A complete flop. This is how student organisations describe the Finnish pilot project with tuition fees for non-European students. In spite of the organisations’ reaction, the Finnish government chooses to follow in Sweden’s footsteps.
The Finnish government is planning to introduce tuition fees for students who are from countries other than the EU/ESS countries and Switzerland. The fees will amount to at least 4,000 EUR per academic year. Exchange students will continue to study for free.
This piece of news has made many Finnish student organisations angry. These organisations have been against the introduction of tuition fees ever since the debate commenced.
“When we see how things have turned out in Sweden, it can hardly be surprising that we react. Now, the same development will probably come about here,” chairperson of Finland’s Student Unions, FSF, Piia Kuosmanen says.
What Piia Kuosmanen is referring to is the fact that the number of students from countries outside the EU/EES-region and Switzerland plummeted with 79 % in Sweden, after the non-Socialist government introduced tuition fees in 2011.
During the last years, the number of students that are subject to fees increased somewhat, but the numbers are still not even close to the 7,600 so-called “free movers from a third country,” who began studying in the autumn of 2010.
An unsuccessful pilot project
Between the years 2010 and 2014, a pilot project has been carried out in Finland, where selected universities were given the opportunity to charge international students tuition fees. With the result that followed, the government’s plans make even less sense, according to the Student Unions.
“The project was a flop. The universities showed a lack of interest, and economically, it did not result in any noticeable change. At Aalto University, where I study, only two students paid tuition fees – the majority of those who got accepted declined their admission place when they were informed that they had to pay tuition fees,” Piia Kuosmanen says.
SFS: Very unfortunate
The Swedish National Union of Students, SFS, have, throughout the course of the debate, shown their support for the Student Unions of Finland several times. They do not wish to see the neighbouring country making the same mistake as Sweden did.
“We have, once again, been in touch with them, to discuss in what way we could help. This is very unfortunate,“ the chairperson, Rebecka Stenqvist says.
“Do not do the same thing as Sweden did”
Richard Stenelo is responsible for recruiting students who have to pay tuition fees at Lund University. He cannot understand why Finland chose to carry out a pilot project.
“Who would want to pay over a hundred thousand SEK as part of a project? It would be insane,“ he says.
If the Finnish government decides to introduce tuition fees, he is hoping that the neighbouring country will learn from Sweden’s mistakes.
“In Sweden, the implementation-strategy was not thought-out enough. There was no transitional period, and the set of rules and regulations was formulated incorrectly,” Richard Stenelo says.
That Sweden would return to universities that are completely free of charge is neither a realistic alternative, nor is it to be desired, according to Richard Stenelo.
“If I were the government, I would introduce a limited monetary quota of the subvention instead; a quota that each university would get to use, to accept students from a third country. All other students would then be charged a fee,“ he says.
Text: Axel Vikström
Translation: Richard Helander