Student, do you know your rights?

During your studies at the University of Jyväskylä, have you come across any trouble or offensive behavior? Make sure you know the rules and policies of our university, and life on and off campus will be more comfortable for you and the people around you.

This is an essential guide to the basic student rights that all parties of the academic world should respect at all times. The point of view is mainly that of students of the University of Jyväskylä, but many of these rights apply to university students everywhere. The Student Union has compiled this guide from several sources. This is not an exhaustive list of student rights, but it sets the guidelines for good studying conditions. In addition, all students are entitled to general civil rights as well.

Under the description of each right, there is a practical example or an experience from the student life. Also the source for the juridical information is mentioned underneath the right.

What to do, if my rights are not fulfilled?

Remember: even if you feel hurt, try to remain calm. Often a situation that seems difficult, may be due to a simple misunderstanding or lack of knowledge, and can be solved by talking. Furthermore, most problems can be solved with a little help from the university staff or other students. You can always contact the the Secretary of Academic Affairs and the Secretary of Social Affairs to discuss your issues.

The Student Union oversees the fulfillment of the student’s rights. If necessary, the student union secretaries can contact the university staff anonymously for you. In an emotional emergency, you can also talk to the harassment contact persons. There are always two harassment contact persons at the student union, and one of them is the Secretary of Social Affairs. You can contact them by email: hairinta.nainen@jyy,fi (a woman) and hairinta.mies@jyy.fi (a man).

Students at the University of Jyväskylä have the possibility to affect the university environment and the students’ rights. Every student can raise issues by actively giving feedback to the teachers and other staff members. All the degree students can also apply for a student representative place in university’s administrative organ, where decisions on student life matters are discussed.

Students’ responsibilities

Students’ rights go hand in hand with the responsibilities. To require the fulfillment of the students’ rights, one must also remember to take care of their own responsibilities. The most important student responsibility is to stay in charge of one’s own studies and their progress. Students are encouraged to give feedback and take part in planning and developing the studies.

Students also have responsibilities when it comes to student allowance, and Kela can ask for a report on how one’s studies are progressing. Students are also expected to bring up the University of Jyväskylä, and according to its strategy, emphasize everyone’s part in the interactive academic environment.

  1. Right to a healthy living and studying environment
  2. Right to complete one’s studies flexibly
  3. Right to sick leave and health care
  4. Right to study counseling
  5. Right to study without being harrased or discriminated
  6. Right to financial aid
  7. Right to know the goals and requirements of each course in advance
  8. Right to well-grounded evaluation
  9. Right to receive the grade promptly
  10. Right to retake any exam
  11. Right to municipal healthcare
  12. Right to equality and special needs services

1. Right to a healthy living and studying environment

You have the right to study and live in an environment that makes you feel secure, and isn’t harmful to your health.

The humidity, lighting, background noise and other conditions of your apartment, as well as of other studying premises, should stay at a healthy level at all times. The owner of the real estate is always responsible for fixing any flaws, and maintaining their property. If a student detects any health hazards in university premises, they should consult a doctor and inform the administrators responsible for university facilities. If a student detects any health hazards at their own apartment, they should contact the landlord or the property manager.

A student is showing symptoms, and believes that the indoor air problem in his own apartment is the cause, because there is a cellar-like, sweet smell inside the apartment. The student should consult the owner of the apartment, because he or she is responsible for resolving the matter. The health protection authorities of the municipality can, as well, mandate the party responsible for the issue to resolve the situation.

Constitutional law 6 §, Non-Discrimination Act 6§, Health Protection Act, Primary Health Care Act 14 §, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Jyväskylän yliopiston ohjeet henkilöstölle: Sisäilmaongelmat

2. Right to complete one’s studies flexibly

You have the right to complete your studies in an appropriate order, without needless delay. You have a right to apply for a transfer of credits or a validation of competence.

The Finnish Universities Act states that you must complete your studies in a certain timeframe. In most cases, the timeframe is 3 years for your bachelor’s degree and 2 years for your master’s degree. Therefore, the university must arrange enough courses and student counseling, for students to keep these deadlines. In case a student runs out of time, they can, however, apply for an extension from the university in question.

