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Finnish universities warily approve of tuition fees

Finnish universities are bending to the current government’s desire to introduce tuition fees for higher education students arriving from outside the EU and EEA. Students and youth organisations roundly condemn the move, seeing it as a threat to not only equal education, but also the national economy.

Tohtorinhattuja tohtoripromootiossa.
Approximately 15,000 students from outside the EU and EEA studied in Finland's higher education institutions last year. Image: Yle

The Finnish Government has introduced a proposal requiring students studying in higher education in Finland who have arrived here from countries outside the European Union and the European Economic Area to pay tuition fees. It now appears that universities and polytechnics in the country are agreeing to the motion, as a comment round organised by the Ministry of Education and Culture shows that they predominately approve of the motion.

According the Government proposal, tuition fees of at least 4,000 euros per academic year would be required for studies towards a degree in programmes conducted in languages other than Finnish and Swedish.

A number of higher education institutions in Finland support the implementation of tuition fees, but wish to keep the authority to collect and determine the tuition amount themselves.

Student and youth organisations condemn the motion, saying it threatens education equality and the national economy.

Foreign students' impact on the national economy to be determined

Samu Seitsalo, Director of the Education Ministry’s internationalisation offshoot The Centre for International Mobility (CIMO), says there are two perspectives when it comes to the imposition of tuition fees: that of the higher education institutions and that of the broader national economy.  

“From a university and polytechnic perspective, it is a positive move, as it would mean more money for the institutions. As long as the proportion of people coming to study remains the same and the state continues to pay its part, the universities can use the tuition fees as they see fit. In terms of the national economy, however, it is a trickier issue. How that plays out will be largely dependent on how many students come to Finland from outside the EU and the EEA after tuition fees are implemented,” says Seitsalo.

Last year some 15,000 students from outside the EU and EEA studied at the higher education level in Finland. Similar moves to implement tuition fees in Sweden and Denmark saw a significant drop in the number of upper-level students. In Sweden, which introduced tuition fees higher than those proposed by the Finnish Government, the decrease in the first year was as much as 90 percent.

The State Institute for Economic Research VATT is currently collaborating with CIMO to carry out a study on the impact of foreign students’ studies on the national economy. The report is scheduled to be completed in February. There are also plans to examine the post-degree situation of non-EU and ETA students who have come to Finland to study.  

Now that the proposal has circulated through the universities for comment, it can now be prepared as a bill for consideration in Parliament.

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