After being voted the happiest country in the world six years in a row, it’s got quite a bit to show for itself – and a destination that thousands of students across Europe and the world are beginning to flock to each year.
Numbers are recovering after the pandemic, with some universities overwhelmed with applications and the government even having issues with a visa processing bottleneck in the 2022 intake.
However, one issue that has been noted is acclimatisation. Students studying in Finland generally have to learn English to study, but they have to adapt to a distinctly nordic way of life.
While Finland has its attractions, despite growing numbers of students from India especially, almost half consider leaving the country after they’ve finished their studies.
While there is the usual IELTs testing, and limitless articles offering tips on moving to Finland, Harri Suominen, the founder of AsiaExchange – which offers a myriad of study programs to Asia – and Edunation, which recruits students into Finnish institutions, said students needed more help getting used to university life in Finland.
“Two years ago during the pandemic, we decided that we need to do things differently,” Suominen tells The PIE.
Edunation’s Pathway to Finland program, which was set up in 2021, saw a record 279 students in its last iteration, and is seeing demand for an expanded Europe track.
It’s had four cycles online since the beginning of 2021. In its fifth iteration, Spring 2023, it’s hosted 279 students. For the first time, some have been in person at Edunation’s all-new study hub in Helsinki.
The program sees students have extra lessons in English, as well as course specific tracks in business, engineering & technology and nursing.
“As we all know, with students coming from different countries, they are used to a different education system or different levels of education assistance.
“It will help them not just to be familiar with the Finnish way of learning, but also get used to the way the Finns operate,” program manager Keezzia Catayoc explains to The PIE.
The program, which is the only one of its kind providing the service in Finland, opened the new study hub within Helsinki’s Metropolia University of Applied Sciences for its latest rotation of students, also the first to do so successfully.
The study hub for its upcoming August rotation will be moved to a different campus, as the plan is to rotate at each intake.
While most study the course online, many come in advance of their degree courses to experience the study hub.
“This last rotation saw students from Nicaragua, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar,” Cayatoc mentions.
Online, however, some students signing up for the program are coming from the US – something Cayatoc notes was unusual due to the US’s standing in global higher education.
“We have a record-breaking 279 students on this recent pathway and they are progressing to our partner universities in a few months in August,” Suominen says.
“This last rotation saw students from Nicaragua, Thailand and Vietnam”
“This is one way we can really measure the motivation of students we put through our pathway, for them coming to Finland and possibly staying,” he adds.
EduNation is primarily a student recruitment platform, and Suominen’s aim is to ultimately push as hard as possible towards the Finnish government’s overall goal of garnering “60,000 international students in Finland by 2030”.
“Our goal has been that it should be 100,000, because if we could in due course get to 150,000, we would be at the same level as Australia, the US or Canada when it comes to the per capita number – but if we would get 60,000, it’s a start,” Suominen says.
It’s a lofty goal – currently the government’s specific line is that it wants to up numbers to 15,000 new students a year by 2030.
He tells The PIE that while Finland is still gaining traction and is more emergent for non-EU students, the country generally has attractions major destinations don’t – higher safety, its status as the happiest country in the world and cost.
“I have talked with many Filipino students, for example, and they said that one of the reasons why they chose our program to study in Finland was because it was only €10,000 per year compared to a similar program for €25,000 in Australia.”
“This is one way we can really measure the motivation of students”
The student recruitment platform has seen a total of 700 students all the way through from the pathway to graduating, with a good portion, Suominen says, staying in Finland after graduation.
Going back through the student experience to the pathways, it seems that Finland is not the only place that’s garnering interest, according to Suominen, with Europe also being eyed by clients.
He has already begun the work of reaching out to partner universities.
“We are also currently looking at creating a Pathway to Europe track due to the fact we might face limited capacity for progression options at universities here in Finland. I have already been asked by some and German and French universities about whether they could join,” he notes.