Some thoughts on the present state of affairs in universities, Finland.
I have mentioned every now and then when as faculty I’ve partaken in discussions that involve a concern about the length of time of study, that I have some fundamental notions and objections to the present policies, on ethical and political grounds. Present policies being based on tightening the conditions of studies and narrowing their scope, seemingly to serve the tighter demands of time. Given from above, governmental and university management. So here a list of my objections:
Firstly, I find it nauseatingly hypocritical to express worry about the state of mental health of students and use funds and create positions for counseling, and not lift a finger about the cause: stressful conditions of study. It is perfectly understandable that students become anxious when their right of study is restricted – less time, less choice of subjects, less autonomy to compile the degree and the studies the way one wants – but demand of perfection and good grades and competitiveness is steadily augmented. Time of studies used to be a time of freedom – now it is an anxious time to make yourself or lose your chance. Our higher education system is built to drive people crazy.
Secondly, tightening the conditions of study relies on and produces social inequality. Only people who already have resources, mainly financial but also the kind of cultural and networking relations purchased by existing and established social positions (again overridingly also financial) can dedicate themselves wholly to their studies as required. Or, if they have really good existing resources, they can even ignore the restrictions and exert that freedom that is becoming an endangered species. Spelling it out: only people whose parents have the money to finance their studies can afford and are welcome to higher education.
A specific case of this is that as the background resources and working conditions of higher education become tighter and tighter, the students will form a more and more homogeneous group. This in a time when professions, skills, fields of activity and production shift and change form in record time, so that instead it ought to be the rule that the body of students is more and more heterogenous, since some would have just finished their secondary education while some would have had three different careers already – some would be following one path only and some would desperately need to add new dimensions to their abilities. This again implies that more and more people will just fall in the category of total losers, with no official chances of seeking to develop themselves. The system demands that one should be in the position to make the right choice immediately after basic education – or have the resources to change interest, not as a necessity but just as a personal whim.
Restricted time of study, which is married to restricted right of amount of studies and scope of studies also means that we produce cheaper intellectual labor for the global industry. We produce people with limited skills and scopes and perspectives, people who are used to compete each other and not support each other – people who can be easily exploited, maybe even more easily than at present, when so many work for free just with the hope of maybe gaining a real position. People who cannot state their own terms and look elsewhere for opportunities, since their skills are limited and their chances likewise.
To conclude – though one could elaborate easily – I find it utterly destructive to teach people in any subject at any level of education, but especially at the higher, to just shut up and obey the rules. To not have extensive interest in anything, only in getting the credits and degrees and diplomas, and the job, and getting it done. We stand at the verge of an ecological and social apocalypse. What we should be educating is people who do not accept that there are no alternatives, that there is only one way and truth and what the authorities state ought to be the limit of what they even dream of. We should be educating people for whom it is not about a career and getting rich and famous at any cost, but about people and the earth and the world and finding ways of doing things differently – not fucking “innovations” to be marketed and sold, not even cute little green innovations, but real alternative ways of living and subsisting and resisting and producing the world, with the world.
Dixit but I don’t think this can save my soul.