As of recently TREY (@trey) has launched a campaign emphasizing the inequality that tuition fees bring to the student community by dividing students into paying ones and non-paying ones. TAYK highly supports this campaign that goes under the hashtag #freeEducation. TAYK decided to take on the challenge and express why free education for everyone is important!
In public discussion, the excellency of the Finnish education system is often brought up. It’s free, it is of good quality and treats everyone the same regardless of their socio-economic background – for Finns. Students arriving to Finland from outside the EU and ETA-countries have been set a tuition fee, which ranges between 8.000 to 12.000 euros, according to Tampere University’s website. Scholarships and financial support often depend on academic excellence the student has shown during their studies, which creates competition and excessive stress over studies.
Victor Theoret, Canadian international student in Tampere University’s Leadership for Change Master’s Programme says, “The scholarship programme is a true nightmare. It implicitly demands students to have the best GPA average, leading to an unbearable competition for education. We relentlessly struggle in every course to get fives, which is the only graspable hope to secure our next year.“
The #freeEducation campaign promotes social inclusion within our society and in our university. Addressing the need of students paying tuition by signing an open letter to the university, TAYK exercises its role in contributing to the achievement and communication of the Sustainable Development Goals.
SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable education for all
Education should be available for everyone. The Finnish Government has set strict goals for improving the educational level in young adults in Finland, with emphasizing the importance of higher education. International students shuld be able to benefit from the quality education supplied by the Finnish institutions of higher education along with Finnish students. International degree students are in a vulnerable position by leaving their home countries, relatives, but also grants provided by their home countries entering a new culture, job market and environment. Free education would be beneficial in securing quality education, as students don’t have to rush their studies and compete with their fellow students and thus get to know Finland and the opportunities here better.
SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
The tuition fees are concerning non-EU students which is, de facto, tightening people to their country of origin. Opening borders and promoting international community should aim at tackling discrimination, exclusion and segregation leaving aside financial motivation. The SDG number 10 is working toward equality within and among countries, by promoting free education for all – this goal can be tackled from the university level and lead the way for other institutions.
The effect of COVID-19
The pandemic increased the precarious situation of fee paying students who are questioning their ability to complete their degree because of their financial situation. The issue here is, that Tampere University has not acknowledged the situation many of the international students are facing at this moment. The criteria for scholarships is only based on numbers, i.e. how well one does and how many credits one achieves, and at that, does not take into account the pressure COVID-19 creates on all students.
By being vocal on the scholarship situation, students paying tuition are sharing their struggle and the high competition installed by this system. Some students share their high level of anxiety in the “race to top grades”, preventing them from fully enjoying their experience in Finland and repulsing them from the academic community.
Victor is worried for the next academic year and says,” I can’t imagine my next year, as I could not afford it. I share courses with classmates, but not their cost. This system requires financial resources that are in total rupture with students’ reality.”
With this statement, TAYK is shedding light on who is at risk of being excluded from development, the subject today being international degree students. During the COVID-19 pandemic social inclusion has never been more important.
Leaving no one behind is the central aspiration that underlines the Agenda 2030 adopted by the UN in 2015. TAYK hopes that Tampere University will not turn its back on its excellent international students during this time, but hears their call for greater social inclusion.
The authors of this post are members of the board of TAYK, students at Tampere University and worried for their international friends.