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Friday's papers: Drastic drop in university students, senior discontent and an in-depth look at Finnish surnames

The last paper review of the week looks at a 50 percent drop in non-EU students enrolling at Helsinki University, criticism of services for the elderly in Tampere, and the history of how Finnish last names developed.

Helsingin yliopiston Porthania-rakennus
New students from outside the EU have dropped by 50%. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Iltalehti kicks off this Friday with news of a drastic drop in enrolment at Finland's universities among students originating from outside the 31 countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area. Finland's government decided to introduce tuition fees for these students last year.

Helsinki University's head of international affairs Markus Laitinen tells IL that there were initially about 30 percent fewer applicants, but then once the students were informed of their acceptance decisions, the number of incoming students fell by 50 percent on the previous year, as so many decided not to enrol. Laitinen believes the slump is only temporary.

"They've got many other competing offers from other universities. There are several challenges ahead of us - to speed the application and selection process, for example," he says.

Scholarships don't help

Not even a generous system of study grants was enough to attract applicants from outside Europe to Finland: the University of Helsinki for example offers free tuition for the ten top applicants and 10,000-euro stipends for 12 more.

"Over half of the students to whom we offered the free tuition didn't end up enrolling… Study grants are clearly not enough to tempt them; the competition is very tight and Finland has a very high standard of living," Laitinen tells the tabloid.  

Helsinki University has the highest tuition fees for a degree programme in Finland, at 13,000-18,000 euros. Laitinen is not deterred:

"Finnish universities contain some departments and faculties that represent peak knowledge in their field. They'll find good students. The trend around the globe shows that more students are planning to study abroad than ever."

Seniors are lonely and unhappy with their meals

Tampere's newspaper Aamulehti reports on local elderly residents that receive home services or live in a senior care facility. An annual poll of their satisfaction with the care they are receiving has come up with more critical feedback, with just over half saying that they are happy with their level of care at all times.

Over 19,000 people over the age of 75 were living in Tampere at the end of 2016. Most of the 230 respondents to the poll, carried out between May and August this year, were over 80 years of age. Many of the seniors were of the opinion that they had insufficient input into their service, a 17 percent rise on previous years. Meal and grocery shopping services were the most criticised.

High turnover in the staff was also criticised, along with limited time for socializing and time outside. A full one-third of the respondents felt the care staff didn't have enough time for them, and over half said they were lonely from time to time.

The features of senior care that received the most positive feedback were the friendly caregivers and service promptness. Even so, the respondents asked decision-makers to invest in more staff, with specific requests for more opportunities for discussion groups and a selection of independent activities for patients with memory disorders.

How many Virtanens are there in Finland?

And finally Helsingin Sanomat delves into Finnish last names, with a handy search engine to trace last names geographically throughout the country.

The paper says that these days everyone in Finland has a last name, but just over one hundred years ago, many people did not. It wasn't until 1921 that a law was passed making it obligatory to have a "family name". More often than not, the names that were taken into use reflected the bearer's social status, in line with the Swedish model. For example, young pupils were often assigned last names that derived from their home location, with a Latin or Greek suffix of –ius or –ander, as was the practice elsewhere in Europe.

Many Swedish-language names like Lindqvist, Lundberg and Björklund were typical names for the bourgeoisie and craftsmen in the 1600s and 1700s.

Finland's oldest surnames – some of which date back all the way to the 1200s - can trace their roots back to Eastern Finland. They tend to end with –nen, reflecting the patriarch's first name, nickname, occupation or origin. For example, the last names Toiviainen, Hyvönen and Hyvärinen are derived from the primeval first names of Toivia and Hyväneuvo.

Kotus: Name development in the east very unusual

Name researcher Sirkka Paikkala from the Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus) says that the development of surnames in Eastern Finland is exceptional in Europe. 

"Normally last name traditions developed from the top down, but in the eastern parts of Finland, the peasants had last names before the nobility," she tells the paper.

In western parts of the country, people took last names that traced back to their farms or plots of land. If they moved, they sometimes took a new name that better reflected their location. More times than not, the farms were named after the owners. This is where generations of Anttilas and Jussilas got their start.

HS says that Virtanen, Mäkinen and Korhonen are still the most common surnames in Finland. The search function finds some interesting geographical oddities, however. In Utsjoki, Finland's northernmost municipality, the most common last name is Guttorm, a Sami name. In western Närpes, the most common family name is Nguyen, due to the influx of Vietnamese who arrived to work in the local greenhouse industry. 

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