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The new attendance rule of Haaga-Helia should be returned for further preparation

The matters below have been communicated to the Vice Principle responsible for education at Haaga-Helia. They assured that they still want to remain student-oriented and will update the information about this matter. The reform will be carried out in a student-oriented manner, and continuous dialogue will be held with the Student Union Helga during that time.


 

The Student Union of Haaga-Helia – Helga, does not support the reform that would make attendance and participation a requirement for course evaluation. Helga understands the goals of the reform to support group cohesion, increase well-being, and improve study skills and workplace skills. However, we believe these goals can be reached through more diverse means, and simply increasing attendance and participation will not address all challenges. Furthermore, the reform has been introduced on a rapid schedule and as a surprise to many, and we do not feel that students have been sufficiently involved in its development. Helga has gathered feedback and observations related to the reform internally and also from students, tutors, student associations, and through IDS Helga, which we present in this document.

The reform’s proposed 75 % attendance requirement applies to all on-campus, online, and blended courses, including Master’s programs. The 25 % allowable absence must include illnesses and other legitimate reasons, and an absence exceeding 50 % will lead to a course failure. The suggestion in the reform to plan studies in advance if you know you will be absent is highly discriminatory. For example, one cannot prepare in advance for illnesses, and the reform does not consider those on the neurodiverse spectrum who may have unexpected absences. The reform, as it stands, may also force students to attend classes while sick, which could lead to the illness of more students or staff and, in the long term, affect the study and work capability of many community members. At the same time, Haaga-Helia could be promoting a harmful and inhumane work ethic, where people work even when ill.

In addition to impacting academic success, the reform could affect students’ livelihoods. If a student has to be absent for two weeks, it could lead to failure in some courses under the proposed attendance percentages. This failure would result in the loss of study credits, meaning the student might have to wait for another opportunity to take the course, and the social security institution Kela would reclaim the study grant if the student cannot meet the required credit amount for it.

The reform also affects how students can work during their studies. Many students have to work alongside their studies to make ends meet. This pressure is further increased by the Finnish government’s decision in the latest Session on spending limits to move students from the housing supplement back to the housing supplement within financial aid for students. Balancing work and studies is not easy, and the attendance reform does not make it easier but increases the pressure on students to succeed in both areas. This is especially evident among Haaga-Helia’s international students, whose academic performance and financial situation may be jeopardized, leading to longer study times. For example, international students from EU/EEA countries must work a minimum of 10 hours a week to receive state financial support. Additionally, to receive Haaga-Helia’s scholarship, which covers 20% of tuition fees, students must complete a certain number of credits per year. International students from outside the EU/EEA are not eligible for state financial support, so they must work to finance their studies in Finland.

Helga sees that community building occurs, and a sense of community is created, especially during the first year of studies. We see that the attendance could most positively affect the sense of community among first-year full-time students. Haaga-Helia is a very work-life-oriented university, which is also reflected in the university’s strategy and public image. Helga believes that this brand would suffer with the reform. Many students have chosen to apply to Haaga-Helia because of the flexibility of the studies, which is why students and new applicants have found the reform a significant disappointment. Haaga-Helia has also been appreciated for students gaining networks and transitioning to work life during their studies. Enabling this in the future is essential.

We thank Haaga-Helia for understanding that the communication about the attendance reform was poorly prepared and for reacting to the issue by better considering chronically ill students and blended and master’s students in the reform.

However, Student Union Helga proposes that the attendance reform be returned for further preparation and that students, student associations, and the student union operating at Haaga-Helia be involved in the preparation process till the end. We believe that students’ voices should be heard in processes affecting them. The attendance requirements to all students should be reviewed, and the attendance percentages, especially the 50 % leading to failure, should be adjusted. The transition period for the reform should also be considered so that students have the opportunity to prepare for the changes if necessary. We also encourage an arrangement where attendance and participation could instead lead to a grade increase in the course, always remembering the diversity of students and the possibility of achieving excellent performance through alternative attendance.

The student union Helga is also ready to offer diverse solutions to the goals stated in the reform, namely supporting group cohesion, increasing well-being, and improving study and workplace skills.


The refinement of the reform will continue, which is why your feedback is extremely important to the school and to us as at Student Union. We want to emphasize that, with your feedback, you have already managed to get responses from the school on matters that concern all of us students. They do not want to jeopardize students’ well-being or livelihoods, so the reform will be closely monitored, and we will meet again in the fall regarding this matter. It will be developed and improved to better serve the students. More sections will be added to the Haaga-Helias website inte new section under the “frequently asked questions” section, which will address the concerns we have also raised today.

On behalf of Student Union

Ilona Hirvonen

Chairperson of the board

Chairperson of the board

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