmes should be free of tuition fees for all students.

Information box: Currently, education in Finland is free for all students, regardless of their nationality, number of degrees or study places or duration of studies. The Finnish government wants to introduce tuition fees in higher education for students from outside the EU and EEA region.
Strongly agree
95/100
The Finnish education system promotes equality through offering free education regardless of background and this should not be changed. The negative consequences of increasing tuition fees has been demonstrated many other countries, including my own. Free education for every nationality enables international students to promote diversity and intercultural awareness in addition to contributing to the Finnish economy, particularly through tourism.
2. The means by which students can influence university operations should be developed principally (choose max two):

Information box: As a student, there are a number of ways for you to participate in preparatory work and decision making at the university: e.g. by participating in the curricula work for your subject or in development work done by preparatory working groups at the faculty or in other corresponding units. Official decision making bodies of the university include the faculty boards, the university collegium, and the university board. Student representation and how representatives are elected is defined in the Universities Act and in the rules and regulations of the university. Preparatory working groups do not have formal status and student representation is therefore not a given in these.
a. by making it easier for students to discuss their studies with staff
b. by developing the feedback system of the university and by strengthening the status of student feedback
c. by a stronger inclusion of students in curricula work
d. by increasing the ways in how student societies can influence
e. by strengthening the position of students in the preparatory working groups at the university
f. by strengthening the position of students in the formal decision making bodies of the university
g. none of the above
All of these could be developed, but b and c should be prioritised. Although the online feedback forms after courses have ended seem to be effective, these could be developed and more face to face meetings could be offered. The university in which I studied my Bachelor’s degree had a system in which two representatives were elected from each course. These representatives collected feedback from the students on the course and brought it to staff meetings. This is something that the UTA could consider.
3. Some fields of study or subject at my university should be discontinued.

Information box: The Ministry of Education and Culture has shown a strong will to see structural reforms implemented in Finnish higher education. The ministry aims at eliminating overlapping education supply, which may require some universities to discontinue certain programmes or disciplines. There may also be a need to merge some fields within the university or with other universities.
Strongly disagree
5/100
Discontinuing certain programmes would be a mistake. An increasing variety of degree programmes enables students to specify their studies and develop a level of expertise that will support them in the job market. We live in a world in which knowledge production is developing rapidly therefore universities should adapt to new knowledge through offering a diverse range of programmes. I am in the first year of a new programme and I would not like to see it discontinued for future students.
4. In the future, more students should graduate for work life with a bachelor’s degree.

Information box: In 2005, the higher education degree system in Finland became a two-tier system. Usually, students are awarded the right to study for a master’s degree, whereas the basic higher education degree in many other countries is a bachelor’s or corresponding degree.
Slightly agree
60/100
Students should not feel required to study a Master’s in order to progress to a successful career, particularly when there are significantly less Master’s students in other countries. Decreased participation in Master’s degrees could save money and reduce budget cuts elsewhere. On the other hand, more students graduating with a Master’s degree places Finland in an advantageous position in the global job market.
5. The Students’ Union can take a stand in also other issues than issues directly related to education, universities and social policy (e.g. student financial aid, housing).
Strongly agree
95/100
The purpose of the Students’ Union is to consider all issues related to student life. The student population is very diverse and we have many issues which we would like to bring to the attention of the Students’ Union. However, it should also be acknowledged that the Students’ Union does not always have the capacity to deal with every issue.
6. The housing situation for students should be improved primarily by (choose one):

Information box: Approximately one-quarter of students currently live in student apartments. The majority of the other three-quarters rent on the open market. Housing expenses is the single largest expense for students. In Finland, housing expenses swallow around half of students’ disposable income, which is the second highest number in a European context.
a. Building more student apartments
b. Raising the housing benefit for students
c. Promoting the availability of reasonably priced rental apartments
d. None of the above
Providing affordable and quality housing would be a sustainable and long-term solution to problems that simply increasing financial support would not necessarily solve. However, financial support should adapt to inflation.
7. If you could choose only one as the first alternative to improve the situation for students with children, which of the following would it be?

