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Finland: gov abandons introduction of tuition fees for non-EU

Finland has abandoned plans to introduce tuition fees for non-EEA students, in a move described as a “government u-turn”, following Minister for Education Krista Kiuru’s proposal in October last year to implement fees from 2016.

Finland currently has around 20,000 international students studying in its higher education institutions. Photo: University of Oulu

"The Student Unions' opinions seem to be that the tuition fees for non-Europeans is a prelude to tuition fees for all"

The government’s proposal suggested minimum tuition of €4,000 per year for non-Finnish or Swedish taught programmes, however individual institutions were to be allowed discretion in setting their own fees.

The debate remained lively as pilot schemes running from 2010-2014 involving seven Finnish universities imposed tuition fees on some of their English-taught programmes, but the matter has now been referred to a ministerial working committee after the coalition government failed to reach an agreement.

“The political feeling is relatively pro-tuition fees since it is an ingredient in the new nationalistic ethos of many of the so-called ‘old’ parties”

“The political feeling is relatively pro-tuition fees since it is an ingredient in the new nationalistic ethos of many of the so-called ‘old’ parties as well as of the right and extreme right parties,” Kimmo Kuortti 
Director Recruitment, Admissions & International Services
 at the University of Oulu told The PIE News.

“The charging of fees discussion in isolation is futile and misleading and should never be separated from issues such as scholarship systems and linkages to other levels of education,” added Kuortti.

The University of Oulu was one of the seven universities involved in the pilot scheme and Kuortti noted that the benefits from the scheme were many, including a better understanding of costs involved in educational products.

“The university management supported the participation in the trial, but many of the Master programmes were and still are sceptical,” said Kuortti.

“The Student Unions’ opinions also seem to be that the tuition fees for non-Europeans is a prelude to tuition fees for all,” he added.

The integration of international students into Finnish society and employment is also an issue, as highlighted in a recent report by Centre for International Mobility, which showed that fewer than 50% of international graduates secure jobs in Finland, a drop of 6% over three consecutive years.

“The faltering job opportunities definitely affects international students’ choices,” said Kuortti.

“The faltering job opportunities definitely affects international students’ choices”

Joanna Kumpula, Project Manager at University Admissions Finland told The PIE News that much work is to be done to engage local businesses with international students.

“The impact of international students on the workforce is still quite low, there are companies who are slowly starting to work together with the HEIs on the development of international recruitment as they recognise the possibilities there. One such company is Rovio, the developers of Angry Birds,” she said.

Finnish global university rankings are also struggling, which Kumpula said could be in part, be improved if the number of international programmes available were increased: “In general Finland needs to shape up and take more proactive role in developing international education.”

On a more positive note, Finland scores well in student services. A recent StudyPortals report found Finland ranked number one for student satisfaction within Europe.

In the same month as the Finnish government u-turn, December last year, the Norwegian parliament has also voted down proposals to introduce fees for non-EAA students in Norwegian institutions, amid a backdrop of protests from international and domestic students and staff.

Finland and Norway, along with Germany and Iceland, remain the only four European countries to offer free university tuition for all students.

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