Krista Kiuru (SDP), the Minister of Education, was presented the conclusions of a four-year tuition fee trial on Monday. Krista Kiuru (SDP), the Minister of Education and Science, has expressed her hope that a decision on the adoption of tuition fees for foreign students is reached by the end of the year. According to her, it is vital that Finnish universities guarantee the availability of courses in the domestic languages for foreign students.

“It's impossible that language studies cannot be fixed,” Kiuru said on Monday.

Finland, she stressed, must hold on to its foreign students, who at present struggle to find employment after graduation due to insufficient language skills.

The Ministry of Education has estimated that the costs arising from the education of foreign students in Finland amount to 12 million euros per annum. Altogether, roughly 20,000 foreign students are enrolled at Finnish higher education institutions every year.

Kiuru was on Monday presented the conclusions of a four-year trial, in which tuition fees were introduced for non-European students at certain Finnish universities. The trial, the report summarises, failed to live up to its expectations.

The reasons for the failure are multi-form, says professor Riitta Pyykkö, the chairperson of the task force.

The greatest challenges, she says, stemmed from the voluntary and short-term nature of the trial, which saw fewer-than-expected universities participate. Ultimately, tuition fees were only trialled in 40 degree programmes.

“The only conclusion to be drawn from the trial is how not to conduct trials,” summarises Pyykkö.

Her criticism is targeted at the previous Government, which – spearheaded by its Minister of Education Henna Virkkunen (NCP) – was responsible for the launch of the trial.

Tuition fees are a hot potato in Finland, because the right to a free university education is widely considered all but a basic right. Some lawmakers have voiced their concerns that the adoption of tuition fees for foreign students would ultimately lead to the adoption of fees also for Finnish students.

Kiuru has said that she is not an advocate of the so-called gateway theory but is leaning in favour of the adoption.

Even if the tuition fees were introduced, few foreign students would have to pay them out of their own pockets. Instead, the plan is to oblige universities to introduce scholarship programmes that would enable them to extract the most promising applicants.

Katja Boxberg – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva