The payment issues faced by Kenyan students who commenced their studies at Laurea University of Applied Sciences in 2022 have been under investigation since the spring of 2023. Over 90 Kenyan students have completed their degree studies this spring. Out of them, 60 students are able and willing to continue their studies at Laurea with the assistance of a payment arrangement, while 31 are transitioning to vocational training in secondary level institutions.
Only two students will see the conclusion of their study rights. In order to prevent similar uncertainties in the future, Laurea has introduced improvements to its contract education process. Contract education will continue as it remains a crucial part of the university's societal mission and aligns with the objectives set with the Ministry of Education and Culture.
In accordance with a decision by the Laurea University of Applied Sciences board on May 4, 2023, the study rights of two Kenyan students have been revoked due to unpaid fees associated with contract education. Among these students, only one has been active, while the other, according to the education commissioner, has withdrawn from the program and returned to Kenya. The studies of the remaining 90-plus students will proceed either at Laurea or another educational institution in Finland. To facilitate the continuation of their studies, a payment arrangement has been established, and students interested in alternative education paths have been supported in finding placements in secondary level institutions.
"I deeply regret that uncertainties regarding tuition fees have caused undue problems and concerns for the students and their families. It is truly unfortunate that not every student's studies could be continued. We have done our utmost to find alternative study paths for the students who desired it. We have also provided flexibility in payment schedules, but legal constraints prevent us from, for instance, forgiving fees," stated Teemu Ylikoski, Chief Development Officer at Laurea.
In spring 2023, a total of 95 Kenyan students have completed their degree studies at Laurea in Finland. Out of them, 60 students have chosen to continue their studies at Laurea with the assistance of a payment arrangement, and they have affirmed their ability to do so. Additionally, 31 students are transitioning to vocational training at Omnia, Eduko, and Keuda, which are secondary level institutions. Vocational training comes at no cost to students and employers provide compensation for the duration of studies. Secondary level vocational training falls outside the realm of contract education and is not governed by the same legislation.
In 2022, Laurea welcomed five student groups for contract education, commissioned by Kenya's Uasin Gishu County. These students studied across Laurea's campuses in Espoo, Lohja, Porvoo, Vantaa, and through distance learning in Kenya. Payment issues that emerged in early 2023 disrupted the continuation of studies, prompting investigations into the causes of the situation. Laurea's assessment indicates that payment origins have deviated from the agreed-upon terms throughout the project. The agreement was made with Uasin Gishu County, where the intention was for the county to fully fund both education and student accommodations. However, it has now come to light that from the outset, students and their families have been responsible for covering the costs.
Furthermore, in the upcoming fall semester, a group of 24 Kenyan nursing students, who have been pursuing remote studies in Kenya, will join the program. This group is part of the same agreement and started their studies simultaneously with the existing groups in Finland. Laurea has ensured that these students are well-informed about the payment challenges faced by previous groups and has provided comprehensive information regarding the cost of living in Finland.
According to the University of Applied Sciences Act, the institution must charge the contracting party of contract education at least the costs incurred by the education. Non-EU/EEA international students are treated differently by Finnish legislation than those from within the EU/EEA. Contract education mandates full payment, with the payer being a company, association, or public entity. The university is prohibited from directly charging contract education fees to students.
"We aim to eliminate any future uncertainties in contract education, and that's why we have made improvements to our contract education process. Moving forward, agreements will be directly between Laurea and the contracting party, and the contracting party will be obligated to use the agreement model specified by Laurea for the contract between the contracting party and the student. We have ceased negotiations for new contract education programs with other Kenyan counties. An external review of Kenyan contract education is also underway," summarized Ylikoski.
Despite the challenges faced, contract education will persist at Laurea. It remains a vital component of the university's societal mission and aligns with the objectives set with the Ministry of Education and Culture.