Finland, as a country of free higher education, could be at risk. The result of the parliamentary elections in April might be decisive for whether or not tuition fees will be introduced for international students.
The Finnish parliamentary elections will be held on April 19. In total, 200 representatives will be selected to the Parliament.
The whole country is taken over with election buzz. You have probably come across a campaigner on the street, seen election billboards pretty much everywhere, and witnessed politicians arguing on TV.
So, what is it about? And moreover, what is it to you?
The current economic downturn is said to be the longest one in Finland’s history. This means that the government is forced to make major budget cuts.
Well, also education is on the cutting board.
The current government proposed massive cuts in education, says Jari Järvenpää, the president of The National Union of University Students in Finland.
”We could be talking about as much as two billion euros”, he estimates.
”It depends on whom you ask of course, but in any case, it is clear that hundreds of millions have been already cut in education.”
The impact of the cuts can be seen, for instance, in the Finnish Student Health Service. Due to the cuts, its service charges increased last year. They also affect the Finnish study grants.
International students could be a target as well.
Last autumn, Krista Kiuru, the Minister of Education, Science and Communication, proposed tuition fees for higher education students, who come to study in Finland from countries outside the European Union and the European Economic Area. Per student, the fee for one academic year would be at least 4,000 euros.
Kiuru later withdrew the proposal. However, if the new government decides to support the fees, they could become a reality after all. Perhaps already in a few years time, adds Järvenpää.
Therefore, he thinks the result of the elections to be crucial.
”Political parties have very different outlooks on the matter”, Järvenpää points out.
”For example, the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party have expressed their support for the fees, whereas the Greens and the Left Alliance are against them. There are also parties who have not yet decided their stand on the matter.”
Finnish universities and universities of applied sciences already tested the use of tuition fees for international students, reminds Järvenpää.
He refers to the Ministry of Education and Culture’s four-year trial (2010–2014), which gave the higher education institutions a chance to charge non-EU and non-EEA higher academic degree students.
”Technically, the new law would be easy to realize since it has already been tried out. Of course, the trial turned out unsuccessful, but that doesn’t seem to concern the decision makers.”