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Since early 2000 higher education institutions in Finland and Russia have carried out highly-quality collaboration on mobility activities with the support of the Finnish-Russian Student and Teacher Exchange Programme (FIRST). As the cooperation environment in both countries has undergone significant changes, the Finnish National Agency of Education (EDUFI) (see ACA Newsletter - Education Europe, January 2017)– a body established in early 2017 by merging CIMO and the Finnish National Board of Education – decided to assess the current objectives and practices in HE cooperation with Russia, as well as to provide an external evaluation of the FIRST programme. The aims of the external assessment were also to define the role of EDUFI in promoting and supporting cooperation between HE institutions in Finland and Russia, and to improve the existing cooperation programmes and support instruments.
The results, published under the title Higher Education Cooperation with Russia – Assessment of CIMO’s Russia operations, highlight that a nationally-coordinated student and teacher exchange programme with Russia is needed by Finnish society. Concerning the FIRST programme, the assessment shows that there is a disparity in terms of student exchanges between Finland and Russia that is in favour of the latter (see figure). In this regard, the assessment proposes to increase student exchange from Finland to Russia by developing and implementing new forms of cooperation. “The challenge – is written in the evaluation – is to develop forms of activities so that they best reflect the changed international, political and economic situation”.
Based on the recommendations of the evaluation, the FIRST programme, originally restricted to North-Western Russia, has been recently revised, in order to allow the whole of Russia to participate. The new programme, called FIRST+, is now open to all fields of education and can therefore offer a wider support to student and teacher mobility between Finnish and Russian higher education institutions.
Please read more about the assessment on the website of the Finnish National Agency for Education