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Tuition fees will freeze Finland’s internationalisation

Julia Litokorpi | 23.10.2015

Thursday’s discussions in the parliament were sad news for internationalisation of Finland. Changes in legislation would mean that from 2017 non-EU and EEA students studying degree in Finnish higher education institutes would have to pay minimum of € 1500 tuition fees. The proposition is not fair and causes problems for the higher education institutions.

In Finland there is around 400 international degree programmes. Nowadays the University of Turku has 20 Master programmes in total. The tendency in Turku as well as in all Finland has been that majority of the international students studying in these programmes come from non-EU or EEA countries. Offering higher education without tuition fees has so far been profitable way to attract foreign talents to Finland. Even though the students do not pay tuition fees, they spend great deal of money on living costs and in best case stay in Finland, contributing positively to our national economy. Not to mention how important international skills are to our expert-dependent country.

Now Finland wants to shut the door on foreign talents. According to the news, Finnish higher education institutions have agreed that foreign students should be charged tuition fees, as long as all the institutions could decide themselves, how much non-EU and EEA students should pay. However, the new proposal of minimum fees would put programmes to unequal positions next to each other as institutions would be forced to quit some of the programmes that are not as popular as others. This also means that it would be very difficult to attract students to those higher education institutions that are located away from Helsinki. As the amount of incoming students would drop, many programmes would die as well.    

Earlier some of the programmes were taking part of tuition fee trial and results were not so successful. Simple examples from Denmark and Sweden show that introducing tuition fees will decrease the number of incoming international students and in the end there will be no extra income, rather shrinkage in the number of international students. Meanwhile Germany- which has much more competitive labor market, easier language and more pleasant climate – has totally abandoned tuition fees.

If the plan of tuition fees is approved, the law will come into effect for students starting their studies in August 2017. This will not give higher education institutions much time to improve the quality of their programmes and marketing operations. A lot must be also done to establish scholarship systems that Finland has not much experience so far. We can only be sure that this will affect higher education institutions’ internationalisation and those who suffer will not only be students from non-EU and EEA countries but rather the internationalisation of our regular Finnish students as well. Not to mention the costs and extra work the higher education institutions would have to go through.   

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Julia Litokorpi