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Finland Considers Ending Free Education for International Students

Examining the Potential Shift in Educational Policy


Helsinki, Finland – The National Coalition Party (NCP) of Finland, led by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, has suggested that students from outside the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) should pay the entire cost of their education. The main aim of this proposal is to save government money, which could then be used to support Finnish students. This decision comes in response to reports indicating that nearly half of international students do not intend to stay in Finland after they graduate. They often leave due to a lack of job opportunities, limited career prospects, and difficulties adapting to life in Finland.

Finland continues to attract immigrants, and the Finnish Immigration Service has seen a significant increase in residence permit applications for various reasons, including work, family, and education. In 2023, there was a notable spike in applications for work residence permits. This increase can be attributed in part to new laws that grant students residence permits for the entire duration of their degree programs and allow them to work.

When we look at the statistics, it becomes clear that most applicants in the first half of this year, around 90%, were seeking to pursue a degree in Finland. These students primarily came from China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Compared to 2022, when there were over 5,000 applications for study residence permits, there was a 48% increase in 2023. However, it’s important to note that getting approval for these permits is not guaranteed. While 95% of foreign student applications are approved, those that are not usually lack sufficient financial proof.

The Finnish Immigration Service emphasizes that students must have enough funds to support themselves in Finland and cover potential medical expenses.

Additionally, non-EU students generally do not qualify for student financial aid and often face higher tuition fees. On the positive side, they do receive residence permits for the entire duration of their studies in Finland.

This proposed policy change is currently being discussed, and it has sparked debates within Finland’s political landscape. Supporters argue that it could help ensure that Finnish taxpayers’ money is directed more effectively toward supporting their own students. However, critics express concerns about how this might affect Finland’s appeal to international talent.

As the discussion unfolds, it remains to be seen how this proposal might impact the landscape of international education in Finland and the dreams of non-EU/EEA students who seek educational opportunities in the country.

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