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Finland: non-EU student tuition fees back on table

Finland’s new coalition government plans to introduce tuition fees for students from outside the EU and the European Economic Area at its universities, it announced last week.

Students at the University of Helsinki 's Alexandria Learning Centre. Photo: দেবর্ষি রায়.

"Introducing fees in the current economic climate would reduce the cash flow which is brought on by the purchasing power of international students”

“We believe that tuition fees may affect the quality of applying students in positive way”

A position paper on immigration confirmed the incoming three-party coalition’s intention to bring in fees, as well as to back labour-based immigration.

However, it also indicated that other measures will be taken to encourage international students to study in Finland.

“We will encourage graduates to remain to work in Finland through tax deduction rights, for instance,” the paper states. “We will advance the domestic employment of international students who have studied in Finland, with an emphasis on Finnish language skills.”

Tuition fees have been a contentious issue in Finland, and a proposal to introduce fees for non-EU students from 2016 was dropped in January this year, despite an apparent upswell in support from universities for the idea.

Student groups have been the most vocally opposed to the plan, and two of the country’s student unions have strongly condemned the recent announcement, branding it a “serious mistake”.

A joint statement published by the Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (SAMOK) and the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) contended that “international students clearly benefit the country’s national economy”.

“Introducing fees in the current economic climate would reduce the cash flow which is brought on by the purchasing power of international students,” it continued.

The two unions warned that the number of international students coming to Finland to study may fall, as they have in other Nordic countries where tuition fees have been introduced.

However, Anitta Etula, director of international relations at the University of Eastern Finland, noted that student numbers have gradually stabalised in such countries, and suggested that the same may happen in Finland.

“We believe that tuition fees may affect the quality of applying students in positive way,” she told The PIE News.

There are currently around 20,000 non-EEA students at Finnish universities and polytechnics, according to Finland’s Centre for International Mobility.

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