Why do we defend free education?

The Finnish educational system is known all over the world. We have topped the PISA (OECD Programme for International Student Assessment) rankings and a large share of the population has an academic degree. It is said that education was one of the most important reasons for how our poor, small and remote country became one of the richest nations in the world. The Finnish higher education system has an international reputation as being equal, accessible and of good quality.

The European economic crisis has resulted in big cuts in the public funding of universities in many countries and tuition fees have increased a great deal in the past few years. The tuition fees are defended by budget cuts and now there also seems to be a general desire to make education the individual’s own investment. Cutting back from education is short-sighted and regressive politics which must be stopped.

Even the small and remote Finland is not outside the European trends. Finnish universities have since 2010 had the opportunity to charge tuition fees from students who study in Master’s Programmes and who come from outside the EU and the EEA. Studies show that students give free tuition as the most important reason for choosing to study in Finland and similar results have also come from our neighbouring Sweden. In 2011 Sweden started charging tuition fees from all students who study in programmes leading to a higher education degree and who come from outside the EU and the EEA. In spite of this, tuition fees are defended by people in the business community as well as in the higher education institutions.

When the tuition fees are targeted at certain nationalities it creates controversy that can be interpreted as discrimination based on nationality. Tuition fees also endanger social mobility as even low tuition fees can make it more difficult for students coming from low-income backgrounds to get the education they want. It is hardly necessary to say that what we in the Western world think of as small tuition fees can be an extremely large investment to students who come from the poorest countries.

Tuition fees endanger genuine internationalisation when education is marketed only to those who have shown interest in education that comes with a fee and who are ready to pay the price. This kind of thinking is against all the aims and strategies that are drafted to justify internationalisation.

Finland has a high standard of living but our costs of living are also high. If education comes with a fee, it is possible that the international experts who have graduated here will want to go to countries which offer better value for their salaries. We need both international experts and tax-payers if we want to maintain our current level of social services. So tuition fees are an obstacle to internationalisation which is of utmost importance to the development of both the society and science.

As students throughout the world, the Finnish student movement has also strongly profiled itself as a defender of free education. The student movement has historically been a frontrunner in the society and we have promoted our own but also the society’s interests in cooperation. It is only through cooperation that we are able to defend tuition-free education and in so doing promote global equality.

niinajNiina Jurva
Member of the Board of the Student Union of University of Tampere 2012
Member of the Board of the National Union of University Students in Finland 2013

 

 

 

Wagtail – migratory bird

The wagtail is the provincial bird of the Tampere Region

Wagtails are small birds with long tails which they wag frequently. Wagtails are slender, often colourful, ground-feeding insectivores of open country in the Old World. They are ground nesters, laying up to six speckled eggs at a time. Among their most conspicuous behaviours is a near constant tail wagging, a trait that has given the birds their common name.

(source: Wikipedia)