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Finland: New government brings cuts and changes to higher education

As a result of parliamentary elections in April 2015, a new government comprising the Centre Party, the National Coalition Party and the Finns Party was appointed in late May.  Ms Sanni Grahn-Laasonen (National Coalition Party), who earlier served as the Minister of the Environment, is the new Minister of Education and Culture. The newly appointed government plans to cut down on the education budget and promote internationalisation. 
After a political debate lasting for many years, this government has decided to introduce tuition fees for international higher education students who are non-EU/EEA nationals. Further, tax deductions are planned for those students who after graduation will stay and work in Finland. Detailed information on the new policy on tuition fees or when it is to come into force is not yet available. 
The government wants to promote cooperation between higher education institutions and the labour market. A quicker transition from education to working life will be facilitated by the introduction of a third (summer) term at higher education institutions, allowing students to graduate faster. The aim is also that a significant number of students would in future enter the working life after completing the Bachelor’s degree, instead of continuing at Master’s level.  In addition, the government wants to introduce flexible study paths within and between different levels of education.
The profiles and responsibilities of higher education institutions and research institutes will be clarified, and the government will require both of these to provide a proposal on their respective responsibilities and the ever-closer cooperation between faculties and research units.
In order to balance the state budget, the government has decided on an annual reduction of 75 million euros to the state funding for higher education institutions. Details on these cuts are not yet available. Savings are expected also from cuts to the state financial aid for students. The new government has also agreed on severe cuts in development aid budget, and whether and to what extent this will affect development cooperation in higher education remains to be seen.
This is a guest article from ACA member CIMO