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10 steps to educate students to be (societally) active

recommendations for higher education institutions

Why should active civic activity be recognised as part of studies?

  1. Higher education institutions provide a platform that makes it possible for people to be active students and citizens. With the right kind of encouragement, students can influence their living and study environment through, for instance, organisational activities, student representation or volunteer work or even as city council members.
  2. There are a lot of students, and they make up a significant part of higher education institutions’ societal interaction. Teaching students to be active helps increase the impact of education in society!
  3. Higher education institutions should reward students for active citizenship by recognising the resultant skills in the form of credits, as the recognition makes students feel that what they do in society and the university community matters.
  4. Civic activity enables encounters and creates communality. Active students operating within the university become well integrated into the university community, which supports their studies and wellbeing. Networking outside the university community, on the other hand, helps students get employed and broadens their worldview.

How is this done in practice?

  1. A study module resembling a minor subject is created around civic activity. Having the study module in one’s degree certificate is an asset for graduates looking for work and creates a new kind of idea of the skills higher education provides to students.
  2. Credits are not given for all kinds of activities: Clear rules are created for what kind of activities can be included as part of studies. In unclear cases, the values and ethical principles of the higher education institution can be used to support drawing the line.
  3. A cross-disciplinary study module spanning the entire higher education institution is the best way to promote the creation of new kinds of skills. Being open-minded about different disciplines and societal sectors is recommended, as new ideas often arise when different ways of thinking collide!
  4. Learning diaries and portfolios are used to recognise the learning accumulated through civic activity and to tie the practical experience to one’s own discipline.

How can universities support student activity?

  1. Within university communities, the following would promote students’ active participation in the university’s activities: the representational nature of decision-making bodies, training, credits and meeting fees awarded for the activities, the opportunity to compensate for absences from mandatory teaching by attending meetings, emphasising the importance of student participation in communications, and taking down language barriers to enable international students’ participation.
  2. The best way to support students becoming active in the surrounding society is to actively encourage them to do so already during their studies, to acknowledge and verbalise the resultant valuable skills and to recognise those skills in the form of credits.