The Chair of the Board of the Student Union Kalle Parviainen held a speech in the concluding seminar of the University of Oulu Audit on the 18th of April 2018. The talk touched upon the recommendations and strengths found in the audit from the students’ perspective. Here is the entire speech:
“Dear chair of the audit team, vice rector of education, dear university community,
My name is Kalle Parviainen and I am the Chair of the Board of the Student Union of the University of Oulu (OYY). I’m studying English Philology, and I also participated in this audit by being part of a group interview. I was asked to say a few words on behalf of our students about the whole audit process and about the recommendations presented in the report.
The past few years have been, let’s say quite busy in terms of changes. Looking back three or four years, there probably isn’t a single thing at the University that has remained stable. Everything from the smallest things, like the printer services, to the way our study support and guidance is organised, has gone through some kind of transformation. I think we all feel the need to have a small pause right now, and ponder all the changes and their effects. Evaluating the situation is also one of the main points in the PDCA model. Change is not a bad thing, but rushing changes causes uncertainty and unnecessary discomfort to everyone.
And then a few words about student centred learning and how the students are taken into account in decision making. In this audit, the University received feedback that we must improve pedagogic practices. All of our Faculties should aim toward a student-centered learning experience. It is essential that we support and motivate our students, and increase their wellbeing. The Student Union is ready to support this process, which should lead to more flexible studies and varied ways of completing courses. Everyone benefits if students graduating from this University are active citizens and have versatile skills they can use.
We have a wide network of student representatives at various levels of the administration, and they are chosen with relatively clear processes. But what is the actual weight given to their efforts? Is representation in one governing body proof that issues are not actually decided someplace else? We should pay more attention to how we make our decision-making more open and more attractive. In addition to the results of Kandipalaute, a study by OTUS (the research foundation of studies and education) has shown that there are real concerns about the actual opportunities for students – and even student representatives – to affect the decisions of the university.
The existence of these various surveys and other forms of feedback is a great thing, but I would like to raise the issue of the degree to which students actually want to take part in them. Low response rates have been an issue with the new student course feedback system. This is, in my opinion, a major issue, and something that we all must tackle together. So what is? How to motivate students into participating – or at least answering surveys? I think the solution is by illustrating to them, how their actions affect the reality and world around them.
I think that it is quite meaningful that every member gets heard in our university community. This is something that is not only relevant to feedback, but also links to language policy and the way we communicate. As the University is aiming to be truly international scientific community, language issues have popped up time and time again. We should, as a community, ponder what being international means. I think every member of our community has the responsibility to make others feel welcome and be part of it. However, I feel like even just in the past six months some things have progressed: We have selected a few international students as student representatives in a couple of administrative bodies that previously have had only Finnish-speaking members. This has changed the way they conduct their meetings, and enabled participation to everyone.
Overall, you could say that in communication more is more. There are not that many top secret things at the University; things that should not be public, therefore the more communication we have from the University, the more both the staff and the students feel like they belong here. Active and open communication increases the transparency of any administration – when people understand why some decisions are made, by who, and actually in some cases what has been decided, we increase our wellbeing. And of course, when talking about communication, it goes two ways: we must promote chances to have proper dialogue between all parties here at the university, and to encourage people to have these discussions.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone that has been part of this audit. Especially hearing and taking into account us students and our voices and opinions, is something that we truly appreciate. This audit has been a big effort by everyone, but it is important to remember that these changes and recommendations are taken into account and that development does not stop simply because the audit is now over. The recommendations should change our daily routines and activities at the University. We are also hopefully moving towards a more student-centered approach, where we encourage the students to have an even more active role in the learning processes. As an academic community, we have the responsibility to listen to all the voices in our midst, including the students.”
You can read the audit report online via this link: https://karvi.fi/en/publication/audit-university-oulu-2018-3/