Universities are gateways for attracting international talent to Finland

Students arriving from around the world have a strong impact on Finland’s economy, growth and development.

We lack contributors to the future maintenance of the welfare state. We need more people of working age in Finland, more talent – more immigrants. Universities are gateways to Finland from the world outside, and this channel should be increasingly used to attract international talent to our country.

For the University, the international community is important, and we are lucky to see it growing from year to year. Currently, 10.8% of students in our master’s programmes and 22.6% of our doctoral researchers are from countries other than Finland, with Chinese, Russian and American as the most common nationalities. Our goal at the University is to significantly increase the number of international students in the coming years.

However, attraction alone is not enough – traction is also required to make students stay in Finland following graduation.

The significance of international students extends far beyond the walls of higher education institutions. Students arriving from around the world have a strong impact on Finland’s economy, growth and development. International students, researchers, professors and other staff bring to the University and society as a whole not only their diverse expertise and international networks, but also valuable views and cultural diversity. Getting them to stay in Finland would have a considerable role in closing our skills gap as well as boosting our support ratio and international competitiveness.

As evidenced by a Finnish-language article in the Helsingin Sanomat daily on 10 January, numerous factors currently influence the outlook of students reflecting on whether to stay or go. Many of them are extremely impressed by Finland’s safety and reliability: effective and well-managed infrastructure and public transport, a high sense of security in general, and a low social hierarchy.

At the same time, the challenges of finding employment in Finnish businesses, the withdrawn nature of Finnish society and difficulties in making friends with Finns are factors in support of leaving.

Finland needs immigrants. This is why we should all support their arrival and attachment throughout society: in educational institutions and businesses, in decision-making, in neighbourhoods and hobby groups – everywhere.

The Finnish government must urgently take measures to increase education- and work-based immigration and draw up a comprehensive plan for attracting talent to Finland and keeping them here. The international community is in dire need of positive signals from Finland. Otherwise, the experts we want and need will go elsewhere.

Hanna Snellman

Vice-Rector, University of Helsinki

Ekaterina Rodina

Student & HYY International Committee

This opinion piece was published in the Helsingin Sanomat daily on 29 January 2024.