Student at a school health checkup. LEHTIKUVA


Over the past decade, the per-degree funding for higher education in social and health care fields has been halved. Meanwhile, there is an acute shortage of professionals in the industry. "If the funding for education is not corrected, we will soon run out of nurses," says Elina Juntunen, CEO and Rector of Diakonia University of Applied Sciences.

Universities of Applied Sciences provide education for various roles in the social and health care sector, including nurses, public health nurses, and social workers.

Currently, the healthcare sector is particularly suffering from a severe shortage of workers. Moreover, the attractiveness of pursuing education in this field has been on a downward trend for a long time.

At the same time, the per-degree funding for nursing and social work education has declined by as much as half between 2010 and 2021.

"It is contradictory that while we are concerned about the workforce shortage in the healthcare sector, the funding for universities of applied sciences that produce professionals for the industry has been drastically cut. If we want to address the shortage of healthcare professionals, we need to correct the funding for education," says Elina Juntunen.

The funding is significantly weakened by the fact that nursing and social work degrees are currently funded at the lowest funding category within universities' state financing.

"At the same time, the number of available study places has been increased, leading to larger class sizes. Especially in healthcare education, expensive specialized facilities, equipment, and small-group teaching are required. However, all of this needs to be accomplished with the minimal possible funding," clarifies Juntunen.

Considering the crisis in the healthcare sector, it is unjustifiable that the funding for social and health care degrees lags behind many other fields. According to Juntunen, there is a simple solution to correct the funding.

"The degrees in the health sector should be moved to a higher funding category. Those graduating in the social and health care fields play a significant role in ensuring societal well-being and productivity. The funding should reflect the true costs of education in order to enhance the industry's attractiveness and ensure quality."

Many political parties have proposed increasing the number of study places in healthcare education to address the crisis. However, Juntunen reminds that adequate resources for delivering high-quality education are necessary to attract students to those study places.

"This way, we can ensure that we have an adequate number of nurses and other healthcare professionals in the future as well."