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Finnish higher education: New government initiative and support for international integration

Since June 2023, Finland has a new government led by PM Petteri Orpo of the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP). The government is a coalition of four parties including the NCP, the nationalist Finns Party, the minority-language Swedish People's Party of Finland and the Christian Democrats, which together won a majority in parliament at the 2 April elections. A key goal of the ministers of education, Anna-Maja Henriksson (Swedish People's Party of Finland), and  of Science and Culture, Sari Multala (NCP), is raising the bar for competence and education.

A pivotal objective in the higher education sector for the next four years will be to increase the number of young people with a tertiary education degree to 50%. This aim of this ambition is to address the challenges of urban growth, reach areas with fewer higher education opportunities, and cater for sectors with significant labour shortages.

When it comes to the internationalisation of higher education and student mobility, the Government intends to introduce measures to increase the number of international students in Finland and  to incentivise the retention of international graduates in the country. Regarding funding, the Government's aim  is to implement full cost tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students, including the creation of a national scholarship system and the introduction of a nominal application fee. In addition, the Government continues promoting the Talent Boost programme. This programme aims to strengthen education and training for professional competencies required in Finland, as well as studies in the national languages, especially in sectors with labour shortages.

While these initiatives are underway, there has been a noticeable surge in immigrant students enrolling in Finnish higher education institutions, with the number of students with an immigrant or foreign background having more than doubled between 2010 and 2020. These students have often been supported through services such as SIMHE (Supporting Immigrants in Higher Education in Finland), set up following the 2015 refugee crisis and funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. SIMHE supports migrants into Finnish higher education and the job market. Its services are provided by its member institutions, including the universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Turku and Vaasa, the Tampere University Community, Arcada University of Applied Sciences, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Savonia University of Applied Sciences and Oulu University of Applied Sciences. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, SIMHE has seen its user numbers spike, especially because of Ukrainian refugees fleeing war (recent data show 2 700 users in 2022 alone). This can partly be attributed to the Ministry's allocation of special funds for education and employment of Ukrainian refugees.

ACA Member, the Finnish National Agency for Education, supports SIMHE in a specialist capacity. SIMHE’s newly published report, aims at opening perspectives to the effectiveness of its services at the national level and as a whole. The report examines said services drawing on statistics that SIMHE higher education institutions have collected on their guidance activities and on qualitative information they have reported on their operations.

For further insights:

Read the Government Programme:
Read the EDUFI news article on the SIMHE services:
More information on SIMHE services: