Students are your most important resource, says TEK — Organisation has made 1.2 million euro donation to tech-sector universities
At the end of 2021, to celebrate their 125th anniversary, the Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland TEK decided to donate a total of 1.2 million euros to Finnish universities of technology. With the donation made within the framework of the Finnish government’s matching funding campaign, TEK supports Finnish science, research and higher education.
Aalto's share of the donation is 370 000 euros. In connection with the donation, TEK emphasises the importance of student wellbeing.
‘Students are the most important resource universities have and the force that renews Finland. We hope that now that the COVID-19 pandemic puts less pressure on us, universities will take on a stronger role in promoting the wellbeing of students. The drawn-out pandemic was a heavy burden on the students’ shoulders. We’ll be seeing the effects for a long time,’ says Jari Jokinen, CEO of TEK.
‘We’re grateful to TEK for the significant donation. It’s wonderful that TEK pays attention and invests in the wellbeing of our students. We in the Aalto community are working on solutions to the challenges related to wellbeing and coping in co-operation with students and staff,’ says President Ilkka Niemelä.
Students’ worries about coping have increased
51 per cent of the students who responded to TEK's Student Survey in autumn 2021 reported that they were often or constantly worried about their coping. In 2019, the corresponding figure was 41 per cent. Bachelor's degree students have more concerns about their coping than master’s degree students.
‘As expected, the results of the student survey in 2021 are worse than the results of 2020. Bachelor's degree students are more concerned about their coping than before, including men. Of master's students, women are clearly more concerned about their coping than men,’ says Susanna Bairoh, Research Manager at TEK.
The COVID-19 pandemic alone does not explain the deterioration in students' coping, but its impact can be seen in the results. ‘The survey was carried out in September 2021. Before that, restrictions had been lifted and life began to normalise, but then suddenly we had to return to stricter restrictions and remote work. This disappointment probably weakens the results even further,’ Bairoh continues.
This academic year, the joint mielenTEKoja project by TEK and Nyyti ry (a non-profit that support students’ mental health and ability to study) has provided students with information about mental health, tips for promoting their coping, webinars and an opportunity to chat online. The project ended at the end of March, but the Nyyti group chats and the Men's Turn peer discussions will continue. The topics of the April chats include loneliness at university and lack of motivation.
The wellbeing of students improves as the whole community feels better
At Aalto, students receive support for coping from, for example, the Starting Point of Wellbeing service.
‘It’s a low-threshold service that guides the student to the right support person such as a study psychologist, study advisor or Aalto priest. Students are also offered courses, groups, workshops and self-study materials,’ says study advisor Tuuli Asunmaa.
‘We’ve noticed that the wellbeing of teachers has a major impact on students' coping. That’s why, in addition to providing individual help to students, we also pay a lot of attention on ways of improving the wellbeing of teachers and other staff,’ says psychologist Merita Petäjä, who manages the Oasis of Radical Wellbeing project at Aalto.
The project includes Media Hub, which produces information, videos, podcasts and events in co-operation with many actors at Aalto to increase awareness of wellbeing. Four students have also been recruited as wellbeing ambassadors and they share information about the services to students.
Student wellbeing and ability to study have been monitored at Aalto since 2016 with the AllWell? survey. It was carried out this year at the turn of February and March.
‘The results indicate that the pandemic has been trying for our students and weakened their sense of community. The number of those at risk of study exhaustion has increased slightly from last year, and more students miss support from their fellow students. Communality has decreased with distance learning, and studying has become more solitary,’ says specialist Sanna Hangelin.
Investments in the constructive alignment of teaching show as a positive development in the AllWell? results. This has been observed, for example, at the School of Engineering.
‘Together with the students, we discuss workload factors and the results of various reports. This year's objectives have been to support communality and reform academic guidance,’ says Vice Dean Jani Romanoff.
Learn more about Nyyti, which supports students’ mental health and ability to study: https://www.nyyti.fi/en/