Blogs posted by Veli-matti Taskila

Here you can see all blog posts from Veli-matti Taskila about the FinSt project.
Posted on Sun 11 Dec 2011 at 22:22 by Veli-matti Taskila

Today we visited two local student unions in Vienna, the ÖH of the University of Technology and the ÖH of the University of Life Sciences. So the day was more about student representation than really about financing of higher education. Still I found it very interesting as the structures differ somewhat of those in Finland. Image

The legislation concerning the unions says that the EC and the student representantives of different fields of study have to meet only some times during the year to discuss study related things. The things are a bit different at the union of the University of Technology. There is a non-political group of students from differerent fields of study who gets in everyelection most of the votes and has been a mayor force in the union. The basisfor their success is actually quite simple. They discuss with the representatives of different studies in a meeting that is held every 13 days. This meeting has a real impact on the decisions of the union. So it is no wonder that the group has retained it's position.

In Austria the students are in minority in the senate of the university. They have 25 % of the seats. As Edgaras, our expert on political science said, with that amount it is hard to have a real influence. I asked about this while visiting the union of University of Technology. They answered thatthe influence in the senate can be gained through lobbying and discussions during the meetings. The senate can also form informal groups for example to reform curricula. The students can have big impact in these kind of groups.

After taking the metro and a bus trip that seemed to last forever we landed at the office of the local union of the University of Life Sciences. The office is in a building that has an interesting history as it has been a source of controversy for many years. The local union has been using the building for a long time but at some point the chair of the local union decided to close the house, most probably because of political reasons. After years ofnprotesting the students got the house back as it would have otherwise continued to be empty.

Nowadays the house has the office of the local union and lots of other activities organized by students. There is a bar, meeting rooms for political action, workshops for repairing clothes, an organic shop, kindergarten and many other functions. After meeting the representatives of the local union we had a workshop discussing why it is important that there is such a house and what are the grounds for its existence. We (of course) came to the conclusion that the legimitation comes from the services that would not be there without it.

How is this all connected with the financing of higher education? First visit was about how the students can influence the way how the money is spent inside the university. The other visit made it very clear that there should be a lot of services for students in order to make it possible to study even if you come from a poor family or have children. So the financing should make it possible for the university or some other organization to provide these services in a way that is student-friendly and the students can influence the way they are provided.

Next up: weekend :-)
Posted on Thu 08 Dec 2011 at 18:18 by Veli-matti Taskila


The morning was quite tired, the Christmas party of the night before meant sleep deprivation for everybody. Some of us (=me) even woke up early to prepare their presentations that were to be given in the morning. So the coffee consumption rate was up in the morning. Image

The presentations were about the financing of the universities in the participants' countries. So a very light subject with which to start the day :-) . The goal was to achieve a general idea about the financing system in different countries including Austria based on Tinja's presentation. The time we should have been talking was maximum 10 minutes per country but as we are who we are it took altogether 2 hours to go through the all 5 countries. The differences in HE financing are huge between countries and the differences are big even inside the countries between different types of universities.

After having lunch in a very nice but also quite expensive Turkish restaurant we discussed in length if it would be possible to build an financing system that would be feasible everywhere. We came to the conclusion that it would br impossible but it would be still good to have an ideal financing system to give us a model that would be seen as the goal towards which to strive.

After this we discussed about who benefits (the most) from (higher) education. The conclusion was that education should be a public good everywhere as everybody benefits from higher education, not just those who are taking part in it. The benefits come through two routes: innovations and the benefit to the state. After this discussion we decided to wrap up the day as it had taken a lot longer than we thought. But before that we received our homework that will have to be completed before Tuesday. It means that we have to do a lot of reading and preparing before that. Well, that's what we are came here for :-)