Greens: Free university education improves Finland’s international talent retention

Although not government policy yet, Greens are hoping to lay the groundwork for a bigger change in how Finland attracts and retains international workers.

File picture of international students / Credit: iStock

The Greens say they’d offer free university education for everyone who wants to study in Finland, no matter where they come from, or what their income is.

It’s part of a wider proposal to make it easier for foreign students to live and work in the country not just when they first come here, but after their studies as well.

The Greens say their idea would likely boost foreign talent retention and bring much-needed workers into the labour market.

MP Iiris Suomela says that while abolishing university tuition fees for international students is a plan that comes from her party, it’s also supported in government by the Left Alliance.

“Although we argued to get rid of tuition fees, what we ended up with is a more open proposal in the government programme that we find out the effects [of cancelling tuition fees for international students], and make the financial help system more efficient, and make the education system more accessible to everyone. It’s a possible first step to getting rid of tuition fees” she tells News Now Finland.

Suomela says that putting it simply, Finland needs more young people to come and work here.

File picture of MP Iiris Suomela (Green) / Credit: MP

Criticism from political opposition 

There has already been criticism from the right side of Finland’s political spectrum to the idea of abolishing university fees for students from outside the EU.

Suomela explains that when you compare the cost of educating someone for two or three years to the amount of tax money that person is going to bring into the economy both during their studies and after they graduate and get a job, it only takes a few years for them to pay back what they’re received from the state in free education.

“From that point on they end up being a net payer of taxes […] for most Finnish people it takes us a far longer time to pay that all back and then start paying as a next tax payer” she says.

Suomela notes that many students coming from outside the EU already receive scholarships from their universities so the state is anyway paying the cost of their tuition.

“If universities are paying for most of the international fees, what’s the point of having fees in the first place?” she asks.

File picture of students at Aalto University, spring 2019 / Credit: Aalto

Making education more accessible 

The Greens also want to streamline the current system of financial aid for universities – having one unified concept for all higher education institutions instead of many different systems.

“The first problem is the simple fact of tuition fees already makes some people not apply at all because it might not be clear to them how the financial system works” the freshman MP tells News Now Finland.

They want to make sure that while there are still tuition fees, financial help is given on a needs basis.

“That is something we are trying to fix and at least make it clear what the scholarship policies are and make them more consistent throughout the country.”

Helping the internationalisation process

Iiris Suomela says the new Green policy proposal to abolish tuition fees for students coming from outside the EU helps Finnish companies become more international.

She explains that lots of official funds are being poured into Finnish businesses to help them with international exports, and attracted skilled foreign workers.

“A lot of Finnish companies are really struggling with how to go international and grow outside of Europe, so when you consider that it is really odd that we put a barrier on people coming here” she says.

File photo of tables & chairs in a classroom / Credit: iStock