Information box: One in six of the students in higher education has a child or children. Students with children have wished for a stronger feeling of community from their studies. They have also asked universities to pay more attention to course requirements, e.g. ways of completing courses and mandatory attendance. Completing courses where attendance is mandatory can be a challenge when the student has children. Up to 60 per cent of students with children live below the poverty line. The current student financial aid differs from other causal social benefits in that the number of children or being in custody of a child does not affect the amount. The custodian allowance was removed from student financial aid in 1992.
a. A supplement to student financial aid for students with child custody
b. Flexible ways of studying
c. Services for students with children, provided by the student union other university, e.g. temporary child care services
d. None of the above
Heavy workloads and overlapping deadlines do not consider the needs of students with children. This is something that increased flexibility could change because it is the most sustainable option, although I do recognise the importance of all these options. There are many ways in which increased flexibility could consider students with children: 
•                    Communication between programmes and courses in which students with children are participating in order to develop ways of studying that suit them
•                    Childcare provision after school and outside of term time when students’ children are not at school, particularly for children with special needs
•                    Flexible attendance in classes due to the sickness of students’ children
•                    Possibilities to remotely participate in courses, for example through audio or video lectures and online courses
8. The development cooperation work of the Students’ Union should include (choose max two):

Information box: SYL and the student unions together realise different development cooperation projects and promote awareness on development issues e.g. by arranging a Development Cooperation Week each autumn. The motivation for doing development cooperation work has been seen to be in section 46 of the Universities Act, according to which: The student union shall participate in the performance of the educational mission of the university ... by preparing students for an active, cognizant and critical citizenship.
a. a voluntary donation to development cooperation, collected when the membership fee is paid
b. the student union’s own project/s
c. participating in the development cooperation week with other student unions
d. arranging events on the topic
e. taking part in the universities’ higher education cooperation with higher education institutions from developing countries
f. the student union should not do any development cooperation work
Awareness of development is beneficial for everybody because it develops our compassion and intercultural awareness. I studied International Development for my Bachelor’s degree therefore development is something I am very passionate about. An issue central to development is that simply increasing financial support does not necessarily solve problems. Therefore engaging students in development events and cooperating with institutions from developing countries are more sustainable options because they provide students with more fulfilling and influential experiences than asking for voluntary donations. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
9. The Students’ Union offers international students enough opportunities to participate

Information box: International students are also members of the student union. Has the student union, in your opinion, offered them adequate opportunities to get involved in activities? Are international students considered by, for instance, communicating in English or has the student union invested enough in multilingual operations?
Disagree
20/100
In complete honesty, as an international student with a limited knowledge of the Finnish language I do not feel completely comfortable standing as a candidate. The range of associations and electoral alliances which encourage the participation international students are very restricted and therefore participating is somewhat difficult. It may be considered demanding and time-consuming to expect associations to provide information in English all the time, but the availability of resources in English should be developed.
10. The primary responsibility for including international students as part of the university community lies with (choose max two):

Information box: The university community consists of both students and staff. Who do you think carries the main responsibility for making sure that international students are considered and seen as equals at the university?
a. the university
b. the student union
c. the subject associations
d. organisations for international students (e.g. ESN)
e. other student organisations
f. none of the above
It is the responsibility of all of these to include international students, but the university and the Students’ Union have more resources and opportunities to include us than the others. Organisations for international students are very supportive and provide us with a sense of   community, although these tend to segregate us from the rest of the student community rather than include us.
11. There are no sufficient grounds for the automatic membership in Students’ Unions.

Info box: The automatic membership in student unions has its roots in the 17th century and in the Royal Academy of Turku, where every student was to be a member of a student nation. The current automatic membership is now justified on the grounds of the specific duties assigned to student unions by the Finnish law. In accordance with section 46 of the Universities Act, examples of these duties include participating in the organizing of student health services and selecting student representatives to university administration.
Disagree
20/100
Due to the absence of tuition fees, the fee for the automatic membership in Students’ Unions of every student is acceptable. If we participate in associations and events and use the Finnish Student Health Service and sports facilities, we will benefit from the services which the Students’ Union invests in at some point.
12. The University of Tampere should promote the Tampere3 project.

