International students need employment that corresponds to their education, as well as integration into Finnish society, said Rector Jukka Mönkkönen in the university’s Opening Ceremony of the Academic Year 2023–2023.
Speaking in the Opening Ceremony of the Academic Year, Rector Jukka Mönkkönen addressed the current debate on immigration and the need for international talent, as well as Finland’s attractiveness. The Opening Ceremony was held on the Joensuu Campus on 7 September 2023.
“Equal opportunities created by the welfare state for all citizens – be they born here or coming from elsewhere – is a core value of Finnish society. Safeguarding the preconditions of a good life for all Finns, while also boosting immigration and internationalisation, are critical for the future of our country,” Mönkkönen pointed out.
Finland needs more labour and educational immigration in the coming years, as the country’s current demographic trend is leading to shortages of labour in several sectors of society. Universities are expected to triple their number of international students by 2030, and these students are hoped to secure employment in Finland after graduation.
The Finnish Government’s new Government Programme includes a provision that students from outside the EU/EEA should pay for tuition in full. According to Mönkkönen, this is logical, but also problematic: in many countries, international students to pay high tuition fees, but also have no difficulty finding employment there – in Finland, the situation is different.
“Here in Finland, we too should be able to offer graduates employment that corresponds to their education and integrate them into Finnish society. This is something we haven't been very good at, and it looks like the situation isn’t getting better during this Government’s term in office. Indeed, the Government’s restrictive immigration policy and the racism permeating our society aren’t exactly making us an attractive alternative to foreigners. The global competition for talent is fierce and Finland should do everything it can to succeed in this competition,” Mönkkönen noted.
According to Mönkkönen, the debate currently taking place in Finland is characterised by confrontations and enemy images. As the groups advocating their interests become increasingly diverse, the likelihood of conflicts will also grow. Mönkkönen noted that resolving these conflicts through civil and multidimensional debate is at the heart of an open, democratic society.
Despite being relatively international organisations, universities, too, have their share of work cut out for them.
“We need to be able to look at our own values, attitudes, services and structures both as organisations and as individuals, and to identify the measures required by genuine internationalisation and the resulting diversity. UEF’s recently renewed and outstanding Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities Plan provides guidelines for this work.”
Minister Sari Multala: “Education and skills are our best protection”
Speaking in the Opening Ceremony, Minister of Science and Culture Sari Multala pointed out that international tensions are felt strongly in Eastern Finland in particular.
“The vitality of Eastern Finland must be seen as a national security policy issue. The Government has decided to continue its vision for the development of Eastern Finland in this new geopolitical situation. I see the role of education and research, and development and innovation activity, in this work as absolutely essential.”
“In the midst of major changes, education and skills are our best protection. By ensuring that half of our young age groups complete higher education, and by improving the working-age population’s opportunities for updating their skills throughout the career, we as individuals and society are better prepared to face the diverse challenges of the future,” Multala pointed out.
According to Multala, the number of international talents must be increased.
“It is important for Finland to be a responsible, welcoming and open trailblazer of international collaboration in education and research. I want international experts and their families to feel welcomed to Finnish universities at every stage of their studies, career and life,” Multala said.