Students in a library at the University of Helsinki on 8 April 2022. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)


KENYAN STUDENTS across Finland may have to discontinue their studies due to unpaid tuition fees, a possibility that is causing uncertainty over what had been a promising start to education exports to Kenya, reports YLE.

TAMK University of Applied Sciences in Tampere, for example, is trying to collect overdue tuition fees worth a total of 200,000 euros from Uasin Gishu County, a western county of Kenya.

The due date in the latest collection letter was 28 February 2023. Ari Sivula, a vice rector at TAMK, told the Finnish public broadcasting company yesterday that the payment has not been received.

“We have to find someone to pay the invoice. Education isn’t free,” he said, confirming that a failure to pay the fees would prevent the students from continuing their studies. “We’ll continue looking for a solution in March, and we’ll keep our lines of communication open to Kenya.”

TAMK sent its first payment reminder to Uasin Gishu County in November.

Laurea University of Applied Sciences, meanwhile, has 139 Kenyan students whose right to study will expire at the end of this month unless their tuition fees are paid – possibly along with their right of residence, according to another report by YLE. Laurea and Uasin Gishu County have signed a commissioned education agreement under which the county would cover the costs of students acquiring professional qualifications in Finland.

The county has failed to comply with the agreement, however. Laurea was told by a representative of the county last month that the fees are collected from the students themselves or their parents, a fact that goes against the principal idea of commissioned education.

Some of the students and parents have expressed their concern about the possible misappropriation of the funds.

Similar problems have been encountered by Saimaa Vocational College (Sampo). The Lappeenranta-based vocational institute has already terminated its agreement with Uasin Gishu County.

Atte Jääskeläinen, the head of science and higher education policy at the Ministry of Education and Culture, told YLE on Tuesday that the cases draw attention to the need to consider how to protect the rights of students in commissioned education. While the universities have no legal obligation to help the students, they should consider other factors, too.

“They took a risk, the risk was realised and they should carry the risk. This becomes a more multifaceted issue if the university thinks about its own reputation or social responsibility,” he said.

Jääskeläinen in February hosted a meeting of university rectors about the problems in commissioned education. The Ministry of Education and Culture handed out new instructions for commissioned education, advising universities to both look more carefully into the arrangement between the commissioner and students and to make sure students in commissioned education recognise that their status differs from students admitted through the joint application procedure.

“Universities should make sure that the education is paid in advance or receive some sort of guarantees from a reliable financing institution. This must be done to protect the standing of students,” stated Jääskeläinen.

The provision of commissioned education has been possible for universities of applied sciences since 2019 and for vocational schools since 2022 under a legislative amendment adopted in a bid to triple the number of foreign students in Finland by 2030.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT