The Finnish Government has made a proposal, prepared by the Ministry of Education, for introducing tuition fees for students from outside the EU as from 2016. As the two parties opposing the fees (Greens and Left Alliance) recently left the government, and the Social Democratic Party - from which the Education Minister Ms Krista Kiuru comes - has taken a pro-fees approach, the way for the proposal has become free.
After 2000, the number of international degree students in Finland’s higher education institutions has tripled, being almost 20 000 in 2013, and 77% of these students come from outside the EU, with Russia and China being the top sending countries. The aims of the government’s proposal are based on ideas to boost the export possibilities of Finnish higher education, as well as to widen the funding base of universities in times when public sector funding is suffering from difficult economic challenges.
The Ministry has asked various stakeholders for official feedback and a very lively national discussion is going on at the moment
. The economic impact of international students as well as their integration into Finnish society and working life is among the (hot) topics being discussed in connection with the fee discussion. Last April, a report of the ministerial Committee in charge of monitoring and evaluating the tuition fees trial period from 2010 to 2014 concluded that the pilot project charging fees to non-EU students had not been a great success (see ACA Newsletter ‘Education Europe’
, Edition April 2014
Following the feedback, it is expected that the proposal will go to the Parliament for a decision before entering into force. If approved, the fees would concern students from outside the EU/ European Economic Area (EEA) studying in English-taught Bachelor and Master programmes. The proposal stipulates that the fees would be at least EUR 4 000 per year, with the exact sum to be decided individually by universities and with no upper ceiling. To complement the fees, higher education institutions would be required to develop a grant scheme. The government will examine whether development funds could be used for grants for students from developing countries.
After Sweden in 2011, it seems that introducing tuition fees for non-EU students has become a dominant trend in the Nordic countries. The Norwegian government as well recently put forward a budget proposal that would oblige universities to start charging tuition fees to foreign students from outside the EU/EEA. Universities have noted that since Sweden started charging fees to foreign students, its foreign enrollments fell, therefore they are exploring ways to subsidise the tuition in order to retain the diversity that foreign students bring to their schools.