I believe that talented people are incorporated into society through quality of education not through money. Putting a price tag on something doesn’t mean quality. Finland should instead increase the money they use on education and seriously invest in the opportunities that students from abroad bring in.

I’m just a one example but I am pretty sure there are other people who came to Finland because of the same reason and I am sure they either brought money with them, or are working, and paying taxes not only cover their own costs, but to contribute into the Finnish society.

I remember when I was about to graduate from an American University in Pakistan with a bachelor’s degree in physics, and it was time to look ahead into my future options. Of course my first choice would have been to stay in Pakistan, so I tried to apply into few universities in my home country. But I also started to actively think about going abroad to do my masters degree. International experience and high level education would most certainly be a good idea for my future, also the detailed discussions and positive feedback from my professors made me finally choose to go abroad. So, I applied into several universities in Europe, for example the University of Munich, a couple of Universities in England, the Netherlands and Finland. After 2011 I got accepted into universities in Pakistan, I also got accepted into the University of Munich and the Technical University of Munich, University of Twente, Wageningen and Loughborough. One of the universities I also got accepted into was the University of Helsinki.

So why did I pick Finland? Most of my friends and family were surprised by my decision of this country they had barely heard of. They asked me: “Why Finland?” Many of them didn’t even know where Finland was. Some of my friends even tried to stop me by sending pictures showing a cottage in the middle of nowhere, a tree, and the heavy amount of snow that covered the whole landscape. They were right – it was exotic, also the most highly ranked universities were from Germany. They had a central location in the heart of Europe, and the German climate is, of course, ideal, without even mentioning the tremendous working opportunities Germany would provide after graduation. But there was one factor above all others that led me to Finland: free, high quality education. I believe that financing is the biggest issue for every student. Even though the 500 euros/semester in Germany was not a big deal for me, I thought I would rather have the 500 euros as extra pocket money to spend on my living expenses.

Quite recently though, I heard some shocking news that some politicians want to set fees for the international students outside EU/ETA region. I started to look into the facts and ideas behind the conversation and the first thing I ran into was that they had even had experiments on it, which showed that it was not even covering most of the expenses of the bureaucracy that it would add. As a matter of fact, the amount of money that the international students bring and create as tax income is enough to cover all the expenses and beyond. I’ve read that at least 120 million euros is created from this positive internationalisation in addition to the other benefits it brings in. From a person they have not used a single dime on before the educational investment they are about to receive. It’s absurd to think that free education is in some sense a burden on the educational system and Finland’s economy.

Today as I was sitting and writing this text, it occurred to me that maybe there are some people who are not generating funds, and are bad for the economy. But I really couldn’t think of any. One of my friends is studying at the technical University of Tampere and working in a software firm paying taxes to Finland. The other guy is working at night and doing research during the day – contributing taxes and knowhow.

Another friend living in Finland is at a conference in USA right now representing Finland – not his home country. And none of them are living on Finnish subsidies. I personally am working at night delivering Helsingin Sanomat, and going to University during the day. Giving almost my full 24/7 limit for my free education. As a matter of fact, I have successfully convinced more than a few students to come and do the same in Finland. All this because of all the endless warmth I feel towards my University and Helsinki.

I am afraid if a tuition fee is set at Finnish universities, its fantastic reputation, rich history, and sense of equality among students might be in danger. And that makes Finland unique from the rest of the world.

Mian Awais Ahmad
An international degree student from Pakistan studying in the University of Helsinki.