Universities will not charge fees for non-Europeans

The pilot project in which nine Finnish universities and 10 polytechnics charged tuition fees from some non-European masters students closes at the end of this year. But already most of the institutions have announced that they will not claim fees from students admitted this coming autumn.

During the pilot, higher education institutions could charge fees from students from outside the European Union and European Economic Area who were admitted to a university or polytechnic masters programme delivered in a foreign language. Institutions could independently determine the amount they would charge.

In 2011, 24 courses were approved for the pilot project. Fees were charged to 110 students, more than 80% of them studying at Aalto University or Lappeenranta University of Technology.

The tuition fees charged ranged between €3,500 (US$4,700) and €11,750 (US$15,900) per academic year. The most commonly charged tuition fee was €8,000 (US$10,100) per year.

The Ministry of Education and Culture working group on the pilot project delivered its report in April. The report, only available in Finnish, characterised the trial period as not having “fulfilled all the initial expectations but still having contributed positively to the development of the internationalisation of Finnish higher education in general”.

The report was not mandated to take a stand on the introduction of tuition fees on a permanent basis.

Any decisions on the matter remain to be seen, wrote 'Study in Finland' on its webpage. “A governmental decision and a change in legislation will be required; and no such decision or changes have yet been made.”

The fees system

Of the students charged tuition fees, almost all received grants of different sizes from higher education institutions or the Erasmus Mundus programme. The grants covered the tuition fee either in full or partially, and some also included funds to cover some living costs.

Institutions awarded the grants primarily based on academic achievement. Students paying tuition fees most commonly came from China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran. Institutions participating in the pilot are eligible to claim tuition fees for 2014-15 should they want to do so.

As reported by University World News, a motion to introduce tuition fees in Finland was presented to parliament in December 2012 led by MP Arto Satonen of the National Coalition Party, but a final decision on the motion was not reached then.

In December 2013 Satonen said: “At the moment it seems that there is not going to be any progress on the tuition fee bill in 2011-15,” referring to the parliamentary session.

Lack of enthusiasm

University World News approached Satonen and other Finnish higher education representatives, and it looks like the whole tuition fee issue is not regarded with much enthusiasm.

Nine student organisations in Finland issued a statement saying that introducing tuition fees would not help institutions attract students or improve their finances.

“This is shown by both other Nordic countries as well as the trial period in Finland. In Sweden, the number of applicants dropped by more than 90% during the first year after fees were introduced.

“Seven years after the introduction of tuition fees in Denmark, the number of students from outside the European Union and European Economic Area has still not recovered.

“This despite both Sweden and Denmark continuously pumping money into scholarship funds. Sweden has also been forced to shut down international programmes, especially in technology,” the students said.

“It is nonetheless a necessity for Finland to attract international students in order to promote internationalisation of Finnish education and society, for labour as well as a solution for lack of labour and in order to create new job opportunities.”