On Wednesday, 15 March, the University of Tartu Student Union distributed to students the 4,000 euros they received as the contribution to society award, aiming to draw attention to the low rates of student allowances and stipends. The money was handed out in 20-euro notes upon presentation of the ISIC card.
The student union recently received the University of Tartu’s contribution to society award 2022, with a 4,000-euro prize. The student union’s mission is to stand for students’ interests and well-being. As students’ complicated economic situation has been neglected at the national level, the student union decided to take action and hand out the award money.
Although the event started at 9:30, the most eager students were present already at 6:45 to ensure a place among the first ones in the queue. By 9, the line of students who wanted the money was winding down the next street already. President of the Student Union Katariina Sofia Päts opened the event with a speech at 9:30, and then money was distributed to students. “The fact that so many students came here today shows how vital even 20 euros is for a student,” said Päts.
However, only 200 students received financial support from the campaign. A couple of hundred students who attended did not receive any money. The campaign aimed to signal the need for urgent action at national level. “At the current rates of allowances, students feel the rising prices more and more acutely every day, and they cannot keep up with the cost of living,” said Päts. She emphasised the need to increase the need-based study allowance, which has remained at the level of 75–220 euros for ten years already.
In addition to handing out the money, the University of Tartu Student Union and the student unions of ten other higher education institutions, sent a public letter on Monday morning to political parties holding coalition talks. In the letter, they emphasised the need to increase student allowances and stipends. “The future of our country depends on whether we have enough highly qualified professionals. If our medical, law or other students have to work full-time in parallel with studies to make ends meet, it will undoubtedly have a negative effect on their academic performance,” Päts said.
The student union offered tea and coffee to all the students who had gathered at the main building. Also Rector Toomas Asser and the university’s mascot Tiksu were present.
It is not the first time the University of Tartu Student Union has made public statements about the underfunding of higher education and about students coping. Last August, at the opening ceremony of the academic year they held a demonstration by rattling jars of coins. In the autumn, a student shadow project for politicians was organised, so the participants could get a first-hand experience of students' everyday lives. Read more about the campaign in Facebook.