Training in academic readiness provides immigrants with a route to education and professional life

AKVA training in academic readiness has received positive feedback on, for example, guidance and the establishment of equal opportunities. More than half of those who completed the previous training programme found employment or were admitted to study already during or immediately after the training.

The AKVA training scheme in academic readiness was launched in 2021 to promote immigrants’ access to higher education and Finnish professional life. The training, funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, has been organised in cooperation with the University of Helsinki and the University of Helsinki Centre for Continuing Education HY+. 

The target group for the training is immigrants with higher education qualifications or eligible for higher education who wish to study in Finnish-language degree programmes or supplement their skills. Some students wish to smooth their transition to the Finnish labour market.  

Polishing proficiency in Finnish for higher education studies 

The training focuses on polishing proficiency in the Finnish language to level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (document in Finnish only), an entry-level requirement for most university degrees. Studies in Finnish focus on the diverse study of academic text types and language as well as vocabulary used in professional life. The aim of the studies is to provide students with sufficient language skills for succeeding in higher education and their careers. Teaching in Finnish is available throughout the academic year. 

The training also includes IT skills, English, learning skills, social studies as well as education and career guidance. In addition, students can take courses in their field to see concretely what studies in the field are like at university. On the courses, students also accumulate their field-specific Finnish-language vocabulary, which supports their future goals.  

Praise for usefulness 

AKVA training has been commended for, among other things, its usefulness, its friendly learning environment, the amount and quality of its guidance, and its establishment of equal opportunities for immigrants. More than half of the participants in the second AKVA programme found a job or student place during or immediately after the training.  

The current objective is to develop the monitoring of the impact of AKVA training, both in the short and long term. 

As part of its higher education support for immigrants (SIMHE), the University of Helsinki has aimed to promote the accessibility of education for immigrants with higher education qualifications. The long-term goal is to integrate the preparatory training into the University’s educational responsibilities. Another important aim for the future is to intensify collaboration with degree programmes. 

“At the moment, the continuation of AKVA training is uncertain. For the time being, the development of these studies has been secured with project funding. However, there is a clear need for such training among immigrants who specifically seek access to education and labour markets with high language skills requirements,” says Rebekka Nylund from Strategic Services for Teaching, University of Helsinki. 

Preparatory training such as AKVA is a concrete way of integrating immigrants into Finnish society and the labour market. In fact, the training is linked to a broader discussion on retention of the international talents or how to help smooth the path to studying, pursuing a career in their field and settling in Finland for immigrants with higher education qualifications.  

University support for both studies and careers

At the time of its launch in 2021, AKVA stemmed from structural challenges identified in the opportunities of immigrants with higher education qualifications acquired abroad to complement their studies and continue their professional careers in Finland.   

In the third AKVA training round, organised in the academic year 2023–2024, the Finnish language and culture at the University of Helsinki has contributed to the provision of teaching. In addition, participants have studied basic courses in their fields at various faculties. The University’s guidance and career counselling staff overseeing higher education advice for immigrants have provided guidance and mentoring.  

The third AKVA training round organised this academic year is part-time and lasts for 10 months. The students come from many countries, are of varying ages and have degrees of varying levels from a range of fields.