Statement: The government shoots itself in the foot with tuition fees and a strict immigration policy

Statement

Haaga-Helia’s Student Union Helga rejects the views of the Government Programme, which mercilessly attacks international students.

16.6. published Government Programme: A strong and committed Finland doesn’t stand behind its name. Entries have been made in the Government Programme that significantly complicate the situation of international students in Finland and do not encourage, or even in some situations make it possible for them to stay in Finland after graduation. For example, it is stated in the programme that the government is moving towards full coverage of tuition fees for students themselves who are outside the EU/EEA countries. Raising the fees to full coverage at an average annual cost of 8000 € would mean an increase of approximately 6500 € in students’ annual tuition costs. According to the estimate of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the change would reduce the number of students from outside the EU/EEA countries by 43%. Raising tuition fees is a clear threat to the internationalization of higher education and Finland’s attractiveness and retention power.

However, the government wants to increase the number of international experts in Finland. The intention is to increase incentives so that the number of international university students would continue to grow and many would stay to work in Finland after graduation. One incentive that is going to be explored is a refund similar to a student loan refund for persons from non-EU/EEA countries who have graduated from a Finnish university, university of applied sciences or other Finnish educational institution, who have paid tuition fees and who have worked in Finland for a certain period of time. However, neither this nor other possible incentives can cover the financial gap made by tuition fees well enough. At the same time, the tightening of immigration policy does not encourage people to stay in Finland. The work-based residence permit is going to be tied even more strongly to work, so that you have to leave Finland if the employment relationship ends and a new employment relationship is not entered into within three months.

So the most disappointing scenario is that an international student initially pays almost 30 000 € for a 3.5-year degree, after which they must be able to get a job quickly and be unemployed for less than three months, or they have to leave the country. Getting a job in three months is sometimes not realistic, and layoffs and dismissals are more common in certain sectors than others. Challenges for employment are also created, for example, by language skills and integration.

“Internationalization is one of the themes of Helga’s political program. It is important to increase the number of international students, but raising fees will not make it happen. On the contrary, by raising fees, we ensure that Finland does not appear to be an attractive country to study and work. Tuition fees for students coming from outside the EU/EEA countries should be completely waived, but before this goal is achieved, tuition fees must be at a reasonable level and the grant systems must cover a sufficient share of the tuition fees,” says chairperson of the board Janina Brunfeldt.

One of the goals behind the full coverage of tuition fees for students themselves is to finance approximately a couple of thousand new available student places. The government is committed to taking measures to increase the number of young adults with higher education as close as possible to 50 % by 2030, which will be helped by increasing the available student places. At the same time, the government strives to save on increasing the necessary funding of higher education institutions while pursuing a strict austerity policy. Increasing funding is essential in terms of goals and the quality of education, but it cannot be compensated for on the backs of international students. The Government Programme raises the big question of whether Finland even wants to internationalize or get international experts, and whether the programme is discriminatory instead of committed.

More information
Janina Brunfeldt
Chairperson of the Board
janina.brunfeldt@helga.fi

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