What do you actually do there in Metka [sic] in addition to drinking booze and talking sh*t?
(response to METKA 2020 Survey)
METKA celebrated its 12th anniversary last weekend in the METKA Gala. But who, or what, was actually celebrated? METKA’s work, the people doing it or all members? This article aims to discuss what METKA is and why it exists. We also open the concept of student union membership and membership fee in a general level.
Next week, the fee will be dissected more closely, which has been a long-time request by the members.
What is a student union in a Finnish UAS?
To start, it is useful to define what “student union” means in Finnish UAS context. Simply put, student unions exist because their existence is defined in a law about Universities of Applied Sciences. How the student union operates is mostly decided within one, in addition to some core tasks in the law such as naming student representation and advocating student health services. Student union administration consists of a council of representatives and a board. In addition, student unions may have paid employees.
The shorter name for Student Union of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences is METKA. The Student Parliament is a council that is chosen every year with open election in October. All METKA members are eligible to vote. After the election, the board is chosen to execute council’s decisions. Both the council and board works for one calendar year. METKA has also six (6) paid specialists, completed by two (2) Zone Sports employees. The board receives a monthly payment for 11 months a year, while the employees have a fixed monthly salary.
METKA’s membership fee and funding
METKA, like all other student unions in Finland, have members. To become a member, one pays a membership fee. The Student Parliament decides the membership fee amount for every academic year separately. The fee amount for next academic year 2020-2021 is decided this April. Joining METKA is voluntary.
Collecting membership fees is mentioned also in the law about Finnish UAS. The law states that student unions have a right to collect fees to fulfill its operations. In Metropolia, only a fraction of the student body are METKA Members: when writing this, METKA has around 2700 paid members. In 2018, the number was significantly higher at 6500. The reason for the drop in numbers was the decision to give up the monopoly in student cards and offer it for all Metropolia students free, without joining the union. Previously students needed to join METKA in order to get a plastic student card. The drop was anticipated, and the council and board did prepare for it in the budget for 2019.
The membership fee amount has stayed the same since 2018-2019. Previously, the academic year payment was 30 euros, while currently is it 52 euros. The raise in the amount caused much conversation within the council and members. Money has always been an important discussion topic in student life, and at the time of the raise, METKA got critiqued by the raise. In METKA 2020 Survey, the answers reflected this:
“I would bring out more why the membership costs so much and how students benefit from joining.”
“Being a member should be free, as well as plastic student card.”
“It feels like Metka doesn’t use [membership fees] logically”.
Membership fees are not the only means to fund METKA operations. Metropolia UAS funds METKA significantly. However, the fees affect how much and what METKA can work for in addition to the tasks defined by law. Student unions follow Associations Act in cases the law about UAS does not provide answers. This means that METKA is not supposed to make profit.
The law about Finnish UAS uses both terms “students” and “members”. What METKA operations should be targeted for which group then? Which work is for all Metropolia students, and which only for paid members? In advocacy cases, such as when a student contacts METKA and asks for help in issues e.g. about harassment in school, their membership is not checked. All students are helped when they need help. Also, for example tutors are not required to join METKA, although membership fees are used also to organize tutoring. These questions are currently ongoing in daily METKA life, and the answers are yet unresolved.
Next week’s article continues discussing membership and the fee. We will open how the price is constructed, and how much the METKA 2020 Survey participants would be ready to pay for being METKA members. We will also tell why the digital student card is free in Metropolia, but using a plastic one requires a membership.
This article was written by Paavo Nisula, METKA Specialist in Member Services.
This post is also available in Suomi.