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University language proficiency test shortfall

Several hundred master's degree programmes in Finland require proof of English-language proficiency. Demand has outpaced supply and testing is not available for everyone. Some prospective students have gone abroad to take proficiency tests.

Sermeillä toisistaan erotetut kopit, joissa testataan kielitaitoa.
Demand has outstripped supply for English-language proficiency testing necessary for international master's programmes in Finland. Image: Yle

There are several  hundred international master's degree programmes in Finland that require English-language proficiency. The demand for these English-language proficiency tests, which have been outsourced from the universities to the applicants, is so high that not everyone who wants to get tested can do so in Finland.

Mikko Kainulainen applied for an English-language master's programme a year ago at the University of Turku. Because the proficiency testing exams arranged in Finland were completely full, Kainulainen travelled to Latvia to take the test necessary for university admission.

"It felt expensive as I’m used to these types of things not costing anything in Finland, but in the scheme of things it was not a huge sum of money. The main challenge was that because the tests were full (in Finland), I had to go abroad,” says Kainulainen, who ended up paying about 400 euros. That sum included flights to Latvia, overnight accommodation and the test itself which cost about 200 euros.

But language proficiency testing is not always necessary.

According to Joanna Kumpula, project manager for University Admissions Finland, a portal for applicants to ten universities in Finland: “Often Finnish applicants or those who have been educated in Finland are able to prove their language proficiency through their educational qualifications. These (language proficiency) tests are not so common for us. But of course we don’t know how many individuals do not apply for university because they did not get into these tests,” she says. 

The advantage of commercial testing is that it ensures that students from different parts of the world all have the same set of language skills. These outsourced tests are also much easier for the institutions of higher education than having to organise entrance exams themselves.

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