SYL: International students’ opportunities to study must be protected

Statement

For immediate release on 2 June 2020

The coronavirus crisis threatens to cause financial difficulties for international students who are already in a weak position. The extensive temporary lay-offs in Finland and the collapse of the global economy have jeopardised the income of international students, threatening to delay their studies or even causing them to drop out. SYL demands that decision-makers come up with solutions to protect the income and studies of international students.

The coronavirus crisis has delayed the studies and compulsory internships of many students. The delays are particularly disastrous for non-EU and non-EEA students who are forced to pay additional tuition fees on top of their normal living expenses. The temporary and permanent lay-offs caused by the pandemic have also impacted international students, as a quarter of their income comes from a salary. Another quarter, support form their parents and relatives, is affected by exchange rate fluctuations and the uncertain global economy.

The situation is worsened further by the strict financial requirements and application periods relating to extended residence permits for non-EU and non-EEA students. The Finnish Immigration Service demands a monthly income of 560 euros, so in order to gain a residence permit, a student must have 6,720 euros in their own bank account. The situation is particularly difficult for the students whose work and sources of income have dried up because of the coronavirus crisis. They cannot necessarily prove the level of income for the rest of their studies that is required in the residence permit process, even though they would normally have enough savings, work, scholarships or support. Because of the strict travel bans, many of the international students could not even return to their own countries if their financial difficulties worsen. Under normal circumstances the financial requirements are justifiable, but during the coronavirus pandemic they are unreasonable.

“It is not in Finland’s best interest that our international students end up in financial difficulties which will cause them to drop out of their studies and even leave Finland. International experts make Finnish higher education and the Finnish labour market more international and diverse,” states SYL Board Member Paavo Antikainen.

We demand that the decision-makers come up with solutions to improve the international students’ situation. We desperately need flexibility in the financial requirements for residence permits, concessions to tuition fees and solutions that will improve the financial situation of international students. Our international students have the right to study safely, and Finland has a responsibility to look after everyone studying in Finland.

More information:

Paavo Antikainen, Board Member

tel. 044 906 5004, paavo.antikainen@syl.fi

Maria Nyroos, International Affairs and EU Lobbying Adviser

tel. 040 753 9099, maria.nyroos@syl.fi

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