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Comprehensive scholarship system to attack tuition fees

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Statement | 7.9.2016

In its meeting in August, The Board of the University of Turku decided about tuition fees for the non EU/EEA students in English Master's Degree programmes. The fees will vary from programme to programme between € 10,000 to € 16,000. The fees are valid in programmes that start in 2017. The decision is based on the new legislation, which requires higher education institutes to collect at least € 1,500 per academic year from non EU/EEA students. The Student Union of the University of Turku (TYY) supports free education for all, regardless of the student's country of origin. The tuition fees do not apply to exchange students.

Lappeenranta University of Technology opened the game before Christmas by setting the sum of tuition fee in € 10,000. The impact of this decision has been significant and tuition fees have settled mainly between € 8,000 and € 20,000. The threshold to set lower tuition fee has been high since lower rate has been seen as a sign of lower quality compared to other universities. However, the price, whether it is high or low, does not reflect the quality. Low tuition fees could attract more students and eventually the total revenue for the university would be higher. University would get revenue and international students affordable and quality education in return. In addition, the society and labour market would benefit from international experts. Tuition fees will not be a huge moneymaker so we must highlight the importance of internationalisation for the society.

From the beginning of next academic year 2017-2018, the Finnish higher education institutions are competing against the world's top universities, in some cases even with same price tags. The elite higher education institutions have stronger marketing skills as well as high-level scholarship systems. In Finland, marketing is just about to begin and scholarship systems are still evolving. It is expected that the rate of non EU/EEA applicants in Finnish universities will drop in the future. The university should observe the change in the number of applicants and evaluate if with low tuition fees it would be possible to stand out from other universities. However, there is still an alternative to make a difference.

The way how the University of Turku could still stand out from all other Finnish universities, is a comprehensive scholarship system. According to the new law, the University must collect tuition fees but also have scholarship system. The Board of the University of Turku will decide on contents of the scholarship system in its meeting this month. Rector Kalervo Väänänen has done a good job because the scholarship system has been discussed thoroughly. There is already some knowledge of other universities’ scholarship systems and the University of Turku can make their system more comprehensive than others’.

Studies have shown that competitive scholarship system is precisely the factor that attracts international students. University of Turku scholarship system should provide as many students as possible with scholarship that covers the entire tuition fee, or at least a part of it. The university must be brave and scholarships should be given for more than every third student. According to Times Higher Education rankings, the University of Turku is currently among the world's 200 most international universities and the only Finnish university on the list. Keeping this position is difficult nationally and internationally if our university scholarship system is not sufficiently competitive compared to other universities.