The Finnish parliament’s decision on imposing tuition fees on students from non-EU/EEA-countries was supposed to bring more money to the universities. However, in Jyväskylä, only a handful of students are actually paying for their education.

Last year 72 students outside EU/EEA-countries were admitted to study at JYU. 34 of them were granted a scholarship for their tuition fees while 38 of them were not. Out of these 34 scholarship students, 21 started their studies in the fall semester. Only 5 out of the 38 originally admitted students who were obligated to pay the tuition fee showed up.

Ágnes Stojcsics, specialist in International Affairs in the Student Union JYY,  explains that the Rector’s decision about tuition fees and scholarships states that after every student liable of paying the tuition fee, the university can offer a scholarship for one admitted student.

”So the number of fee-paying and non-fee-paying students outside EU/EEA should be roughly the same but it happened that in reality those who were granted the scholarship received their seats and those who weren’t granted it did not accept their seats. That is why we have only a few paying students.”

Kuva: Laura Kangas

I would say that what others are getting for free I have to pay for it.

Mary is one of the five students currently paying the tuition fee. She doesn’t want her real name to be published because, according to her, paying tuition fees is a sensitive topic among international students.

“If I put it very honestly and bluntly I would say that what others are getting for free I have to pay for it”, Mary said. She is paying 10 000 euros per year for her studies in the University of Jyväskylä.

Tuition fees for students outside EU and EEA countries has raised discussion both for and against them. People in favor of tuition fees justify their opinion by saying that they will increase the popularity and quality of the Finnish international education and diminish costs deriving from international students for the Finnish educational system. It is also believed that tuition fees compel students to graduate on time.

Emilia Tolvanen, coordinator of the Admission Services of JYU says that it is too early to draw conclusions regarding the effects of tuition fees.

“The university sees the export of Finnish education as an opportunity while it realizes the possible negative effects of tuition fees, mainly related to equality issues.”

Tuition fees make it harder for young people from a lower socioeconomic class to get into higher education.

SYL, National Union of University students in Finland, has been against tuition fees from the beginning. Veera Alahuhta, who is in charge of international affairs and development cooperation in SYL, says that implementing tuition fees felt like an unreasonable measure and reminds that half of the graduated students found employment here after their studies. Alahuhta says that tuition fees pose a clear threat to equality among the international students.

“Overall, tuition fees make it harder for young people from a lower socioeconomic class to get into higher education.”

The student union JYY has also been against tuition fees, says Ágnes Stojcsics. In her eyes the fees bring about a greater gap between the Finnish and European students versus the students outside EU and EEA. She reminds that even before the fees, coming to Finland to study was not cheap.

“Instead of tuition fees we could have concentrated on helping the international students to get employed in Finland and stay here after their studies. Their integration process starts already during their studies here which makes them more easily accessible to working life compared to those who come here only to work and everything is new to them.”

As a person who is giving the money I don’t feel very secured of what is being done with it.

Even though universities have had years to prepare for the new legislation, many of the basics seem still unclear. For Mary, tuition fees themselves are not the biggest problem, even though she is struggling to find the money for her second year of studies.

She feels that the scholarship procedures are complicated and that there should be common and clear nationwide practices on scholarships for international students. The number of potential scholarship should also be increased.

“It’s the first year of charging the tuition fees and I think lots of the structures are not even clear to the university staff.”

Mary paid for her first year of studies even though she didn’t know if she’d get a residence permit in Finland. When asked if she would have got the 10 000 euros back if she hadn’t received the permit, or what would happen to the money if she got sick and had to quit her studies, she says she really doesn’t know.

In the contracts between the university and the student, there are no clauses dealing with those kinds of situations. Neither did Mary get a proper payment specification telling where her money is being used. The only receipt she got stated only that she has paid the required amount.

“As a person who is giving the money I don’t feel very secured of what is being done with it.”

According to the university, in situations that involve the question of paying back the tuition fee, each situation is considered separately because the potential situations vary.

It also made me doubt the value of the course if I’m the only one paying.

Mary thinks that the way the scholarship system has been implemented at JYU forces students into a competitive position.

“I’m afraid that because I didn’t get the scholarship it means I am not as good as the others who got it.”

Mary’s feelings are quite understandable when reading the documents addressed to the international students. Sentences like “You will be judged by your application” and “The scholarship may be awarded…” does give the impression that we are ranking the students before they even get here.

”Probably the intention was not to put me in a competitional setting because that is totally against the Finnish education system – it doesn’t work with the idea of competition at all. But it made me think that if I am the only one in the class paying tuition fees, does that make me below them? I did feel unequal. It also made me doubt the value of the course if I’m the only one paying and the others are using that faculty for free.”

Tuition fees and scholarships in JYU

  • According to the new Universities Act, Finnish universities must charge tuition fees from non-EU/EEA students admitted to Bachelor’s or Master’s degree programmes in a language other than Finnish or Swedish.
  • It requires of the minimum fee to be 1 500 euros and that the universities must offer scholarships. Within these parameters universities can decide for themselves how to implement the law into practise.
  • In the University of Jyväskylä the amount of tuition fees goes from 8 000 euros to 12 000 euros depending of the programme. No tuition is charged if you’re an exchange student, have started your studies prior to August 2017, are admitted for doctoral studies, are a citizen of the EU/EEA area or if you have the type of a resident permit which allows you to study here for free. If you are an asylum seeker without a resident permit A you must also pay tuition fees
  • During the student selection the applicants are rated according to criteria pre-announced by the Master’s programme. One of the criteria is success in previous studies. Based on these ratings 50 % of the highest rated applicants in each programme receive a scholarship that covers the whole tuition fee for the first and second year.
  • Second year of the scholarship is conditional and requires minimum of 55 credits completed at the first year of studies. Every Master’s programme have their own ranking criterias.
  • JYU does not offer other university level scholarships. For the programme of Nuclear and Particle Physics the faculty offers additional scholarship for cost-of-living.