“We will develop common pathway studies in technology and engineering targeted at international students,” Aalto University promised to the Ministry of Education and Culture in a performance agreement signed in December 2020. Who would have thought that this little sentence would result in a major project of fee-paying education?
Based on this sentence, a pilot project was launched to develop pathway studies and their use as admissions criteria for bachelor’s programmes in English at Aalto University and Tampere University. The result was a 20-credit remote programme, which costs the student almost € 5,000 to complete and thus gain a place at a Finnish university. Preparations for the pilot revealed that pathway studies could only be arranged as expensive continuing education. The student unions of Aalto and Tampere universities were strictly opposed to this even in the spring of 2022.
There are now plans to expand this so-called continuing education not only to new universities — first to Oulu, then maybe to Eastern Finland and LUT University — but also beyond the field of technology and engineering to the Aalto University School of Business. The sentence has created an insidious continuum: universities are making decisions on admissions criteria for individual programmes without extensive, principled debate on their expensive price.
At the end of March, even Director General of the Ministry of Education and Culture Atte Jääskeläinen wondered how the Ministry was persuaded to implement pathway studies as continuing education. Mr Jääskeläinen’s opinion is well grounded — the implementation is clearly against the spirit of free student admissions prescribed in the Universities Act. According to the Act, commissioned education may not be used to bypass student admissions, but the Ministry has given its blessing to use the “continuing education” of five thousand euro as part of the admissions criteria.
“It is extremely questionable that pathway studies are more extensively used as admissions criteria without thorough discussion. This is regarded as a matter of student admissions, and suddenly we notice that the arrangement is widely used even before the pilot has ended,” says Suvi-Anna Salminen, the chair of the Student Union of the University of Oulu.
It is unacceptable that we must discuss the unreasonable price of pathway studies for individual degree programmes over and over again. “Fee-paying education is expanded insidiously without debate. This development must stop, and we must continue to preserve free student admissions,” Anniina Honkasaari, the chair of the Student Union of Tampere University, emphasises.
Chairs of the Boards
Ida Parkkinen, Aalto University Student Union
Anniina Honkasaari, Student Union of Tampere University
Suvi-Anna Salminen, Student Union of University of Oulu
Jenna Rantanen, Specialist in educational and international affairs, TREY