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Heikki Patomäki, a professor of world politics at the University of Helsinki, has expressed his reservations about recurring proposals to introduce tuition fees for higher education students in Finland.

He points out that the fees would have an impact on both the education institutions and the learning outcomes of students.

“Students are already defined partly as ‘customers’, but the adoption of tuition fees would literally turn them into paying customers,” he writes in a blog on Puheenvuoro. “When students have to pay for their studies, they become customers who expect something in exchange for their money – ultimately, degrees – regardless of whether or not they have studied accordingly.”

Patomäki also argues that education institutions might be tempted to lower their student admission requirements if their funding was made contingent upon tuition fees – a phenomenon that according to him has already been identified in Australia and Great Britain.

The debate over tuition fees heated up, and briefly boiled over, last week following a seminar organised in Helsinki by the Finnish Economic Association.

Markus Jäntti, a professor of economics at the University of Helsinki and the Institute for Economic Research (VATT), accused those claiming the introduction of tuition fees would not jeopardise the right to equal opportunity of being opportunistic, provoking a response from both his fellow participants and members of the audience.

Jäntti announced after the seminar that he will move abroad “to allow those who think more correctly to make statements”. He is currently on a leave of absence from his professorship at the University of Stockholm.

He will thus become yet another high-level researcher to leave Finland during the term of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre), highlights Helsingin Sanomat.

“I wouldn’t have come to Finland had I known about [the cuts in higher education funding],” he said to the daily newspaper, shedding further light on the reasons behind his decision.

Antero Vartia (Greens) on Friday estimated that it would be justified if the highly educated contributed more towards their education costs because their educational background sets them up better to succeed in life.

“Finns with higher education degrees have net lifetime earnings […] 400,000–600,000 euros higher than the earnings of those with only upper secondary qualifications. All Finnish taxpayers, including low-income ones, contribute towards funding higher education,” he wrote in a blog on Puheenvuoro.

He also stressed that tuition fees should not be introduced if they threaten become an obstacle to social mobility and the right to equal opportunity.

Niku Määttänen and Vesa Vihriälä of the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (Etla), meanwhile, have voiced their support for a proposal to make student loan repayments contingent on the earnings of higher education graduates. The duo also argued at the seminar that tuition fees would be an efficient and just means for wiping out the budget deficit in higher education.

Patomäki doubts that the proposal would be an answer to growing inequalities.

The proposal, he says, fails to take into account of parents supporting their children financially: “Those from lower-income households, meanwhile, would have to rely completely on loans. Previous experiences indicate that such people are more reluctant to run up debt than their peers from better-off households.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Anni Reenpää – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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