“I don’t know anything about advocacy work METKA does, so it’s difficult to say.”

This response was given to METKA2020 Survey last fall when the participants were asked about how effective they would say METKA’s advocacy work really is. It was not the only comment stating the same thing, so now it is high time to shed light to what METKA Advocacy is in practice.

METKA Advocacy: who are doing the advocacy work?

Simply put, METKA Advocacy means advocating and taking care of Metropolia students’ rights as students. Advocacy work demands active participation within Metropolia as well as outside in Finnish society. Advocacy work is mostly executed by the so-called METKA Advocacy Team, which includes two METKA Board members and Advocacy Specialist, supported by METKA chair, vice chair and Executive Director.

Every METKA board member are also representing students in various teams and groups within Metropolia. These groups deal with students’ well-being in all campuses, for example. In addition, the board member responsible for sports does advocacy work by participating in teams that develop students’ possibilities to exercise in and out of university premises. This is also done in collaboration with Finnish Student Sports Federation OLL.

In addition to board members and METKA employees, the METKA Student Parliament and a large number of student representatives advocate for students. The Student Parliament has for example decided on the contents for political vision for METKA. In collaboration with other student unions in the metropolitan area, also Urban Policy Program for Metropolitan Area (PDF) has been decided on by the parliament. Both vision documents define the views METKA has about students’ rights.

The student representatives are Metropolia students who bring student voice for governmental bodies in Metropolia such as the Executive Board, Boards of Directors, Justice and Examiners and Advisory Councils for study programmes. METKA Advovacy Specialist Sakari Tuomisto is also a advisory member in the Board of Justice and Board of Examiners.

The goal for all advocacy work is to make sure that every decision that affects Metropolia students’ in any way would be as good, thought-out and comprehensive as possible. All students who do advocacy under METKA are working for this goal. In comparison, teachers in Metropolia have also representation in many common working groups, advocating for teachers’ rights and position in Metropolia.

How the advocacy work is done?

The most important resources for advocacy work in METKA are vast knowledge and time in use.

Membership fees make it possible to have a full-time specialist for Advocacy in METKA. In addition, the fees are used to help board members and other students to represent students in Metropolia. The representing students need to use their time to learn complex matters such as YTHS, coronavirus epidemic and overall advocating in the society. Therefore, working for advocacy takes a lot of students’ time. This is why also board members are paid a monthly reward.

Research and development work concerning Metropolia students, and UAS students in general, are in the core of METKA Advocacy. METKA supports financially academic research and data collection in these fields. For example, the research project called “Students City 2019” (in Finnish (PDF), summary in English) produced a great amount of data about students in the Metropolitan Area. The data consisted of living, moving and participating in the society, international students’ employment and independent studies by students in higher education. With this data, METKA can learn even more about the student matters, and use the knowledge working for them.

METKA Advocacy is also more than meetings and representing in teams and groups. A lot of time is used for students’ practical help in their problems. For example, when a student thinks that either teacher or other staff member does not respect students’ rights, they can contact METKA Advocacy Team. The team can then deliver the feedback, give advice for the student what to do or join a meeting to support the student, if there is a meeting to solve the issue at hand.

In many cases, the problems arise from decisions that the teacher cannot affect or has not made. METKA can then find the right decisive body and advocate them to reconsider the decision. The student associations do also advocacy work, and METKA supports them as well. Students can also contact METKA in all types of harassment issues.

Communication is a major part of METKA Advocacy as well. METKA delivers information between Metropolia and the students. The coronavirus epidemic has created a need to collect infomation for students to use. Also, the students’ concerns are delivered to Metropolia to help them communicate about things that students find important. SAMOK, University of Applied Sciences Students in Finland, has also helped by collecting information from Kela for example about study grants.

In conclusion, the advocacy work is done by meeting and representing relevant decision-making teams and people, contacting teachers and staff and giving advice to students.

If you have any concerns or questions, contact the METKA Advocacy Team by email at advocacy@metkaweb.fi or by phone.

How to communicate better about the advocacy work?

METKA Advocacy Team has spent quite a lot of time pondering how to tell about advocacy in clear, understandable and precise way. Advocacy is the core task for METKA, also according to the law about Universities of Applied Sciences. It is important that we can communicate our work and effort to all students in different forms and outlets.

The main problem in telling about advocacy is that in many cases, the information is confidential. These include for example all cases concerning students, and some lobbying that is done while decisions have not been made yet. Most of the lobbying is to Metropolia, which is also very important collaboration partner to METKA. Moreover, many advocacy-related matters happen very slowly in general.

We hope that this article has solved some of these problems! If this text has sparked ideas or questions about advocacy, contact us: we are always happy to hear from you! Email us at advocacy@metkaweb.fi.

This article was written by Tekla Kosonen, one of the two board members responsible for advocacy.

Read all METKA2020 articles here!

This post is also available in Suomi.