The near paralysis in international educational exchanges caused by the coronavirus will come to an end next fall. The situation will not yet be as before the pandemic, but the figures for academic exchanges will be clearly higher than the previous year.
International mobility of students at higher education institutions is expected to increase significantly in autumn semester 2021 compared with the year before.
This is one of the findings of a survey addressed by the Finnish National Agency for Education (OPH) to higher education institutions in early June, to which all 37 institutions responded.
According to the survey, almost 2,300 students of Finnish higher education institutions are going on international exchanges or traineeships in the autumn, whereas in autumn semester 2020, only slightly over 700 exchanges ultimately went ahead.
Nevertheless, the number of outgoing students is still only about one half of the normal level.
The number of exchange students arriving in Finland is considerably higher than the number of outgoing students: 4,850 students are expected to arrive in Finland, whereas in autumn semester 2020, the number of foreign exchange students at Finnish higher education institutions was 2,150.
The reported figures are estimates that may still change due to the COVID-19 situation.
Mobility cancelled due to Covid-19
In autumn 2020, roughly one out of three higher education institutions cancelled all student mobility due to the Covid-19 pandemic. "In the forthcoming autumn semester, however, their policies will take a much more positive stance on mobility," says OPH in a statement.
Regarding outgoing student mobility, only one higher education institution that responded to the survey said that no exchanges would be arranged in the autumn, while another institution reported that it would only send out students completing a double degree.
Other higher education institutions intend to send students out on exchanges or traineeship periods if this is allowed by the restrictions put in place by the authorities in Finland and the destination countries and if the host institutions are willing to receive the students.
Several higher education institutions specified in their responses that only long exchange periods of several months will go ahead in the autumn semester.
While incoming exchange students will outnumber outgoing ones by a considerably margin in the autumn, 11 higher education institutions have imposed restrictions on incoming students.
For example, these institutions intend to limit the number of students they receive, or only receive double degree or postgraduate students, or students from the EU countries.
Some higher education institutions will insist that the students expressly undertake to comply with the rules and Covid-19 restrictions of the institution and Finland.
Two higher education institutions do not intend to accept any incoming exchange students, says the Finnish National Agency for Education, without specifying which ones.
The coronavirus pandemic has also taken a toll on international degree students at Finnish higher education institutions. Some new students admitted in 2020 were unable to arrive in Finland because of the pandemic; consequently, some of them postponed the start of their studies, while others stayed in their home countries and opted for distance learning.
Higher education institutions estimate that some of those who postponed their studies a year ago will arrive in Finland this autumn. On the other hand, some students admitted in the application process of 2021 may decide to postpone their studies by one year if they cannot enter the country due to restrictions on entry or problems in permit processes. Some may also stay in their home countries and go for distance learning, as this option is facilitated by many higher education institutions.