Aalto University School of Business is one of the universities, which have been part of the tuition fee trial for foreign students.Debate over the merits of tuition fees for foreign students continues as trial period nears its end.

CONTRARY to common belief, most foreign students who complete a degree in Finnish higher education stay in Finland after graduation and a considerable number of them find employment here, reveals a study completed by Cimo, the organisation for international mobility and cooperation.

Cimo issued its statement after one hundred and nineteen members of the Finnish Parliament expressed their support for the initiative to introduce tuition fees for non-EU and non-EEA students in Finnish higher education institutions last Monday.

“Finnish taxpayers should not pay for education, the benefits of which are reaped elsewhere,” the champions of the proposal – Arto Satonen (NCP), Jukka Kärnä (SDP), Ari Torniainen (Centre) and Reijo Tossavainen (PS) – state in a joint bulletin.

According to the initiative, the tuition fees would be tax-deductible for the foreign students employed in Finland after the completion of studies.

Cimo does not support the claims of the initiative.

“In 2007 two out of three foreign students who completed their degree in Finland stayed in the country after graduation. In 2009 the figure was already 75 per cent” says Irma Garam, CIMO’s research specialist.

To cover the costs, it would be enough if 25 per cent of students stayed in Finland after graduating.

Half of the students who completed their degree in Finland found work within a year of their graduation. The equivalent number for Finnish graduates was 86 per cent.

Students unions have been concerned that tuition fees would close the doors on foreign students.More costs than revenue

In an attempt to gauge the impacts of tuition fees on the intake and internationalisation of universities, a four-year trial was launched in 2010. In 2011, tuition fees ranging from 3,500 to 11,750 euros had been introduced in 24 English-language Master’s degree programmes. The participating universities are, however, required to provide institutional scholarship options for foreign applicants.

“The fees have generated more costs than revenue,” says Hanna Sauli, a specialist in International Affairs at Aalto University, citing costs stemming from the scholarships and administrative tasks.

Janne Hokkanen, the director for international affairs at the Lappeenranta University of Technology, admits that revenue from tuition fees has been moderate, but also refutes claims of substantial costs. “The processes and structures were constructed according to estimates.” Yet he concedes that the results of the trial period are hardly conclusive. “We have to compete with free education, and justifying the costs to customers is difficult.”

In addition, several decision-makers have expressed their disapproval of the initiative. “The initiative must be rejected. Its approval would be contrary to the concept of an equal and civilised society, and even detrimental to the national economy,” says Annika Lapintie, the chair of the Left Alliance parliamentary group.

Anna Bessonova came to Finland from Russia in 2006 to do a Bachelors in Social Sciences. She is now finishing a Masters in Communication and has worked as a writer and PR professional in Helsinki.

“I came to Helsinki because I liked the programme, it was free and Helsinki is closer to my home country. Would I have come if I was charged tuition fees? It would have probably depended on the amount of the fee, though it would have put Finland down on my priority list. Finland is not a cheap place to live in, add to that a tuition fee and low prospects of finding a job afterwards and maybe it would not be worth the effort and investment.”

Nesar Himel from Bangladesh came to Finland to study Bachelors Degree. He is now studying post graduation in Aalto University and working at Expolmpo Finland.

“I chose Finland to study as they offer a quality education without any tuition fees. I’d rather choose an English speaking country to study if I had to pay tuition fees. I have decided to stay in Finland after my graduation, because there are lots of opportunities to get a good job in my respective subject. And, I would love to grow up my next generation in Finland.”

Azadeh is an Iranian who moved to Finland in 2012 to study a Masters of Music, Mind, and Technology.

“I came to Finland because I could find my favourite major to study free of charge, also it’s a peaceful country with a good social security. If I had been charged with tuition fees I would definitely have stayed in my country. I will stay in Finland after my graduation, if I can find a good job.”


Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Janne Lehikoinen – STT


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