STATEMENT 30 November 2015
The Finnish Government will discontinue the internationalisation of higher education institutions. Massive cuts targeted at higher education and the students' income jeopardise educational equality, and the introduction of tuition fees ends the era of free education that lasted for more than 40 years. The Student Union of the University of Helsinki calls for the importance of free education.
Juha Sipilä's Government proposes tuition fees of at least EUR 1,500 for English degree programmes for non-EU and non-EEA students. Paid education in the Nordic countries does not attract international students. In Sweden, for example, the number of international students has collapsed after the introduction of tuition fees in 2010. In some fields, the number has reduced as much as by 80%.
The establishment of paid degree programmes requires additional investments of millions of euros in marketing and the creation and maintenance of a scholarship system. Even if the universities decide to charge tuition fees of EUR 10,000–15,000 planned by the University of Helsinki, for example, they would still not cover the additional costs caused by tuition fees. Funds used for the marketing of the university and degree programmes are reduced from the quality of teaching and research.
The imposition of tuition fees for some students transforms the entire social atmosphere: when tuition fees are charged for some students, it becomes all the more easy to charge others. International students bring much more to Finland than just their tuition fees – both economic and social benefits. What kind of Finland do we wish to create? Is it a class society where education can only be obtained with money or an equal and secure society where everyone has the opportunity to study as much as they want?
Today, 30 Nov, we celebrate the Day for Free Education. Let us not forget that the right for education belongs to everyone, regardless of their wealth, home country or the background of parents.