Student rights in a nutshell
Academic communities always strive for respectful and equal treatment of others. Common rules and good administration ensure smooth studies. The purpose of this listing is to give you an idea of the most important student rights at Aalto University. The list of rights is not exhaustive, but it provides a basis for monitoring the legal protection of studies and other student life. All citizens’ fundamental rights, for example, which also apply to students, are not listed in this guide. The list is based on the most common issues that the Student Union receives. Each paragraph indicates on which rule the right in question is based.
Remember to stay calm, even if you feel your rights have been violated. Many issues can be resolved by discussing the matter and asking about it. You should always try to solve problems as soon as possible after they occur. Students' responsibilities also go hand in hand with these rights. All Aalto members are committed to follow the University’s “Code of Conduct in the University Environment” guidelines; i.e. to act ethically in their studies, to take responsibility for the safety and comfort of their studies and to act in a respectful manner in university premises. In addition, each student and staff member is bound by Aalto’s Code of Conduct.
“When operating in the university environment and representing the university, the members of the Aalto University community agree to:
- act honestly and with integrity
- respect others regardless of their background
- foster open discourse and the free exchange of ideas
- build mutual trust
- actively care for the safety and well-being of others
- respect private, shared and university property
- use the physical facilities of the university for their intended purposes
- react to any violations in a manner appropriate to their position and duties”
Code of Conduct in the University Environment. Decision of the Aalto University Academic Affairs Committee 19 May 2015
You can always get in touch with your student organisation or the Student Union in case of problems. It is the student union specialist's duty to advise association members in charge of academic affairs as well as other students. They can also act as support persons in legal protection cases and investigate matters that students are unable to find out as private persons. The Student Union also has two harassment contact persons.
Right to uninterrupted academic progress
You have the right to study without interruptions. In accordance with the Universities Act, you have the right to study so that you can graduate within the target time set by the Universities Act. The university must arrange studies and study guidance in such a way that it is possible to meet deadlines. In other words, studies must be smooth in terms of both arrangements and content, and obstacles to academic progress must be prevented. You can apply for additional time to complete your degree if you cannot meet the deadline.
Teaching must be organised systematically according to approved curricula. Among other things, the curricula must state the timing, scope, learning objectives and teaching methods of the course. It is not permitted to deviate from these issues without permission. This will ensure that you can realistically assess the workload, timing and sensibleness of your studies in relation to your own goals when making your personal study plan.
You also have the right to apply for recognition of prior learning (RPL), that is, recognition or replacement of prior studies. You can apply for RPL for studies completed elsewhere and for skills gained in other ways. RPL is always based on an assessment of whether the learning objectives of the degree, degree programme or course are met. You have the right to appeal against the RPL decision to the Degree Committee.
In one autumn, it was noticed that the course for the fifth year could only accommodate some of those students for whom the course was compulsory due to the renewed arrangements. In addition, in the middle of the course it was announced that in addition to the previously announced exam, the students also had to submit compulsory assignments that affected the grade. The procedure was not appropriate.
Sections 40 and 44 of the Universities Act, Sections 16 and 36 of Aalto University General Regulations on Teaching and Studying, Aalto University policy on credit transfer
Right to receive guidance
You have the right to receive guidance on planning and completing your studies. Good guidance can help you clarify your personal goals and navigate the sea of opportunities. You have the right and obligation to prepare a personal study plan (PSP) and to receive guidance on its preparation. The School approves the PSPs and uses them to plan the organisation of studies. Therefore, it is important to keep your plan up to date both from your own and the university's point of view. The guidance for drafting the PSP must be appropriate and should not be based solely on peer support from other students, for example.
Appropriate guidance must also be provided for the writing of theses.
The supervisor of a student’s Master’s thesis suddenly announced that he will be spending six months in India as a visiting researcher and is practically unable to supervise the thesis from there. In order for the student to receive appropriate guidance and graduate on time, the student must be assigned another supervisor.
Section 40 of the Universities Act, Sections 17 and 18 of Aalto University General Regulations on Teaching and Studying
Right to get results on time and receive feedback on learning
You have the right to receive the results of an exam or other coursework within four weeks. At the same time, you are entitled to learn how and when you can learn about the assessment criteria and their application to your work. This can mean, for example, a general feedback session or an opportunity to have a discussion with the assessor. For this reason, exam answers and coursework must be stored for a six-month period. In the main, the results of exam answers and coursework are public, and theses are always public. The assessment must be based on the announced learning outcomes and assessment criteria, meaning that the assessor must always be able to justify the awarded grade.
