European Students’ Union expresses its deep concern over recent developments in Finland concerning the implementation of tuition fees for students outside the EU/EEA area. Finland seems to be about to follow the worrying trend seen across in Europe – that of limiting equal access to higher education for all. From 2010 a set-period amendment to the law was implemented that enables higher education institutions to implement limited tuition fees on non-EU students.
Tuition fees for non-EU students threaten the internationalization of higher education that the Finnish government has for years strongly supported. Internationalisation is vital for higher education in general, and international students must not be treated as financial instruments. Introducing tuition fees creates extensive barriers to international mobility, and fees specifically targeting international students can be seen as nationality-based discrimination. Moreover, fees have been shown to dramatically decrease the number of incoming students, not to mention homogenizing the student body.
Instead of fees, governments should focus on integration of international students in both higher education community and labour markets. Fees deter prospective, talented students with less privileged socio-economic background from participating in higher education. Europe still has the possibility to become a beacon of equal opportunities for all students alike, and the Finnish government should, along with every other European government, embrace this chance and keep its higher education accessible to everyone regardless of nationality.
ESU calls on the Finnish government to end this unnecessary and in fact, harmful experiment and return to the traditional Finnish model of higher education that is tuition-fee free for all.