The parties promise to raise the level of education in surprising ways
Higher education students asked about the commitment of the parliamentary parties to funding the raising of the level of education. Almost all the parliamentary parties said they stood behind the goal, but there were differences in how concrete their methods are.
Alarm bells rang for the parties when the results of the latest OECD Education at a Glance report were reported last autumn – and rightly so. The level of education in Finland has stagnated for the last twenty years, and at the same time, our peer countries have passed us by. Five years ago, the goal of raising the rate of higher education among young people was set to 50 per cent coverage by 2030. Now the target has been quietly pushed back to 2035.
A survey conducted by higher education students asked about the readiness of the parliamentary parties to commit to raising the level of education by increasing the basic funding of higher education institutions. All the parliamentary parties with the exception of the True Finns said they supported the goal. A 50 per cent coverage level in higher education for young people by 2035 would require an annual increase of EUR 177 to 190 million in higher education funding, totalling EUR 1.5 to 1.7 billion between 2023 and 2035.
Based on the responses, the parliamentary parties largely support the goal, each with their own take on it
The Social Democratic Party would raise the level of higher education to as much as 60 per cent, i.e. 10 percentage points higher than the current target. This would be achieved by increasing funding and directing existing resources more efficiently. In the party’s response, attention is also paid to the development of degree completion and maintaining the quality of education.
The Centre Party, the Christian Democrats, the Swedish People’s Party and Movement Now say they are committed to raising the level of higher education. In its response, the Centre Party stresses the importance of increasing the weight of basic funding. Similarly, the Christian Democrats commented that the basic funding must be fixed in the long term. The Christian Democrats’ response also mentions the development of opportunities for continuous learning and investments in RDI activities.
The Left Alliance and the Greens also support the goal. The Left Alliance calls for additional funding for starting places in the name of preserving the quality of teaching and guidance. In its response, the Left Alliance also pays attention to the well-being of students and staff. The Greens say they are aiming for 5,400 fully funded additional starting places in higher education institutions every year.
The National Coalition promises to reserve the funding needed to increase the starting places but does not comment on the number of starting places to be added. The National Coalition’s election manifesto does commit to a 50 per cent rate of coverage among young people by 2030, but based on their answer to the poll, one might ask how seriously the party is aiming for that 50 per cent coverage rate.
The real commitment of the parties will be measured in the next parliamentary term
The number of starting places is not decided by politicians or civil servants, but by the universities themselves, and if the level of education is to be raised, state funding must be set aside for this in line with the goal. Only the Greens and the Left Alliance stated directly in their responses that they wanted to fully fund the new starting places. The assurances of other parties about increasing basic funding and directing current resources more efficiently remain vague statements.
Raising the level of education is a vital political goal. Maintaining the current standard of living in a country with an ageing demographic structure requires two things: an increase in immigration and an increase in labour productivity. Productivity growth is created by raising the level of education and investing in RDI activities.
In the coming parliamentary term, achieving a 50 per cent coverage rate of higher education will be pitted against the pressure of budget cuts. Despite this juxtaposition, it is necessary to find funding for the goal, because the long-term alternative is a cycle of economic stagnation.
Education Policy Specialist
Member of the Board