International students highly satisfied with teaching

International students are very satisfied with the teaching at the University of Helsinki, but point out the need for improvement in career guidance and lament the lack of integration in the Finnish academic community. The International Student Barometer measured student satisfaction.

“In general, most international students are satisfied with the University of Helsinki. Particularly learning and teaching receive high praise, with some areas and faculties recording student satisfaction levels upwards of 90%. Problematic areas are in employment and career guidance,” says Nannette Ripmeester of i-graduate.

The results are from the International Student Barometer, conducted by the research service i-graduate. The previous International Student Barometer the University of Helsinki participated in was in 2010.

“The University of Helsinki has made many improvements since 2010, but there’s still work to be done,” says Ripmeester.

International students praised the University’s language support, group sizes and educational options. All areas of teaching received high marks. The high quality of lectures and lecturers and the use of English in teaching were particularly lauded.

The students consider the learning environments – libraries, electronic information services and laboratories – to be excellent. Student services, health care and IT services were also positively regarded.

The results also indicate that the students feel that they are a part of the student community, for example, their feedback has had an impact on teaching.

Requests for career guidance from teachers

The students’ wish list is not difficult to decipher:

“The students would particularly like to receive more career guidance from their teachers,” Ripmeester emphasises.

The survey used the term “employability”, which entails more than just the capacity to be employed.

“The concept also involves a sense of having learned something the student can use in employment as well as a rough understanding of what work in their field is like and how they can apply their knowledge and skills,” Ripmeester explains.

The lack of sufficient career guidance was already apparent in the 2010 International Student Barometer. The University has since recognised the problem and improved its results.

“After the previous International Student Barometer, we have offered career courses particularly for students at the Master's degree stage. We also employ mentoring,” explains Laura Teinilä, Head of Career Services. “But we still must increase our contacts with employers in both Career Services and teaching. Every international Master’s programme should include a traineeship period or project course.”

Chinese the largest group

At the moment, the University of Helsinki has 900 international students both completing the Master’s degree and the doctoral degree. In 2014, there were 998 incoming exchange students, while the goal was 1,200.

The largest nationality group among international students is Chinese, at 14%. The next largest groups are German and Russian. In total, the students hail from 70 different countries.

The University’s own statistics indicate that approximately a third of prospective international students decline a study place offered to them. Of them, 65% had received a study place elsewhere in Finland or abroad.

Reputation and quality of research as motivators

According to the survey, 42% of the participating students would actively recommend the University of Helsinki to others, and 45% would recommend it if specifically asked. Such willingness to recommend the University is average among participating European universities.

The main criteria for selecting the place of study are the reputation of the institution in question, the quality of its research and the price of studies. According to the respondents, the most challenging part of applying to the University of Helsinki is the approval process, which takes too long.

For international students, the aspects making Helsinki less attractive are its high costs of living and accommodation as well as the lack of active connections between international and local students. Transportation, however, was considered to function better than anywhere else. Finland's top draws are safety and quality of life.