Over the past few months, there have been talks about bringing back tuition fees for Finnish degree students. Among others, the Finnish Education Employers (FEE) and the Ministry of Finance have suggested that institutions of higher education should be allowed to charge a fee for taking a second degree of the same level. In the outlook review published by the Ministry of Education and Culture, they hinted at implementing tuition fees and suggested raising the tuition fees of students coming from outside of EU and EEA countries. Tuition fees were presented as a solution to both the challenges in university funding and for raising competence levels.
However, tuition fees would not resolve either issue. When it comes to funding, the impact of tuition fees has been minimal as far as the existing fees for students coming outside of EU and EEA countries are concerned. And students taking their second degree are so few and far between that any tuition fees charged from them would hardly make a difference financially. When it comes to raising competence levels, tuition fees would only have a diminishing effect.
There is a growing need for highly educated labour. The goal in Finland is for 50% of the young age group to have a degree in higher education, and it has been indicated that that number should be as high as 70%. For these percentages to be an attainable goal, we must build structures to advance the accessibility of higher education. Tuition fees, even moderate ones, would be in direct opposition to this goal.
Higher education cannot be viewed as a direct path to high income. For those coming from humbler socio-economic beginnings, the threshold to even apply to higher education could grow too high because of tuition fees. This would significantly increase the already substantial and hereditary educational divide.
When one seeks out education in another field, it is often due to very human reasons, like not finding work in your previous field, for example. The Finnish education system must offer the opportunity to change directions without unnecessary impasses. Free education must be safeguarded for everyone. Suggestions of tuition fees must be buried, and we must focus on putting our efforts into high-quality higher education.
Chair of the Student Union of Tampere University
Chair of the Students’ Union of Tampere University of Applied Sciences