The study attainment must also be recorded in the register swiftly, in connection with the results’ announcement.
If you are not happy with your result, you are entitled to appeal it, i.e. to apply for a rectification of the grade of the course or thesis. A rectification must be applied for within 14 days from the teacher in charge. If you are still unhappy after their reply, you can apply for a rectification from the University’s Degree Committee.
A student was confused when a two appeared in the register for a course they thought they had completed more successfully. The teacher announced in a two-sentence email that this is just how it is and discussing it will not make a difference. The student is entitled to apply for a rectification based on the teacher’s reply and, based on the statements of the student and the teacher, the Degree Committee will assess whether the assessment was fair or not.
Sections 27 and 44 of the Universities Act, Sections 30–37 of Aalto University General Regulations on Teaching and Studying
Right to study, participate and manage affairs in different languages
You have the right to complete your studies in the predetermined languages. Aalto University’s degree languages in the fields of technology and arts are Finnish, Swedish and English and, in the field of economics, Finnish and English. Exams and assignments are primarily provided in the language of instruction. In the fields of technology and arts, when the language of instruction is Finnish or Swedish, the student is entitled to choose to use either Finnish or Swedish in their coursework and exams. In these cases, when signing up for an exam, you need to request to have the questions in the other native tongue. A course’s language of instruction must be mentioned in the curriculum. At bachelor’s level, teaching is done mainly in Finnish or Swedish, and at master’s level, largely in English.
English can be assigned as a degree programme’s language, in which case the programme’s teaching and guidance are available in English and the coursework can be completed in English. The Schools must ensure that even at master’s level, there is an opportunity to complete the degree in Finnish (or Swedish).
In accordance with the Universities Act, the official administrative language at Aalto is Finnish. The working languages of Aalto are Finnish, Swedish and English. The premise is that everyone can participate in the University’s operations flexibly. For example, it is possible to use English in the position of student representative in administration. A student is entitled to initiate their personal matters in all these languages, meaning they can submit an extension application, for example, in either Finnish, Swedish or English.
A member of staff was ill-disposed when a student using English as their study language asked what it would be like to act as a student representative in the School’s administration and implied that all the materials would be in Finnish. However, the student did fine as a member, as the working language was changed when an English-speaking person joined the group.
Section 4 of Aalto University General Regulations on Teaching and Studying, Aalto University guidelines on the languages of degree and instruction
Right to a University free from discrimination and harassment
You have the right to study without experiencing harassment and discrimination. In accordance with the Constitution of Finland: “No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.” The University must offer a safe study environment. Additionally, universities have a statutory obligation to look into equality between women and men in their operations and to work towards promoting it.
In addition to preventing discrimination, a learning institution is responsible for the realisation of equality, and you are entitled to reasonable special arrangements if you have a disability or handicap that prevents you from studying.
Harassment can manifest itself as, for example, bullying, sexual harassment or hindering the progress of studies. Members of the Aalto University community are committed to treating others in a respectful manner. If anyone experiences discrimination or harassment, the University has a clear action plan for sorting out the matter. Everyone has the right to be heard in a manner that respects the delicacy of the situation. The Student Union also has two Harassment contact persons to whom you can turn, no matter how big or small the matter.
A lecturer sneered at a country’s supposed work culture and work ethics. When they discovered that there were students from said country on the course, the lecturer singled them out and asked about their experiences with tax evasion. Similar incidents occurred several times over the course. This behaviour was extremely awkward for the students. The lecturer’s behaviour clearly constituted as harassment.
Section 6 of the Constitution of Finland, Section 41a of the Universities Act, Section 6 of the Non-discrimination Act, Sections 5–7, 8b, 10a, 11–12 of the Act on Equality between Women and Men, Chapter 11, Section 11 of the Criminal Code of Finland, Code of Conduct in the University Environment, Section 24 of Aalto University General Regulations on Teaching and Studying
Right to sick leave
You have the right to be sick. After accepting their place, a student can register for non-attendance for the first year if they are unable to begin their studies due to an illness. An illness entitles you to apply for an extension to finalise your studies. When granting an extension to a right to study, the University must take into account the student’s life situation, which may have been affected by illness.
Those covered by the Finnish sickness allowance system:
While you are ill, you can apply for sickness allowance and general housing allowance. A short-term illness or the reduced study attainments potentially resulting from it are no obstacles to receiving your study grant. However, especially during a longer period of illness, you do not have to stick with the financial aid for students; in certain cases, you can apply for sick leave and sickness allowance. While you are receiving sickness allowance and not financial aid for students, you are not wasting your months of financial aid. You have to apply for general housing allowance separately. It is possible for a student on sickness allowance who is recovering from an illness to study in small quantities. In these cases, it is possible to earn a maximum of 12 study credits per academic term or 24 credits per academic year.
