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Tuition fee trial in Finland evaluated – no decisions on future yet

There are no general tuition fees in Finnish higher education but Finnish higher education institutions could pilot tuition fees from 2010 to 2014. During this period, universities and universities of applied science could charge fees to students from outside the EU/EEA area who were admitted to a Master’s degree programme given in English. Higher education institutions could independently determine the amount of the fee they charged, and they were obliged to put a grant scheme in place.

The Ministry of Education and Culture assigned a committee to monitor and evaluate the trial. The committee published its final report in April 2014. According to the report, only 43 fee-based study programmes participated in the trial, with 355 students from outside EU/EEA area. They came from 53 different countries, Russia being the most common country of origin. The most commonly charged tuition fee was EUR 8 000 per year. Most of the students received a grant through a grant scheme run by the hosting institution. 

The conclusions of the evaluation show that the tuition fee trial did not meet the expectations, mainly because of the low number of participating HEIs and study programmes. Higher education institutions were not committed to participate in an uncertain trial with a limited time frame, thus questioning also the trial concept as such. The low level of participation meant that the trial had no financial significance to the universities. However, the participating institutions reported that the trial made it possible to test various new approaches and was a useful part in developing the internationalisation process at higher education institutions in general.

What decisions will be made regarding the tuition fee policy in Finland, remains yet to be seen. For tuition fees to continue after the trial period a governmental decision and a change in legislation will be required; and no such decisions or changes have yet been made. The matter is expected to be on the agenda in connection with the discussions for the next government’s programme after parliament elections in early 2015.

The total number of international degree students in Finnish higher education has been growing rapidly and is approaching 20 000 (6.2% of the total student population; 2/3 from outside Europe, Russia and China being the 2 top sending countries).