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Ministry seeks to improve higher education access for people of immigrant background

Young people born in Finland are almost twice as likely to complete third level studies than residents born abroad.

kaksi miestä opiskelemassa koulun aulassa
File photo of students at Åbo Akademi in Turku. Image: Chanette Härus / Yle

The Ministry of Education and Culture has set up a working group to find ways to make higher education more accessible to young people with immigrant and minority backgrounds.

The working group has been tasked with finding out why young people with immigrant backgrounds complete their higher education degrees much less often than those born in the country, and to set out measures to address the imbalance.

"We need to make the most of everyone's strength," Minister of Science and Culture Hanna Kosonen told news agency STT. "Every Finnish person must be able to reach their full potential, regardless of their place of residence or family background."

The study was launched in response to a European Commission report which found that only 27 percent of 30-34-year-olds born outside of Finland have completed a tertiary education, while the corresponding figure for those born in Finland was about 47 percent.

Report first of its kind in Finland

In addition to people with immigrant backgrounds, the working group will also determine why people with disabilities are under-represented in universities, and recommend areas for improvement.

The European Commission's report also found that accessibility to education in Finland varied from region to region, and was often dependent on which schools were closest to students' homes. Gender was also a determining factor in the accessibility to third level studies, as well as parental education.

"Finland has a heavily-gendered higher education system, and a distinctly gendered working life. There are jobs for women and there are jobs for men. It is certainly not the best possible model for society as a whole," Kosonen added.

The working group will be led by Professor Laura Kolbe from the University of Helsinki, who is also a member of Helsinki City Council for the Centre Party.

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