Student organizations in Finland – the system of guilds

As part of positive psychology on campuses Frank Shushok Jr. and Eileen Hulme bring up positive organizations for students to belong to. According to their paper “What’s right with you: Helping students find and use their personal strengths” in About Campus, they describe these organizations as communities where students can use their strengths and feel empowered.

In higher education in USA this can be clubs connected to hobbies, sororities and fraternities, service groups for the community, or special interest clubs like the Dairy Club. Some of these communities require application or being chosen to be part of it. What if you are not accepted as part of the group? What if the application and initiation processes are too daunting for some people to even try?

In Finland this is solved by having “guilds” based on your major. And you are automatically accepted to the guild as you get your acceptance letter to the university to study the major. These are student run communities designed to serve the students. For example during my undergraduate days the biochemistry “guild” arranged parties for undergraduates, master’s students, PhD students and post graduates together. We got to know basically everyone in the department and could get peer support for every single class we had from the older students. Sports events were very casual. You did not even need to know the rules to come and play football, floorball, volleyball, or anything else.

This kind of environment offered a safe space for discussions on the topic of our major –biochemistry- as well as general thoughts about higher education and even politics surrounding it. The community would lend a helping hand also outside of academic life readily. It is not uncommon to have the guild help with moving for example.

What would be a better way to build an active community than the all-inclusive relaxed guild? One drawback of this system however is the exclusion of other majors. Some parties were arranged with other guilds and friends from other guilds are always welcome to join in on the activities, but it was rare for people with no personal ties to the guild to join in with sports or other activities.

I would be interested to know, if these kinds of systems work or could work in the US. Or is the exclusive nature of clubs an advantage in the higher education generally, and in building up your CV?


3 thoughts on “Student organizations in Finland – the system of guilds

  1. Min Tang

    In China, each department will have different guilds. But not everybody could be selected to be part of each guild. Many students compete for those positions so that they could put it in their resume. I don’t know about other countries. But in Chinese Universities, being part of certain guild would definitely give you more credit as a whole.

  2. gareth00

    I am unfamiliar with the idea of guilds (at least in this context). What a great way to reach out to people in your discipline and make those much needed connections. Now if there was a solution that tackles the problem of cross-discipline interaction this would really be a fantastic forum for interaction/collaboration!

    1. mari Post author

      Thank you for the comment! We actually had some very informal collaborations for parties with other guilds in an effort to break the segregation. This worked exactly as long as the party lasted. The interactions would have to be more frequent than once a month and include more than just social aspects for it to be relevant beyond the time of interaction. Having classes aimed for multiple disciplines could help as well as interdisciplinary group projects.

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