This is a fundamental right, but also one of the most important ones. Basically, it means removing all kinds of obstacles and constraints that might delay one’s graduation. Once the university staff has approved the student’s personal study plan (PSP), he or she has the right to study according to it.

The university can transfer credits and validate competencies acquired in other institutions. The student has a right to receive a decision that can be challenged.

The students were recommended to do an exchange on their second study year. An obligatory course, which was only organized every two years, was held on that same spring. Because of this, the students going for an exchange could not finish their bachelor’s degree in three years. The course should have been available more often.

Universities Act 41§, Degree regulations 32§, 51§, Jyväskylän yliopiston aiemmin hankitun osaamisen tunnustamisen (AHOT) periaatteet.

3. Right to sick leave and health care

You have a right to be sick, rest and get a sick leave. You are also entitled to apply for sick leave benefit and general housing allowance. The lecturers have the responsibility to make the syllabi flexible enough, so that the students may take a day off when needed.

Students who have paid the student union fee are entitled to use the services of the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS). Both the FSHS and the municipal health service are bound by the same health care guarantee. This means that a student has the right to get an appointment within three months, even if their condition isn’t urgent.

Students’ rights for social benefits and municipal health care vary depending on the status of the student.

Students with Finnish citizenship:

If you become ill, you have the right to rest and apply for sickness allowance and housing allowance.

If you don’t earn enough credits because of a short-term illness, it shouldn’t affect your benefits. What’s more, a sick student doesn’t have to try and live with student financial aid alone. In case of a long-term illness, it is usually worthwhile to apply for a sick leave and sickness allowance. This way, you can save your student financial aid for when you really need it. In addition to the services of the FSHS, you are entitled to the services of the local health centers and hospitals. Even if the FSHS offers similar services, a student can always opt to use the services of municipal health care. On the other hand, visiting a local health center might be compulsory in case of an emergency or when the FSHS clinic is closed.

Citizens of other EU/EEA countries or of Switzerland:

Citizens of other EU/EEA countries or of Switzerland who have a European Health Insurance Card are entitled to medical treatment while visiting Finland on the same terms as the local residents. The card should be acquired before the arrival from your local social security institution.

Citizens of non EU/EEA countries:

Citizens of non EU/EEA countries must have a valid health insurance policy in order to obtain a residence permit. The health insurance policy must be valid throughout the stay. For more information, consult your insurance company. Students who study in Finland for at least two years can apply for domicile and receive the right to use municipal health care services.

At the end of Friday’s lecture, the professor told the students that they must write an essay of several pages for Monday’s lecture. The assignment required much more time and work than the homework usually given between the lectures. The professor didn’t give the students the possibility to rest during the weekend, and his actions were against the degree regulations.

The Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Health Insurance Act 1-10§, Student Benefits Act 6§

4. Right to study counseling

You are entitled to counseling and guidance in all stages of your studies.

Studying is much easier and less stressful if you have a professional to plan your studies with. The university is committed to providing its students with counseling and guidance throughout their studies. The students should also be aware of the resources and principles the study counseling programs are based on.

In the beginning of their studies, each student creates a personal study plan (PSP), which will then be discussed with a university staff member. You have a right to receive PSP counseling in the beginning of your studies, during your bachelor’s studies, master’s studies, and in case your personal study plan changes. The staff should also guide the students through their most important study projects, such as internships and theses.

In the beginning of the autumn semester, the department’s student tutors were told that they will be in charge of assisting the new student with their personal study plans, and choosing the courses for the first year. This was against the degree regulations, as student tutors can only assist staff’s PSP counselors in giving the PSP orientation.

Universities Act 40§, degree regulations 32-35§

5. Right to study without being harrased or discriminated

You have the right to study in a university where there is no harassment or dis-crimination.

