Why has Finland introduced tuition fees for non-EU students?

finland, international education, tuition fees, international students, higher education

Nordic universities have for a long time been renowned for their offer of free education and focus on the value of learning. However, the Nordic tradition of free tuition for non-EU students is fast becoming a thing of the past. Denmark introduced tuition fees for non-Europeans in 2006 and Sweden followed suit in 2011. Accordingly, enrolment of overseas students fell sharp shortly after fees were introduced.

Last year, Finland has announced it will follow in its neighbours’ footsteps. Fees for non-EU students will come into effect as of 1 August 2017. As with all educational legislation, the move to introduce the fees has proved incredibly contentious ever since the idea was proposed. Read on for a summary of the two sides of the argument.

Helsinki skyline

Image by Ville Hyvönen, used under a CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

The case for fees

Many in the education industry argue that if universities are to continue delivering world-class education to its students, they must acquire the appropriate resources to do so.

The arguments in support of tuition fees include ministers and politicians in Finland and beyond, business representatives and university managers who take a liberal stance on education as a private good. Their main points are as follows:

  • The competition for international students enhances teaching quality and makes Finnish universities more competitive internationally

  • Finnish taxpayers have generally agreed to contribute in the investment required to improve the national quality of education. As such, a large number would be in support of enabling Finnish nationals to uptake higher education. Many think it’s unfair to force taxpayers to pay for the education and social benefits of international migrants

  • International fees will become a new source of revenue for universities

Why the fees were opposed

The main group against tuition fees have been Finnish student organisations. The biggest concern is the precedent it would set in terms of tuition fee reforms. Those opposing the fees fear it would open the gate to reform for a national level as well. The student organisations were joined by many Finnish politicians and academics. Their key arguments include:

  • A tuition-free system provides more opportunity for students from developing countries an opportunity to participate in higher education

  • Introduction of tuition fees would lead to a significant decrease in the number of international students, and would, therefore, undermine Finnish internationalisation efforts

  • Tuition fees would mean a drop in representation from certain countries, resulting in a drop in quality and diversity of students

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For a long time, Finland has been assertive about its view on education as a human right, despite economic and political variables. This has been as much of a cultural attitude as it has been a political policy. This is one of the main factors which make Finnish education different to that of the UK, USA and Australia.

Nonetheless, the eventual introduction of tuition fees will present new opportunities, and will undoubtedly challenge universities to think of new and innovative ways to attract non-EU students.


Has your university recently introduced fees for non-EU students? Get in touch to learn more about how FULL FABRIC can help you administrate tuition fees in a simple and efficient way.

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finland international education tuition fees international students higher education

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Reet Sen

Reet Sen

I am a Business Development Executive at FULL FABRIC. I love travelling, good food and the outdoors.

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