Info box: Tampere3 is a cooperation project between the University of Tampere, Tampere University of Technology and Tampere University of Applied Sciences, which aims to establish a new type of a university to replace the current three higher education institutions in Tampere. For more information, please see: Tampere3Info blog https://tampere3info.wordpress.com (in Finnish)
Slightly disagree
40/100
Unipoli Tampere is already successful in increasing the range of courses and facilities available to UTA, TUT and TAMK. Further sharing of resources and facilities between these three institutions could save money and reduce budget cuts elsewhere. However, their replacement should not necessarily be established in the form of one institution because it would be difficult to implement and it somewhat disregards their heritage.
13. The degrees awarded by universities should remain separate from the degrees awarded by universities of applied science.
Disagree
20/100
All degrees should be considered equally. Although the benefit of some subjects may be easier to identify than others, every subject is beneficial to society in some way.
14. The Students’ Union should focus on the following areas (Select a maximum of three options):
·         Supervision of the interests of international students
·         Supervision of interests in academic affairs
·         Promoting environmentally-friendly behaviours
·         Supporting student and hobby associations
·         Developing Tampere towards a more student-friendly city
·         Participating in the wider social debate
·         Offering students connections to working life
·         Promoting student health and welfare
·         Development cooperation
·         Promoting cooperation between members of the University community
·         Promoting students’ livelihood
·         Organizing events to all members of the Student Union
All of these areas are important to the Students’ Union, although international students, academic affairs and environmental concerns are areas that require the most development. Many of the other areas are already very effective.
15. The Students’ Union should focus less on the following areas (Select a maximum of three options):
·         Supervision of the interests of international students
·         Supervision of interests in academic affairs
·         Promoting environmentally-friendly behaviours
·         Supporting student and hobby associations
·         Developing Tampere towards a more student-friendly city
·         Participating in the wider social debate
·         Offering students connections to working life
·         Promoting student health and welfare
·         Development cooperation
·         Promoting cooperation between members of the University community
·         Promoting students’ livelihood
·         Organizing events to all members of the Student Union
There should be less pressure on the Students’ Union to organise events because associations and other student organisations also organise many events. Then the Students’ Union could use that time to focus on other areas.
16. How should Tamy primarily support the associations operating within it? (Select only one option.)
a) By organizing training
b) By providing financial support
c) By organizing meetings and get-togethers for active association members
d) By providing working spaces and equipment for the use of the associations
Working spaces and equipment with flexible availability would be very beneficial for associations and perhaps more sustainable than increasing their financial support. However, financial support should adapt to inflation.
17. How should the activities of the Council of Representatives be developed? (Select only one option.)
·         By focusing on transparency and communication in decision-making
·         By meeting more often to discuss current affairs
·         By replacing the Council of Representatives by a common Student Union meeting based on direct democracy
·         By increasing cooperation with the Executive Board and committees of the Student Union
Increased transparency and communication enables further participation of the student community. For example, increasing the capacity to communicate in English would develop the participation of international students.
18. Direct action is a good way to promote the goals of the Students’ Union.

Info box: Direct action refers to demonstrations, protests, events, etc. that the Student Union organizes or is otherwise involved in.
Strongly agree
95/100
Direct action can be very effective when alternatives have already been considered and undertaken.
19. Tamy should maintain relations with political parties in order to increase the effectiveness of its supervision of interests.

Info box: Political relations refer to cooperation with MPs, ministers, local councillors, etc. both at a local and national level. This category may also include direct contacts with political parties as well as their youth and student organizations.
Agree
80/100
Tamy should represent the interests of students who are and are not involved with political parties in local and national decision making whilst ensuring that it maintains equal relations with political parties and remains politically unaligned.
20. Which of the following would be the best solution to improve students’ livelihood? (Select only one option.)
·         Increasing the government guarantee for student loans
·         Raising income limits
·         Basic income
·         Guaranteeing the availability of affordable rental apartments
·         Increasing the amount of study grant
·         Extra parental allowance
Again, providing affordable and quality housing would be a sustainable and long-term solution to problems that simply increasing financial support would not necessarily solve. However, financial support should adapt to inflation.



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