The European students call on the Government of Finland to preserve the right to equal education and reject the proposed measures to restrict immigration.
The Finnish government has proposed to tighten immigration policies and introduce full-cost tuition fees to non-EU and non-EEA international students in contradiction with earlier commitments to grow their number in order to attract high-level skills to Finland. ESU is very disappointed with these proposals and considers them disastrous and short-sighted both considering the international students’ poor financial situation, as well as in terms of making Finnish higher education and worklife more international.
The introduction of full-cost tuition fees would effectively result in their substantial increase. The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture has estimated that this could result in a drop of up to 43% in the amount of international students from outside the EU and the EEA. Finland, like many other European countries, is facing demographic challenges, which is why it is shortshighted to create barriers for international students who want to come to study and later stay to work. Immigrants and international students are already at a disadvantageous position in the society, and raising tuition fees would further deepen the financial burden as well as the inequalities between international and home students.
The proposals to change the Finnish immigration policy would in a similar way impact the ability of the country to attract high-level skills and students from outside Europe. Currently the government proposes that those with a student-based residence permit would not be allowed to rely on Finnish income support, and that a residence permit would be rescinded if an individual would not find work after three months of unemployment. The naturalization period required for citizenship would be extended from 4.5 to 8 years. The government also proposes differentiating social security systems for immigrants and those residing permanently in Finland, and imposing significantly stricter conditions to humanitarian migration.
The proposed measures are detrimental to internationalization of higher education in Finland and send a message that the government sees international students and foreign skilled professionals as burdensome individuals to the society. This overall change of paradigm will undermine the efforts to speed integration processes for immigrants and to create a more inclusive and an international community. Restricting immigration can also lead to an exodus of international students and professionals seeking countries with more favourable conditions for immigration. The narrative that sends a message that foreigners are not welcome in Finland is further compounded by structural racism and studies that show how it is more difficult for ethnic minorities in Finnish higher education institutions to advance their career than for the majority population.
ESU firmly believes that the equal right to education should be the main principle in Finnish higher education policy, and that the direction should be towards banning tuition fees in principle, including for third-country nationals. Furthermore, ESU calls on reconsidering the immigration policy changes, given that both students and higher education institutions have expressed their aspirations for advancing a more international and a more inclusive community.
The statement was proposed by SYL and SAMOK and supported by UDU (Italy), SFS (Sweden), ANOSR (Romania), BSA (Belarus), MFS (Faroe Islands), DSF (Denmark), USI (Ireland), FEF (Belgium), LÍS (Iceland), LSVb (The Netherlands) and UAS (Ukraine) at the 85th General Assembly of the European Students Union (ESU) in Tallinn. The position paper was adopted unanimously at the meeting.
European Policy and International Affairs Advisor, SAMOK
050 389 1012
International Affairs and EU Advocacy Adviser, SYL