Unfortunately, harassment comes in many forms. For instance, it can be bullying, sexual harassment or unjust evaluation of one’s work. The university is committed to supporting equality and suppressing discrimination at all levels. This means that a victimized student has the right to receive a written explanation or apology about the events that offended him or her. By law, it is even possible to apply for damages. The harassment contact persons of the Student Union provide emotional support for the victims. However, talking about the situation may often solve the problem. Early intervention is recommended in harassment or discrimination issues, so that the situation will not escalate.

Discriminating a student on grounds of his or her gender, age, religion, disability or any other reason is completely unjustifiable. On the contrary, all educational institutes are responsible for providing learning opportunities for people with special needs.

The lecturer called all the specialists in his examples ‘dudes’ or ‘bros’. He also assumed that all the students in the class are interested in erotic screensavers and war games. This was completely inappropriate.

Constitutional Law 5§ and 141, Equality Act 5-7§, 8b §, 10a§, 11-12§, The Criminal Code of Finland 11§, Jyväskylän yliopiston tasa-arvosuunnitelma ja häirintäohjeistus, JYYn tasa-arvo ja yhdenvertaisuussuunnitelma

6. Right to financial aid

Students with finnish citizenship:

Within certain conditions, you are entitled to financial aid for students. In some phases of your studies, you might also need parental allowance, social assistance, housing allowance, sickness allowance or exempt amount of income.

Studying is not a stable phase in a person’s life, and students are not all the same. That is to say, different students live in different socio-economical situations, and different situations call for different social benefits. For instance, no one needs to raise their children on student financial aid alone. If you have children, remember to apply for parental allowance from Kela. As a last option, students can even apply for social assistance.

Students without Finnish citizenship:

If you are not a Finnish citizen, you may be entitled to financial aid with education in Finland if

  • you are registered as a permanent resident of Finland in the population      registration system and
  • your purpose for residence in Finland is other than education (for example,  work, family ties or return migration).

If you are in Finland for the express purpose of attending school, you are not eligible for financial aid from Finland.

Regardless of several attempts, a student hasn’t got a summer job, and it isn’t possible to pursue degree studies during the summer. The student has already used the study loan from the previous academic year and she doesn’t have savings or any other income than the study finance. In this case, the student has a right to receive income support.

Student Benefits Act 5§ and 14§, Health Insurance Act 1-10§, Social Assistance Law 2§, Jyväskylän kaupungin toimeentulotukiohje

7. Right to know the goals and requirements of each course in advance

Before the beginning of the course, you have the right to know its level, learning outcomes, completion modes, criteria of evaluation, and language of instruction.

The courses have to be conducted according to the information given in the syllabi and curricula. The curricula should specify, for example, the goals and requirements of each course. In addition, the workload of each course must be corresponding to the credits awarded for completing it. The workload cannot be altered mid-course. If a teacher has to make changes in arranging the teaching or the exam of the course, he or she has to inform the students about these changes as soon as possible.

So that the students can study efficiently, the curriculum must be published by the end of March, and the syllabus by the end of May.

In the middle of the course, the lecturer informed the students that in addition to the assignments and the exam mentioned in the curriculum, they must also submit a learning diary, which will be evaluated. This was against the degree regulations.

Government Decree of University Degrees 5§, degree regulations 31§, 32§, 52§.

8. Right to well-grounded evaluation

You have the right to get a grade for your exam or assignment. In addition, you have the right to know about the evaluation criteria your grade is based on. This way, you can ensure that you have been evaluated fairly. If this is not the case, you have the right to demand re-evaluation.

Contemplating one’s grades is an essential part of a learning process. Thus, it’s the teacher’s duty to give such grades that reflect the skills and development of the student. However, a grade alone is not a sufficient form of feedback.

The student has the right to know the evaluation criteria and the actual requirements of an examination before taking it. The student has the right to read his or her exam paper after the examination and get a copy of it at his or her own expense. All the exam papers are archived for a year after the grades have been given. If a student feels the grade doesn’t reflect the quality of his or her work, they can apply for re-evaluation. This has to be done within 14 days after the grade was given. The applications are delivered directly to the teacher or, in some cases, to the board of examiners.

