The Finnish Government’s goal is to triple the number of overseas students in Finland, with at least 75 per cent of them finding jobs and staying in the country. Any measures in the government budget session and this year’s changes to legislation have mainly focused on streamlining permit standards. This is a good start, but unfortunately it’s not enough. There is plenty to do, for example, in terms of income, language requirements and getting rid of changing prejudices.
What does Finland look like at the moment in the eyes of international students? Is Finland already such a good country that just to get a residence permit is a sign of grace and like winning the lottery? Not for everyone. Let’s take a look at the situation through the eyes of our imaginary international graduate, Top Expert, introduced in an earlier blog.
After graduation, Top is given a residence permit for two years. During that time, she must find work in order to be given an extension to stay in Finland. Is it wise for us to throw out from Finland any experts we have trained? What kind of an image does it give of us? Anyone who has completed a degree in Finland should be given a permanent residence permit in order to find work. This is certainly not the case yet, so Top begins a race against the clock to find a job.
Finding a job that matches her training turns out to be rather difficult. Lack of work experience in her own field, tight language requirements and prejudices do not make the job any easier. As to the last item, the structure of the entire society must change, while to change the first two, potential employers and higher education institutions play a key role.
During Top’s studies, she has accumulated work experience mostly in the service industry, not in her own field. International students tend to accept more work outside their own field, because they must maintain a sufficient income level to conform with the residence permit requirements. Cooperation between higher education institutions and employers can be improved by means of theses, internships and summer jobs. Sufficient paid internships and visits to businesses are key methods for international students to integrate into and learn more about working life. Finnish businesses often operate differently to what the students are used to in their home country.
English would have been quite enough at university, but Top wanted to integrate into Finnish society, so she enrolled on language courses with a few of her friends. Knowing the language is, after all, a large part of the culture, interaction and creation of social contacts. Everyone completing a degree in Finland should have enough opportunities to learn the language. Employers should realise that sometimes the language requirements are simply too strict.
This was the last part of the blog series about Top Expert. The government proposal for an act amending the preconditions for citizens from third countries to enter and reside in Finland for study, internships and volunteer work includes some good improvements to the residence permits of international students. Extending the residence permit for the duration of studies, changing the permit type from temporary to permanent, and making requirements concerning assets only applicable to the first year make the life of students like Top Expert much easier. It is in Finland’s interest that as many overseas students as possible who complete a degree in Finland will find work in Finland and remain in the country.