Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

Student mobility reaching new heights in Finland

Figures released earlier this month by the Finnish Immigration Service show a record number – 7 060 – of first-time residence permits granted for the purpose of studies to applicants from outside the European Union, out of a total of 8 336 applications; residence permits are one of the main proxies for capturing international degree mobility, in line with international data collections, although in practice granted permits also cover students that are credit mobile. The 2022 figure surpasses the previous record, dating from 2016 – 6 348 successful applicants – and constitutes an increase by 54% (4 595 granted permits) compared to 2021, when the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were more noticeable.

Part of the increase is attributed to new legislation passed earlier this year (see ACA Newsletter Education Europe – April 2022), which made it easier for non-EU/EEA students to move to Finland by extending the duration of the residence permit for the full duration of studies, whereas previously, students could be granted a permit for a maximum of two years at a time. The new law also makes it easier to look for work after graduating, and families of students are now more likely to  apply for a residence permit compared to previous years. The top countries from which students come to Finland have remained unchanged over the past few years, with the highest number of students arriving from Russia (941) and China (610), followed by Bangladesh, India and Vietnam.  

Recent numbers on incoming and outgoing student exchanges (credit mobility) also show a recovery in Finland to the flows observed pre-pandemic, although more so at comprehensive universities, compared to universities of applied sciences, with an increasing gap between the trends observes at the two types of institutions. A new snapshot survey by ACA’s member organisation – the Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI), which has been monitoring regularly the impact of Covid-19 on mobility developments, shows that a total of 3 200 students from Finnish higher education institutions have already gone on student or traineeship mobility abroad for longer than two months this academic year, with over 4 200 students expected to go on mobility during the spring semester.

In turn, close to 5 800 students from abroad have come to Finland this autumn for credit mobility, while the total number of incoming students in the spring is not yet known. As it has traditionally been the case, the final number of outgoing mobilities is expected to surpass the incoming numbers. The numbers also cover blended mobilities, which seem to be most popular at universities of applied sciences – the only area where numbers from the former type of institutions surpass numbers at comprehensive universities, i.e. 261 compared to 55 students on blended mobility.

Credit mobility figures of Finnish higher education institutions were already declining before the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to 2016, the number of outgoing credit mobile students from Finland was over 10 000 per year, with a roughly even distribution between research universities and universities of applied sciences. The downward trend has been notably steeper at universities of applied sciences, that in 2022 accounted for only 37% of all outgoing mobility. The reasons for the decline have been under continuous monitoring. Overall, the war in Ukraine seems to have had little impact on the 2022 numbers.