A student is suffering from long-term depression and is unwell for more than 2 months. The student should apply for sickness allowance, as this is a better option to secure their subsistence. There are no requirements for minimum studies with the sickness allowance and, as the financial aid for students is suspended when going on sickness allowance, their months of financial aid are not wasted.
Kela, Sections 1–10 of the Health Insurance Act, Section 6 of the Act on Financial Aid for Students (in Finnish), Sections 39 and 42 of the Universities Act
Right to healthcare
You are entitled to healthcare. In the main, the Finnish Student Health Service is responsible for the healthcare of basic degree students. All basic degree students who have paid the Student Union’s membership fee can use the services of FSHS.
If necessary, you are entitled to use the municipal healthcare services in addition to those offered by FSHS. You can use the healthcare services of the municipality you are studying in even if your domicile is elsewhere. Both FSHS and the municipal healthcare services are bound by the care guarantee. In municipal services, students pay the same service fees as other residents.
Citizens of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland
You are entitled to use the same municipal healthcare services as Finnish citizens if you have a European health insurance card. The card can be acquired from your home country’s authorities before your arrival in Finland.
Citizens of other countries
You are entitled to apply for a place of domicile in Finland if you have grounds to live here for more than two years. Along with it comes the right to use municipal healthcare services.
Everyone arriving in Finland must have health insurance for their residence permit that is valid for the duration of their stay.
A student contracts mononucleosis over the summer and needs treatment. FSHS is closed for the summer break. The student must primarily seek help from their residential area’s health centre or, in an acute situation, from the nearest first aid unit.
Section 19 of the Constitution of Finland, Sections 17 and 48 of the Health Care Act (in Finnish)
Right to a safe and healthy environment
You have the right to study and live in an environment that is safe and not harmful to your health. The responsibility over the maintenance and repairing of buildings as well as figuring out what caused the damages is held by the building’s owner. If a student notices indoor air problems that are harmful to health in University facilities, they should get in touch with an FSHS nurse, who will refer them to a doctor, if necessary. At Aalto University, indoor air problems must be reported to [email protected], which is forwarded to the occupational safety manager, the property’s owner and the regional occupational safety representative. A municipal health protection official can oblige the person whose actions are responsible for the indoor air problems to take measures.
If you have a doctor’s certificate from FSHS for problems related to indoor air in University facilities, you can apply for a right to special arrangements by following the University’s accessibility guidelines.
The duties of the student health care services, i.e. FSHS, include monitoring the healthiness and safety of the study environment and the wellbeing of the study community. This also includes, for example, monitoring ergonomics, noise levels and other matters related to wellbeing.
A student notices that they show symptoms when working in a certain study facility. The student suspects this is caused by indoor air problems. It is recommendable for the student to visit a nurse and, if necessary, be checked by a doctor, and to report the matter to [email protected].
Section 6 of the Constitution of Finland, Section 6 of the Non-discrimination Act, Section 17 of the Health Care Act (in Finnish), Health Protection Act (in Finnish)
Right to subsistence
You have the right to indispensable subsistence. A student’s primary source of income outside of paid work is the financial aid for students, which consists of three separate parts: a study grant, a housing supplement and a government-guaranteed student loan.
With certain prerequisites, you are also entitled to other social benefits, such as maternity, paternity and parental allowance, social assistance, general housing allowance, sickness allowance and, of course, free income. Additionally, with certain prerequisites, unemployment benefits may be granted towards studying. Life situations change, and different benefits are suited for different life situations. When the conditions are met, students with family are entitled to Kela’s parental benefits. Social assistance is the last resort in terms of subsistence, which means that all other income takes precedence over it. A student is equally entitled to social assistance as other groups if the conditions for granting it are met, but the student loan that is part of the financial aid for students, for example, is counted as income for students who have received a government guarantee for a loan, even if they have not taken out any of the loan. For students, the basic amount of social assistance may be lowered.
The above has been written by default for a Finnish citizen or a foreigner whose reason for residing in Finland is permanent (not studying). More information on the Finnish social security system: infopankki.fi.
A student has no assets and has used up their months of financial aid. The student has the opportunity to receive social assistance if they cannot support themselves otherwise.
Sections 5 and 14 of the Act on Financial Aid for Students (in Finnish), Section 2 of the Social Assistance Act