International education and education export
Education is the cornerstone of Finnish well-being. One of the cornerstones of education, in turn, is internationalisation, which is strongly motivated by a need for expertise and labour. In this context, internationalisation refers to Finnish students going abroad, to international students coming to Finland, and to the export of Finnish education.
Recent years have not witnessed a significant increase in the mobility of Finnish university students in terms of student exchange and international internship. To boost this development, universities need to offer financial support and increasingly good mobility services. First and foremost, however, the studies completed abroad need to be counted towards the degree in full.
We also need to attract an increasing number of exchange students, but our limited number of courses aimed at this group has proven to be a bottleneck in the process. We offer a wide variety of courses and programmes taught in English at Master's level, but too few at Bachelor's level. The fact remains that most exchange students are Bachelor's degree students and need courses at that level. We need to work across subject, department and faculty borders to ensure a sufficiently extensive and relevant selection of courses for exchange students.
Lately, education export has been a topic of much discussion in Finland, as it is hoped that education will become the country's next big export hit. The objective is to turn Finland into one of the world's leading economies resting on education and the quality of the education system, as well as to significantly increase the share of education of Finland's overall exports in the coming years.
Finnish education fares well in all international comparisons. In other words, our reputation and product are solid, but when it comes to exporting our product, we have only made it to the starting line. Finnish legislation does not allow the charging of tuition fees from students coming from outside the EU and EEA, making the financial sustainability of education export rather challenging. Furthermore, plenty of work still needs to be done when it comes to the marketing, pricing and administration of our education export products.
The University of Eastern Finland, together with the University of Tampere and the University of Turku, has taken a pioneering role in education export in Finland. We have jointly established a company, Finland University Inc., to boost education export. The company is tasked with the marketing and administration of the owner universities' education export products, allowing people at the universities to focus on their development and implementation.
Finnish university education has everything it takes to become increasingly international, and this is also something it needs to do. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and do what needs to be done.