In its material to the government negotiators, the Ministry of Education and Culture has proposed that international students be charged full tuition fees, which would result in considerably higher costs to them. According to an estimate by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the number of students from outside the EU and EEA countries would fall by 43%.
We are very disappointed with the Ministry’s proposal and consider it a disaster in terms of Finland’s long-term plans to make higher education in the country more international. The Ministry’s proposal is in stark contrast with the policy for sustainable growth in higher education and the Roadmap for Education-based and Work-based Immigration 2035.
The Ministry of Education and Culture’s proposal is based on no longer providing any government funding for those who must pay tuition fees; this would result in EUR 83.072 million being made available for the education of Finnish students. The grounds for the proposal basically pit the funding of Finnish students’ starting places against making Finland’s higher education more international. This is a short-sighted policy in terms of both raising the education level and improving government finances. A sustainable way of increasing the education level is to finance additional starting places in full by increasing the basic funding of higher education, not by weakening Finland’s internationalisation goals, which would definitely happen if foreign students were charged full tuition fees.
Reducing the number of students from abroad by 43% is in stark contrast with the Ministry of Education and Culture’s own goals and the demographic policy that Finland needs. Students are experts for whom countries are already competing and whom Finland needs to address the lack of skilled labour, bridge the sustainability gap and boost the public finances.The employment of foreign students in Finland must be supported, for example by increasing opportunities for learning the national languages already during studies.
It is strange that the Ministry of Education and Culture stresses that no longer funding foreign students should lead to a larger workforce, although it also stresses in its sustainable programme for higher education that without net immigration, Finland’s population will decrease by 150,000 by 2030. The target for increasing the employment rate to 75% has indeed been the key reason why there have been attempts to triple the number of foreign degree students to 15,000 by 2030. An about-turn from increasing the number of foreign students to suggesting a policy of reducing them is against the long-term interests of both higher education institutions and Finland on the whole.
Higher education is international by nature, and public funding of education is currently guiding degree programmes to become more international. Removing international degree programmes from the financing model of higher education institutions would lead to the fact that they would no longer have the incentive to invest in the recruitment, training and integration of international students. The opposite should be happening: enough resources should be reserved for the training and integration of international experts to enable them to become full members of the Finnish labour market and society. It is widely recognised that Finland’s future will depend on this development.
National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL)
National Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (SAMOK)
Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK)
Social Science Professionals (YKA)
Trade Union Pro
Students of business and technology
Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers (FUURT)
The Union of Professionals in Natural, Environmental and Forestry Sciences Loimu