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Porvoo campus welcomes Finland's first fee-paying tertiary students

The Porvoo campus of the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences has welcomed two of its first fee-paying students from outside Europe. Last autumn Finland adopted a system of tuition fees for students from countries outside the EU and the European Economic Area.

Australialainen Kim Allanson on toinen ensimmäisistä opiskelijoista, jotka maksavat Suomessa opiskelustaan lukukausimaksuja.
Australian Kim Allanson and fellow Haaga-Helia students. Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle
Australialainen Kim Allanson on toinen ensimmäisistä opiskelijoista, jotka maksavat Suomessa opiskelustaan lukukausimaksuja.
Kim Allanson says he hopes to eventually find work in Finland after gaining international experience. Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle

Hailing from Australia, Kim Allanson is one of the students enrolled in Haaga-Helia’s English-language Business Aviation programme. It is said to be the only course of its kind in the Nordics and is currently attended by 25 students, nearly half of whom are Finnish.

Now 32 years old, Allanson said that he enrolled in the programme after failing to find a job in the aviation industry, because of his lack of Finnish language skills. He came to Finland in 2016 after previously working in the sector for 12 years in his native Australia.

"I tried to find work at the airport and in anything related to planes. I didn’t succeed because I didn’t know the language. Then I found this programme. I loved flying in the army and I want to continue," Allanson said.

Haaga-Helia’s Porvoo campus adopted a tuition fee in January and was the first institution in Finland to do so.

"We wanted to test how the process worked. For example, in the case of each foreign student we have to determine whether or not they are obliged to pay. There are many who are permanent residents in Finland or Europe and therefore the tuition fee does not apply to them," explained training director Reija Anckar.

Fees mean fewer applicants

The legal reform allowing tertiary institutions to charge tuition fees requires that the minimum fee be set at 1,500 euros, payable by August 1 2017 for non-EU and EEA students.

Currently, institutions in Finland are charging non-EU students between 4,000 and 25,000 euros per year, however the fees do not apply to students who’d already begun studying before the reform came into force at the beginning of the year.

Advance data from the National Agency for Education indicate a 10-15 percent decline in applicants from non EU and EEA countries for tertiary education programmes. That means just 5,700 non-EU students applied for study place in Finland this year. Altogether more than 15,000 students from outside the EU are studying in Finnish tertiary education institutions.

Following a neighbour to Finland

Chinese student Bao Mu's father chose Finland as a study destination because the family’s neighbour had studied here before landing a good job. The 20-year-old joined her colleagues at the end of February because her visa was late.

Kiinalainen Bao Mu on toinen ensimmäisistä opiskelijoista, jotka maksavat Suomessa opiskelustaan lukukausimaksuja.
Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle

She is the second non-EU student to be paying tuition fees in Finland. "The way you study here is very different from in China. It has taken getting used to. But all of my classmates have been very kind and helpful, so I am doing fine," said Bao Mu.

She described the cost of studying in Finland as somewhat high, although the level of teaching is high. She noted that in China fees depend on a student’s success.

"If my grades are good and I achieve the required standard, I don’t need to pay tuition fees. I only have to pay for accommodation," she explained. Like Allanson, Bao Mu is also hoping to eventually find work in Finland.

Scholarship after proof of success

Many institutions offer scholarship programmes to paying students. However Allanson and Bao Mu have not benefitted from them.

"We thought they the applicant would first study for one year and then we would test to see how well they are progressing. If it is good, then we could award a scholarship," said Haaga-Helia’s Anckar.

Allanson is paying an annual tuition fee of 8,500 euros for his study programme, which he describes as about the same as he would pay in Australia.

"The only difference is that here you have to pay in advance. In Australia the state lets you study first and then when you’ve landed a job and start earning, you start paying the fees back," he said.

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