Free education must be preserved
Free education has been an important pillar of Finnish higher education, enabling everyone to access high-quality, critical and developing higher education. Everyone’s opportunity to educate themselves, find their own interests and participate in the development of society has also been of paramount importance in building a welfare society.
Sustainable increase in the level of education improves competence
Finland has the objective of having at least half of those under the age of 35 holding a tertiary degree by 2030. It is an ambitious, already unrealistic goal in itself, and it becomes even more unrealistic when Finland tries to increase the level of education in ways that keep student well-being at stake. Increasing the level of education must support the development of students as individuals and members of society and be arranged in such a way that full-time studies remain a meaningful and attractive path in life.
However, the level of education is not enough, Finland also needs international expertise. Positive development in the internationalization of universities will go to waste if we increase tuition fees and the number of applicants turns down.
Student well-being under pressure due to tuition fees
At present, non-EU/EEA students subject to tuition fees, in particular, are in an unbearable situation. Even a slight delay in the target time costs thousands of euro, excellent grades are required for grants, and students should also have the time to integrate and become part of the Finnish working life along with studies. The planned increase in tuition fees or possible restrictions to residence permit conditions do not attract international students to come or stay in Finland.
Students have a strict pace to graduate, yet they are working while they should be studying or resting. Their ability and motivation to study will decrease and students have no time to take care of themselves. Higher education institutions have proposed streamlining studies and reducing the number of courses as a solution to a strain on students. The quality of education will suffer if we only focus on target times and the amount of money collected from international students.
Resources required to collect and monitor fees are deducted from the funding of education and increase the administrative workload. Tuition fees do not create a positive competitive advantage for Finland, as free education has been the key element of Finnish education, attracting and retaining students after graduation.
By increasing the level of education, society invests in the competence and thinking of its members and this should be supported. It benefits not only the individual but also society as a whole. Today, we are happy to have mainly free education and it is in everyone’s interests that we continue to do so. That is why we celebrate the Day of Free Education.
Member of the Board, Education Policy
Aalto University Student Union