Five Finnish institutions of higher education, together with education export company Edunation, are aiming to bring 150,000 new foreign students into their programmes by the year 2020.
Edunation first contacted the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and signed a deal to double the school's enrolment figures from abroad, especially from China and India.
The names of the rest of the domestic institutions involved will be announced in the near future, says Edunation chair Tuomas Kauppinen.
"More than half of the world's exchange students come from Asian countries. We also have involvement in Argentina and Nigeria," he says.
Applications for residence permits from higher education students from outside the 31 countries of the European Economic Area have fallen by a close to a quarter, after Finland's government decided last year to charge these students' tuition.
The Finnish Immigration Service says about 4,300 foreign students had applied for the permits as of late September, 23 percent less than the previous year.
App in development
In order to achieve its high student target in the allotted time, Edunation is developing a mobile phone-based student selection tool for schools to use.
The app would allow students to receive information on their enrolment just one day after they have sent in their applications. Kauppinen says that enrolling foreign students in Finnish universities is a top priority.
"This is one way for Finland to start to correct its workforce shortage, and networking is imperative in a global community," Kauppinen says.
Clunky system overhauled
LUT's international affairs manager Janne Hokkanen says that Edunation is in a key position when the school starts its running enrolment search later this year, continuing into May.
"The current Finnish application process is extremely complex and clunky, and one of the main challenges in international recruitment," Hokkanen says. "But we have a new method that is meant to give prospective students alternatives to that."
Under the new system. which is separate from the Edunation programme, people can apply to LUT almost year round, and those accepted will receive word of it one month after the application at the latest, enabling them to begin their studies the following autumn.
"Receiving word of acceptance as soon as possible makes life much easier for students," Hokkanen says.
Rolling application process
In later years, the rolling application process would run from September to May. A continuous process is the international way to go, says Hokkanen, adding: "I'm sure we will be the first in Finland to launch this method."
LUT will also organise a traditional annual student application round as usual. The guidelines for enrolment are different in the two systems.
"In the normal phase, we choose the 20 best applicants. The continuous round will have a set minimum limit, and anyone who passes it will be accepted," Hokkanen explains.