HYY’s Story

The HYY’s Story gallery features pictures that show the best parts of the Student Union’s 150-year history. 

 The project is supplemented during the course of the anniversary year, and it is realised in cooperation with the Friends of the History of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYYHY ry).


The series begins with a short review of previous anniversaries and festivities.


The first issue of the Finnish-language Ylioppilaslehti student magazine was published 105 years ago. The second set of pictures in HYY’s Story takes a peek at the history of the magazine.

Societal advocacy

HYY’s students and student communities have conducted societal advocacy work for 150 years already. The current model for advocacy work, with grandeur giving way to practicality, started to become established in the post-war era.


Women’s journey to academic studies has not been a straightforward path. Women gained access to university studies in the 1870s but had to plead for exemption from their gender until 1901. Women could enter student nations from 1897 onwards, and teaching positions at the university opened to them in 1916. Whereas studying women were rarities at the end of the 19th century, women now clearly outnumber men as university students.


After the Student Union was founded and the Old Student House was built, questions related to culture made specifically for students became topical. Over the years, HYY has received art donations, commissioned and produced pieces of its own, and acted as an enabler of culture. The decision to invest in art has proved wise in the long run.

May Day at Manta

Havis Amanda, an icon of May Day in Helsinki more familiarly known as Manta, was made in 1906 by sculptor Ville Valgren in Paris. Originally known as ‘the Mermaid’, Manta arrived in Helsinki two years later and was presented to the residents of the city on 20 September 1908.


Flora's Day

Flora’s Day is considered the springtime celebration of the entire University community. Flora’s Day 1848 has gone down in history as the first performance of the Finnish national anthem, Maamme. The song was performed on the Kumtähti field along with patriotic speeches. Around three hundred students and a couple of hundred guests attended the event – and, according to contemporary sources, enjoyed great quantities of spirits.

Student nations

There are currently 15 student nations operating under the University of Helsinki. The student nation system was established in 1643 to oversee the students of the Academy of Turku. People were worried (with good reason) that students arriving from elsewhere would start leading rowdy lives when they got out of their family’s sight. During the years, the role of the student nations has changed from overseeing students to supporting them.


Participating in the conferment ceremony is a traditional way to celebrate graduation. The conferment ceremony is a celebration that lasts several days and includes both solemn and more relaxed programme. The festivities include speeches, dancing and singing, for instance. The tradition has a long history, as the first conferment ceremony for master’s degrees at the Royal Academy of Turku was held as early as 1643.


In the old days, come summer, university students used to put on their student caps and head home to show off their civilized manners and intellect. Things have changed since. Today, students spend their summers working, taking summer classes, and doing recreational activities; sometimes, they even get to take a vacation.


Equality is one of HYY’s main objectives. Ever since WW2, the Student Union has been doing its part to build an equal Finland and an equal world, even though there’s still lots of work to be done. 

Home region

For many freshers, starting university studies marks a move from their home region to Helsinki. This new beginning does not necessarily mean cutting old ties, however. The freshers may still be drawn towards their home region by their childhood home, parents, old friends, the student nation hobby and memories – and, of course, their love for their home region.


The heavy intellectual efforts that are a part of student life require physical activities to counterbalance them. As a result, several different sports organisations and events have been formed in the Student Union throughout its history.


Finding an affordable housing solution may be difficult for students – especially those who are not from the Helsinki region. One in four higher education students live in a student apartment today, but this has not always been the case.


The Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS) was founded in 1954, when the health service of the National Union of University Students in Finland expanded the operations of its student healthcare office from Helsinki to a nationwide service. However, organised student healthcare had already begun in Helsinki before the Continuation War.


A 60-member Representative Council has been elected for HYY since 1944. The Council uses the highest decision-making power in the Student Union and is elected in the Representative Council elections, where all HYY’s members have the right to vote and to run as a candidate. The Representative Council decides on issues such as the Student Union’s budget, financial statements and rules as well as property acquisitions and sales.