Major Finnish universities expressed their supports on Friday for the incoming government's move to charge tuition fees from university-level students from outside the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA).
Earlier on Wednesday, the new ruling coalition issued its first outline of immigration policies, saying that the incoming cabinet intends to collect tuition fees.
In an interview with the Finnish daily Turun Sanomat, rectors of some of the major Finnish universities expressed their solid supports for the tuition fee scheme, claiming that the fees would help universities to develop their teaching and improve the competitiveness.
The principals from the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, the University of Turku and Abo Akademi University said that Finnish higher education institutions must have decision-making powers to collect payment and to allocate incomes they receive.
They admitted that collecting tuition fees could reduce the number of foreign students at the beginning, but believed that the situation will change over time.
Jukka Kola, Rector of the University of Helsinki, cited an example of the University of Lund in Sweden, saying that the number of foreign students in the university has decreased, but the level has risen since the tuition fee was introduced.
Kola argued that for universities the most important thing is the quality, but not the number of students.
Currently, higher education in Finland is free to almost everyone admitted at undergraduate level.
Last October, the Finnish government raised a proposal to impose tuition fees on students from outside the EEA. According to the proposal, the tuition fee would be at least 4,000 euros (4,550 U.S. dollars) per academic year required for students pursuing a degree in programs conducted in languages other than Finnish and Swedish.
After the initiative was first revealed, most of the Finnish higher education institutions and some industrial organizations expressed their support for the motion. However, the plan met criticism from some Finnish student groups, unions of universities teachers and researchers, as well as some opposition parties and even cabinet parties, who claimed that it threatens education equality and the national economy.
The government had to shelve the plan, as the cabinet parties could not reach agreement on the issue under the pressure of critics.
A report conducted by the Boston Consulting Group said that Finland needs at least 400,000 immigrants by 2030 to serve the needs of the labor market.
According to the Center for International Mobility of Finland, every year around 20,000 non-EEA students study in Finnish universities and polytechnics, but less than half are employed in Finland within a year after graduation.
Therefore, the lately published outline of immigration policies stressed that Finland encourages graduates to work in Finland through a tax deduction policy even though tuition fees will be charged.