Tuition fees would be a favour for Finland

I contend that the charging of tuition fees to students outside the area of the EU and EEA would do Finnish universities a valuable favour. Tuition fees should in principle be regarded as a genuine opportunity to participate in international university education. I base my claim on the following observations.

With the establishment of tuition fees, universities:

  • would have to profile and find those fields of study in which they can be internationally competitive
  • would have to look after the condition of their products. In this manner, both instruction and support services must work seamlessly together to ensure that the student has the chance to achieve the best possible performance within the time period assigned
  • would have to be able to market their products. This requires a belief in one's own product
  • could make Finnish education an export product without the need for risk-susceptible and resource-demanding special projects
  • could achieve a degree of internationality that could be internationally ranked and compared. Over the longer term, the expansion of funding would enable a greater number of international students.

Students coming from abroad would also benefit

From the perspective of international students, tuition fees and grant systems on their part would offer the chance to more and more young people to study in the future in a safe and highly valued environment. Tuition fees would also guide students' time management and encourage them to advance in their studies within the time limits concerned.

From Finland's point of view, international degree students are also strongly linked with job-related immigration. This should be encouraged. The tax deductibility of tuition fees already paid, which has been given public attention, would offer international students an attractive incentive to remain in Finland to work or establish a company in our nation.

For students personally, however, it is pivotal that they have degrees for employment which correspond to the jobs concerned, either in Finland or elsewhere.

Tuition fees must be examined from a long perspective

The current discussion going on in Finland about tuition fees is troubled by a lack of vision. The discussion is primarily focused on the impacts of a few years of transition, even if the time perspective should be long into the future.

Yes, charging tuition fees for Finnish university education to those outside the area of the EU and EEA would evidently substantially reduce the total number of applications from those from the countries concerned as well as the total number of students to some extent. The degree-related mobility of students in the world, and particularly from countries external to the area of the EU and EEA, is nevertheless a quickly growing phenomenon, and the possibilities of a free university education in the world are, in practice, non-existent – so the decline in the total number of international applications would surely be temporary.

Fresh thinking would also require discussion about the quality of Finnish university education. In Finland there is clearly a tendency to ‘shoot oneself in the foot', so to speak – by underestimating our own activity. It is without grounds to claim that highly valued Finnish education and Finland's safe, dynamic community would be unable to attract young and gifted students from abroad on any other basis than that its education is free-of-charge.

Our university education has secured an impressive reputation in the world in addition to the satisfaction of international students in wide-scale surveys. At Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), there will be a strong belief in the attractiveness of our own education as well as that of the university and Finland also if tuition fees are established.  

Let us still return in closing to the time perspective. In some estimations, concern has been raised over the issue that because, if tuition fees are introduced, the total number of international students may decline, this would incur economic losses. Those responsible for these estimates appear to have forgotten the timespan over which changes in the university sector should be examined. The university sector quarter appears to be about 25 years. According to LUT's estimate, it would be possible already over a medium-term timespan to increase the total number of international students from what it is currently – even if Finland charges tuition fees.

For more information, please contact:

Janne Hokkanen, Director for International Affairs, tel. +358 40 900 3617, janne.hokkanen@lut.fi