The Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of the Interior set up a cooperation group on 22 March to support the entry and integration of international university students in Finland. According to the information published by the Finnish Government on this topic, the aim is "to find measures to streamline entry and residence practices".
The creation of this working group was announced in early April on a release together by the Finnish ministries of the Interior and Education and Culture. The text remarked the need for cooperation between different administrations and universities "to streamline the process of entering higher education students and to provide better opportunities for graduates to work in Finland".
The task of the working group is to draw "a common picture of the fluency of international students' entry processes and their integration into the Finnish labor market and, if necessary, propose improvements to current practices". Therefore, the group is expected to make suggestions on how to strengthen cross-administrative cooperation and how to increase networking and information flow in order to achieve the desired results.
According to the Finnish Government's description of the current situation, this is not just about attracting more foreign students to Finland, but about retaining them in the country once their training is finished. Otherwise, the country faces a serious risk of losing competitiveness in front of other international actors:
In this sense, the Government's statement explains that "the number of working-age people in Finland is decreasing and workers are not enough for all sectors. One of the answers to labor market problems is immigration. In addition to the international student entry and residence permit processes, new ways of promoting the employment of foreigners graduated here have to be found in Finland. It is in Finland's favor that the person who studied here could stay here for work".
The Finnish Minister of Education, Sanni Grahn-Laasonen emphasized that the country could lose the train of economic growth if it turns its back on the highly skilled foreign workforce. "Finland inevitably needs high-skilled international experts to secure the availability of a skilled workforce. We need to find ways in which Finland can continue to compete for international experts and help those future professionals to find work more fluently than before. Economic growth must not be caught up in the shortage of experts".
In the same sense, the Minister of the Interior, Kai Mykkänen, said that "for more international students to stay in Finland after graduation, they need to feel welcome. We need to make sure that the residence permit processes are smooth. Employers must also be encouraged to hire foreign experts".
Opportunities for asylum seekers
Other Governmental departments are also represented in the working group, such as the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Employment, together with Immigration authorities and universities.
The Governmental release says they will also try to identify study and employment opportunities "for those who have come to Finland for non-study purposes. This group includes, for example, asylum seekers".
According to the OECD's Education at a Glance report (2018), international students outside their home country were about 5 million in 2016, and 3.5 million of them were studying in OECD countries. More than half of all international students studied in four English-speaking countries.
Rich in English-language education
Countries such as Finland, also rich in English-language education programs, have attracted a significant number of international students too. However, increasing the number of students studying outside their home country does not mean that competition for international experts will be easier.
One of the goals of Higher Education and Research 2030 is that Finland is the home of the most skilled workforce. To achieve this goal, more foreign experts are needed in Finland, such as university students and researchers.
The co-operation group is chaired by Director Birgitta Vuorinen from the Ministry of Education and Culture and Vice Chairman Jarmo Tiukkanen, from the Ministry of the Interior. Other members are Tsu Tuominen (Ministry for Foreign Affairs), Sonja Hämäläinen (Ministry of Employment and the Economy), Leena Turku (Director of Immigration), Hanna Boman (Educational Board), Anna Grönlund , (University of Jyväskylä), Matti Sarén (Kajaani University of Applied Sciences, Arene ry). Kaisu Piiroinen (OKM) and Roope Jokinen (Ministry of the Interior).
The collaboration group works closely with Talent Boost and the Forum for the Internationalization of Universities. The co-operation team's term of office runs until 15 June 2019.
If you want to read the Finnish Government's original release on this issue, you can find it HERE