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Tuition fees do not increase regard for education


The editorial of Helsingin Sanomat on 17 January included the claim that it is easy to identify the positives of the tuition fees set for students from outside the EU and EEA countries two years ago. The text referred to the numbers of applicants for the international master’s programmes at the University of Helsinki. The claim made in the text is incorrect, and some remarks must be made on it.

After the tuition fees were set, both the number of applicants and the number of new international students in Finland decreased. This happened at the University of Helsinki, too. Fewer new students arrived in Finland from outside the EU and EEA countries, while the share of European students did not increase significantly. The universities recovered from the drop in the number of applicants, but it is more relevant to examine the number of people who actually arrived in Finland to study and are paying tuition fees than just the number of applicants.

Many students who were accepted to study do not accept their student place, and even some of the students who received a grant rejected the student place they had received. Currently, only 50 students at the University of Helsinki pay the entire tuition fee themselves. This is a very modest number considering the level of the University of Helsinki and the study opportunities it has available. Tuition fees are not a guarantee for the quality of education or the regard for it.

The higher education institutions have not received much of a profit from the tuition fees, which has also been noted in the interim report of a working group set by the Ministry of Education and Culture to monitor and evaluate the implementation of tuition fees in higher education institutions. On the other hand, the administration related to the fees, the grant system and the strong marketing efforts for the degree programmes have caused considerable costs.

Free education is the cornerstone and pride of Finnish society and must be highly valued. Education is still strongly inherited in Finland, but we must actively strive to change this. Even a small tuition fee affects the entrance to studies of those with limited means. Higher education must remain free, and the current tuition fees must be removed.

Laura Wathén
Chair of the Board
Student Union of the University of Helsinki