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Tuesday's papers: University admission rates, Helsinki daycare expansion, and a strike in Oulu

Finland's papers look at university acceptance statistics, Helsinki's response to a projected jump in foreign-language residents and a two-day worker walkout.

Työntekijät vastustavat yhtiön suunnitelmia sulkea paperikone ja tehtaan arkittamo.
Employees guard the gate of the Stora Enso paper mill to keep workers out. Image: Paulus Markkula / Yle

Iltalehti carries a story on the start of the higher education application period, giving a rundown of which institutions are hardest to get into in Finland.

Statistics from the National Agency for Education show that securing a tertiary study place in Finland is difficult. On average, less than one-fifth of applicants are accepted each year.

The easiest universities and applied science universities to get into in Finland are those with Swedish-language instruction. For example, acceptance rates were highest at Turku's Åbo Akademi University and the Novia University of Applied Sciences, which has campuses in Vaasa, Turku, Raseborg and Jakobstad.

The academic institutions that were the hardest to get into were the University of the Arts in Helsinki, which specializes in fine arts, music and theatre, and the Laurea University of Applied Sciences that has six campuses in the Uusimaa capital city region and teaches things like nursing, IT, business management and restaurant entrepreneurship. Only 8 percent of the applications to these schools were accepted for the last academic year.

Study places were also difficult to secure at Turku, Lapland and Tampere Universities, where just 11.2-13.3 percent of applications were accepted. Only slightly better, the Universities of Eastern Finland and Oulu accepted just 14 percent of all applicants.

The university that receives and processes the most applications each year is Helsinki University. Out of 31,000 applicants in 2018, 15.4 percent were accepted to study there.

The application period for entry into higher education institutions in Finland begins on 20 March and ends on 3 April.

Early childhood education as a silver bullet

The daily Helsingin Sanomat features a story on the city council of Helsinki's efforts to adapt the city's services to a projected near-doubling of the foreign-language population.

The latest estimates predict that by the year 2035, every fourth Helsinki resident will speak at least one foreign language – in other words, something other than Finnish, Swedish or Sami – as their mother tongue.

Deputy Mayor and SDP city councillor Nasima Razmyar tells the paper Helsinki must re-think its education, employment and health care systems to take the needs of foreign-language speakers better into account.

"There's plenty of room for improvement in comprehensive education, for example, because Finnish and Swedish-speaking children are currently outperforming children with a different native language, on average," she says.

NCP city councillor Daniel Sazonov says that efforts to provide more Finnish instruction for the city's residents are underway, but he also points out that services should be available to people who have no plans to stay in Finland long-term.

"Helsinki should have English-language early childhood education on offer," he says.

By the year 2035, every third pre-school-age child in Finland will speak a foreign language as their mother tongue, even though most of them will have been born in the country.

Sazonov tells HS that this is why more children should be encouraged to start early childhood education programmes in daycares, where little ones learn the language and societal norms. Finland's percentage of children who regularly attend early childhood education programmes is currently lower than its Nordic neighbours. To improve these numbers and boost integration, Greens city councillor Otso Kivekäs proposes that Helsinki increase its daycare capacity and lower prices.

Finns Party councillor Jussi Halla-aho tells the paper on the other hand that he sees no reason for the city of Helsinki to change its services to meet the needs of a growing foreign population, as the newcomers should instead adapt themselves to the Finnish situation.

Money for port renovations, but not workers

Oulu-based newspaper Kaleva carries a story on a two-day employee walkout at the Stora Enso paper mill in Oulu on Tuesday, following news that the mill is planning to lay off up to 400 workers.

The forest product giant announced on Monday that it planning to convert the northwest paper mill into a packaging board production plant, which would mean the closing of one of the mill's paper machines and a sheeting plant.

"I was there at the startup of the number six paper machine. I wish I would have never come to see this day," Kyösti Nuutinen, a worker for the Stora-Enso subsidiary Efora, tells the paper.

He and his friends are standing at the gate of the mill, to remind any workers who may show up that tools have been downed for two days in protest. He wonders aloud about the choices Stora Enso has made of late, as significant investments were made in a deep-water channel for the Oulu port before the firm decided to let people go.

"It doesn't affect a 60-year-old guy like me too much; I'll get by. But the situation is entirely different for younger employees who have just built their houses and have children to feed."

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