In July, a student decided to retake an exam she had first done in January. She wanted to meet the examiner to enquire about a poor grade. The examiner didn’t have the exam anymore, even though the minimum time of archiving exams hadn’t passed. The examiner should have archived the exam and given the student an opportunity to see it and hear about the grade criteria.

Universities Act 44§ and 82, degree regulations 49§ and 57§.

9. Right to receive the grade promptly

You have the right to receive grades for your exams, essays and other assignments within two weeks after the examiner has received the papers. Furthermore, the grades should be recorded in the study register within one week after they were given.

You also have the right to receive your grades well before the re-examination opportunity. Generally, teachers are allowed two weeks for checking and evaluating exams and assignments, with the exception of e-examinations, which should be evaluated within three weeks. Preparing evaluating comments for theses shouldn’t take longer than one month. The dean or the leader of the separate institute can grant the examiner some extra time, but the student in question has to be informed about this. Even with extra time, checking an assignment shouldn’t take more than a month. Deviating from these deadlines is only possible during summer and Christmas vacations.

It is important that the examiner record the grades in the study register within a week after publishing the grades. If a student’s record is not up-to-date, he or she might face problems with graduation, employment or Kela. Delays concerning the study records cannot be justified by vacations or lack of time. The grade should be recorded in the study register to the date the exam was taken or the assignment was submitted.

The thesis examiner informed the student that he will travel for a seminar for two weeks, and won’t start evaluating the thesis before returning back. Still, the student has a right to receive an evaluation within a month after submitting the thesis.

Degree regulations 48§

10. Right to retake any exam

You have the right to retake your exams or assignments.

All students have to have an opportunity to retake their exams at least once. At the latest, the re-examinations must be arranged two months after the publication of the grades. On the other hand, the students have to have at least one week of study time between receiving the grades and retaking the exam. The students should be informed about the re-examination opportunities well in advance.

If an exam can be taken on a general examination day, students can retake it as many times as they want. However, if a student fails to show up or pass the exam twice in a row, he or she has to consult the examiner before signing up for a new re-examination. A student has the possibility to try to raise the grade a maximum of two times within a year after the first exam or submitting the assignment.

A student didn’t submit a required learning diary by the due date. The teacher said she will accept the assignment late, but lower the grade. This was wrong, because there was no mention of this in the curriculum, and the grading criteria must be available for the students to see before the course, and it must be based on reaching the learning goals. The teacher should have informed the student about the retake possibility, i.e. when the next due date for submitting the learning diary is.

Degree regulations 38§.

11. Right to municipal healthcare

In addition to FSHS healthcare, you are also entitled to use the services of the municipal healthcare.

A student has the right to use municipal healthcare services, even if FSHS is offering the same services. In urgent cases, and when FSHS is closed, using the municipal healthcare of Jyväskylä might be the only option. However, one should notice that services at the municipal healthcare centers are more expensive than at FSHS.

Both the FSHS and the municipal health service are bound by the same health care guarantee. This means that a student has the right to get an appointment within three working days, if their situation requires visiting a health center. Students’ rights for social benefits and municipal health care vary depending on the status of the student.

A student sprains his thigh on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in July. He needs to see a doctor, but FSHS is closed because of summer holidays. The student has to go to a municipal healthcare center in his region.

12. Right to equality and special needs services

Should you have special needs, the university has the responsibility to meet them in all stages of your studies.

As long as it doesn’t call for unreasonable measures, it is the duty of all educational institutes to provide equal learning opportunities for regular and special needs students alike. In practice, this means that the university has to make its premises, lectures and learning materials accessible to different kinds of students. If a student demands individualized arrangements on grounds of his or her disability, the university staff should try their best to answer these special needs. Special needs students are also entitled to get assistive devices or support and assistance through Kela or their place of resident.

The adult education secretary of the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired composed a statement, according to which an applicant needs extra time for answering the entrance examination, and the possibility to use their own laptop during the examination. A statement from an ophthalmologist was attached. The university must take reasonable measures to make these arrangements.

Constitutional Law 16§, Equality Act 2§, Disability Services Act 3§, Degree regulations 45§.