The National Union of University Students in Finland was founded in 1921. Suomen ylioppilaskuntien liitto, SYL for short, is an interest organisation defending and improving the educational, financial, and social benefits and rights of the students. In addition to being an interest organisation SYL has striven to take a role of a socially influential organisation on a wider scale and an inspirer of debate. SYL has 138 000 members in 17 universities.
SYL today is the leading student interest organisation of Finland.
Areas of work
The main areas of work are education politics, social politics and international affairs. There are also various other areas of work such as employment, equality, development co-operation and environment.
As SYL has widely recognised expertise on matters of higher education, the opinion of SYL is heard in various official organs dealing with education. SYL is asked to make statements in a great variety of matters ranging from general housing and social welfare to study financing and student health. SYL takes actively stand on all questions concerning students and education.
SYL is represented in diverse national bodies, involving those dealing with higher education policies, e.g. the Council for Higher Education and its sub-committees, and various committees and working groups of the Ministry of Education. SYL also arranges meetings and seminars, organises campaigns and publishes leaflets and publications.
An important factor in student influence is the Student Research Foundation, Otus. Otus was founded in 1989. There is a representation of four national student organisations in the board of Otus.
The purpose of the Student Research Foundation Otus is to practice, promote and support research and publication concerning higher education and the students’ economical, cultural and social status and their way of life. The most important part of Otus’ work is independent research, which is done in co-operation with national student organisations and the Finnish ministry of education.
Student Participation in SYL
SYL regularly organises meetings for its member student unions in the field of education politics, social politics and international affairs. There are also meetings about environmental issues, development co-operation, employment, equality or any other field of work important to SYL or its members.
The presidents and secretary generals of student unions meet several times per year with SYL staff to discuss current issues of importance. There are also meetings for the information officers and student newspapers’ editors. Each Monday SYL sends a newsletter to the Student Unions and to SYL’s partners, such as the ministries, informing them about coming events and reporting of recent developments.
SYL sends each new university student a brochure about SYL and its work. The task of the student unions is to introduce their work and the work of SYL to the new students.
Structure of SYL
The highest decision making body is the Congress. The Congress is held usually once every year. The Congress elects the president and six other executive board (Board) members as well as decides on the work plan and budget of the union and the membership fee for the coming year. It may decide upon further issues presented by the Board, members or delegates of the Congress as stipulated in the Constitution. Each member organisation may send one representative with voting rights per 1,000 members to the Congress.
The Board has the decision-making and executive power between Congresses. The Board meets at least once a week. The Board sets up necessary sections and working groups. Each Board member has his/her special responsibilities. Members of the Board work part-time in the SYL office and are paid monthly a certain sum of money to cover they expenses.
The office consists of the secretariat and technical staff, as well as project secretaries for specific purposes. Members of the secretariat are elected by the Board for a three-year term of office. There is a secretary general, two officers for social affairs, two for educational affairs, one for international affairs and one for information and PR. All officers are full-time employees of SYL.
At a local level all members of a student union are eligible to elect the members of a student parliament which holds the highest decision making power at the local level. The student parliament elects the executive board of the student union and chooses delegates to the SYL Congress.