Action is needed to improve the situation of international students

Finland is discussing international talent more and more, and rightly so. Student and labour immigration are important tools to address Finland’s challenges such as slowing population growth, a rapidly ageing demographic structure and a shrinking working age population. However, the debate also needs concrete steps to improve integration and attractiveness. How would Finland enable international students to enjoy a functional, stable and secure daily life as equal and active members of society?

The Finnish government aims to triple the number of new foreign degree students by 2030 and to increase the employment and retention rate of foreign students in Finland to 75%. Achieving these goals will require ambitious structural measures. As it stands, the situation is challenging for national students, and even more so for international students.

Sometimes it is good to stop and think about what life in Finland looks like through the eyes of an international student. During their studies, they are subject to various pressures, especially students from outside the EU/EEA who pay high tuition fees. The threshold for networking and participating in activities that bring other students together is higher, and language barriers or excessive financial pressures do not make it easier.

While you may have been able to get by in English, integrating into Finnish society is difficult without a command of the Finnish language. Therefore, Finnish and Swedish as second languages should be developed and access to public services in English should be extended. Increasing English language services is not a step away from services in the home language. By improving our capacity to work across language and cultural borders, we will contribute to

Money would be needed both to live on and possibly to cover their tuition fees – how about working? The familiar challenges of studying will be followed by the challenges of finding a job and finding a job, but there will be new challenges after graduation. After graduation, a two-year job search period begins, during which you have to find a job. Otherwise, you will be thrown out of the country. Does this increase attractiveness and integration? No. Completing a degree in Finland should grant an automatic permanent residence.

In 2018, 50% of non-EU/EEA students found employment in Finland one year after graduation, compared to 88% of Finnish students. During their studies, more than a third of foreign degree students do not yet know their plans after graduation. Better conditions for staying, working and starting a business make it easier to establish a life in Finland.

Finland must persevere towards a better immigration experience and cut unnecessary red tape. Internationalisation will not happen on its own, but rather it requires consistent action and investment both in terms of entry and settlement. It also requires changes in attitude and questioning the old ways of doing things. International cooperation is central to building a sustainable world and solving global problems. The Finland of the future must strive to be the best and functional place in the world to arrive, live and work in.

Antti Regelin
Board Member, EU and ESU, internationality, climate policy

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