Education export is a new concept in Finland. We have marketed continuing education abroad for approximately a decade, but we cannot sell degrees, even though they are the main product of the international education export market.
Our laws dictate that we cannot charge individual international students for tuition fees; we can only sell customised group education.
Since the government is looking to education to become a new export industry, it should also reform the legislation to render these hopes feasible. The preparatory work is more than sufficient, international precedents abound, and we can easily avoid the mistakes made in the Swedish system. Now all we need are decisions.
We must speed up the application and admissions processes for universities, or we risk losing the best applicants to other institutions. The dominant countries are the US and the UK, along with other English-speaking countries with high tuition fees. Many believe in a correlation between high prices and high quality. This may be a false prejudice, but it is a persistent one.
Universities should be allowed to decide for themselves how much and whether to charge tuition for their Master's degree programmes, for example. In addition to a scholarship system to support students of limited means, we also need to be able to waive tuition to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
Continuing education is an important part of education export. In such cases, the fees are typically paid not by individual students, but by a government, other university or company. A good example of this is the two-week course, tailor-made for China Development Bank, during which 29 economists studied the concepts of environmental policy and the risks of environmental investments in Helsinki in 2013. The bank covered the expenses, the unit that provided the education received income, and Chinese finance experts improved their understanding of responsible investments.
Finland is also an interesting country due to its reputation as a model education provider. Rovio and the pedagogy experts at our University are currently cooperating to create new kinds of learning materials for children. A new export industry will not create itself. Universities must be allowed to commodify their expertise and cooperate with both each other and companies.
As soon as our legislation is reformed and we find the right ways to navigate the highly competitive education market, education export could become an important factor in the internationalisation of our University.
Rector Jukka Kola's editorial was published in the university's science magazine, Yliopisto, on 26.9.2014.