Finland plans to charge tuition fees to foreign students

by , under Enrique

Over half (119) of Finland’s 200 MPs are in favor of charging tuition fees to foreign students, according to YLE in English. The bill is being spearheaded by three parties known for their anti-immigration stances: National Coalition Party (37 MPs), Perussuomalaiset (39), and Center Party (29). Is the new bill a sign of how Finland is turning its back to the world?

Kuvankaappaus 2013-1-7 kello 20.56.17
You can read the original YLE in English news story here.

The bill is also supported to a lesser extent by MPs from the Social Democratic Party (7), Swedish People’s Party (4), Christian Democrats (2), and Left Wing Alliance (1).

”There is nothing new in charging tuition fees to foreign students,” said Migrant Tales’ associate editor JusticeDemon. ”The UK has been doing this for years, with many of its educational institutions now depending on attracting such students in order to stay afloat financially.”

JusticeDemon said that despite the tuition range from  3,500 to 12,000 euros per year, the higher figure is likely to become a norm for university courses. “Charging anything less than the maximum will suggest that the course is somehow of lower quality than a corresponding more expensive course at another institution,” he added.

Arto Satonen of the National Coalition Party, the MP who initiated the bill, believes that time is ripe to start charging foreign students tuition fees because most of them leave the country after they get their degrees.

”If you look at the numbers, then people from Asia or Russia or Ukraine, and when they get their degree they are going to work in the UK, USA, Australia and so on,” he said. ”So it actually happens that the Finnish taxpayers’ money we are actually educating workers for the Anglo-Saxon countries’ economies.”

Despite this view, one of the cornerstones of the Finnish immigration system until a few years ago was forcing foreign students to leave the country after they took a degree, according to JusticeDemon. Since we want these students to stay in Finland , it shows a shift in attitudes, which are welcome.

See JusticeDemon’s comment below.

PS MP Reijo Tossavainen says the bill is important because it would stop discrimination against Finnish students.

”One year costs per (foreign) student 8,000 euros and in university 10,000 euros,” he commented on a blog. ”One student during his whole stay at an institution of higher learning costs 30,000-50,000 euros. In a whole year Finland gives to foreign students altogether a 300 million euro present.”

Tossavainen is a well-known anti-immigration voice of the PS. He said in 2011 that Finland should close its doors to asylum seekers.

Marina Laminen, president of the National Union of University Students, believes that Finland hurting is itself if it starts charging foreign students tuition.

”I feel that it’s a real bad idea because in Finland we really need the international students, both as students and for the labor market,” she told YLE. ”It’s been proven that the number of international students is not getting any better but will get worse with tuition fees.”


  1. JusticeDemon


    Have you nothing to say about the change in attitude towards foreign students seeking to remain in Finland after their studies end? Forcing foreign graduates to leave was a cornerstone of the Finnish immigration system until only a few years ago. Now we are desperate to keep them. The old Union of Foreign Students in Finland would certainly approve of the progress that has been made on this point.

    The private member’s bill also includes a significant tax break for foreign students who remain in Finland, enabling them to deduct one fifth of their total tuition fees from taxable income in each year of a five-year period of work following graduation. This means that a foreign graduate of a Finnish institution in full-time work would be able to earn up to around 1,000 euros more per month before taxation of earnings began for other employees in the same earnings bracket.

    Reading it together with other relatively recent modifications in immigration and naturalisation rules permitting foreign students to credit half of their study time towards permanent immigration status and citizenship qualifying periods, I would say that this latest proposal is fairly well balanced.

  2. Mark

    There are systems in some parts of the world where you can ‘repay’ your student fees (assuming that a foreign educational authority is not paying for them) by doing what equates to civilian service (similar to what men do in Finland if they don’t want to join the army). That is, you can work for NGOs, local authorities serving poorer or vulnerable population groups, etc. Not sure how this would help if you’ve done a geology degree or suchlike.

    The problem for me is that the mindset that says Finland should be ‘attracting’ foreign talent is ignoring the very real problems of brain drain in developing countries. It feeds into migratory pressures. In football terms, these countries become ‘feeder clubs’, which are caught up in a cycle of poverty.

    You cannot blame individuals for wanting to go to countries like the UK, the US or Australia. So how to motivate them to contribute at least something back in their home country? Perhaps a deal that any loan arrangements for fees include an amnesty if they return to the country and contribute to voluntary projects or development projects there, perhaps for a two year period. Debt paid. Finland can then write off that 300 million as an excellent and effective form of development aid.

    Finland would still be open to attract those people back to this country with sweeteners of the kind that JD pointed out, i.e. tax breaks in the first few years of working here.

    Gosh, would that be a win-win-win or what?

    • Enrique Tessieri

      I totally agree, Mark. We need to lure people to Finland especially those that bring skills to our country. Our society must be open to refugees as well and offer opportunities to grow. It’s always a win-win situation when any member of our society realizes his or her potential in our country or exceeds them.

  3. Joonas

    That tax break for foreign students sounds like an excellent idea! Of course, Finland really should advertise this option… But this might be a trap for many foreigners as well, if they are not able to get a job after the graduation or ends up in low end jobs (McJob).

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Hi Joonas, totally agree and the sooner the better. Finland faces a very serious demographic problem and who else will come to the rescue? Immigrants as in the past, present and future.

Leave a Reply