Student welfare poses significant qualitative and content-specific challenges

The implementation of student welfare contains significant content-specific and qualitative development targets. According to a recent doctoral dissertation that will be examined at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), these flaws are connected to the superficial attention that is paid to individual needs as well as actions taken by authorities, for example.

According to the study, the service that is provided to students and families displays a tendency towards polarisation: those customers who are already in a difficult position are more likely to be neglected or "shuffled" within the service system.

The production of these services is also characterised by "differences in quality". The assessments by parents, and some professionals, repeatedly highlighted how the activities of the individuals providing these services are strongly guided by their characteristics, personality or attitudes, in accordance with their resources.

In light of these results, it is evident that there is room for improvement in the cooperation between different authorities. One key observation is that educational as well as social and health care actors are not able to adequately identify each other's professional-cultural boundaries as well as the possibilities and limitations of each other's activities. As a consequence of this emotional as well as partially physical distance, the efficiency of the student welfare implementation process is not what it could be. The information flow between authorities and their mutual interaction appear to be fairly meagre and based on necessity.

The study also highlighted significant variations in how the core tasks and features of student welfare are perceived by the different actors. These diverging basic assumptions cause confusion and increase mutual friction. What is apparent is that student welfare is seen as an activity that focuses on "problem students". Student welfare is also seen as problem-oriented, reactive and stigmatising.

Public discussion on the decreased school motivation levels of students, the emotional well-being of children and young people, the spread of social exclusion as well as pedagogical challenges is increasingly present in the everyday lives of Finns. Student welfare is a field of great possibilities that can help meet these challenges. It is involved in the lives of children as well as their families during their key years for growth and development.

According to Timo Suhola, who conducted the study, the upcoming social welfare, health care and regional government reform can be seen as an opportunity for student welfare.

"By focusing on student welfare, we are also investing in the well-being of individuals, the economic capacity of our society, and social harmony."

Timo Suhola, Master of Science in Psychology, will defend his doctoral dissertation Customer orientation and multisectoral approach in student welfare services: student welfare process as a systemic service system in the field of industrial engineering and management on 13 January 2017 at 12 noon in the auditorium of the LUT Student Union building. Associate Professor Hanna Toiviainen from the University of Tampere will act as opponent. Professor Timo Pihkala of LUT will act as custos.

The dissertation has been published in the Acta Universitatis Lappeenrantaensis research series number 733 of the university. ISBN 978-952-335-044-1, ISBN 978-952-335-045-8 (PDF), ISSN 1456-4491. The electronic version can be found in the LUTPub-database: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-335-045-8. A printed version of the dissertation may be purchased from the Aalef bookstore, tel. +358 44 744 5511, or at kirjakauppa@aalef.fi or online from the LUT Shop: https://lutshop.lut.fi/.

The doctoral candidate's personal information:

Name: Timo Suhola
Year and place of birth: 1959, Helsinki
Home municipality: Luumäki
Education: Master of Science in Psychology, 2003, University of Joensuu
Employment: South Karelia Social and Health Care District (Eksote), 2009 -, Project Manager

More information:

Timo Suhola, timo.suhola@elisanet.fi