During 2010-2014, Finland had a tuition trial run. Certain English-language Master’s degree programmes cost tuition (8,000 €) for non-EU students and institutions were allowed to charge if they so desired. If they did, they also had to provide scholarship options. The tuition trial is complete and so all institutions have returned to the model of no tuition fees for any student, regardless of nationality. As of now, there is no news regarding the future of tuition.
Going to university in Finland is not “free” as all students are responsible for their housing, food, transportation, and so forth. For non-EU/EEA students to receive a student residence permit, immigration requires at least 560 € per month. Since permits are renewed annually, a student will need to prove they have that amount each year (though they do not have to pay it). Many schools (like the University of Turku) charge admission to be in the Student Union, which is required for all students except exchange. There are additional smaller charges for a student card, computer lab key, and university sports fee. Many services (like buses and trains) offer student discounts.
Students in Finland can expect to pay living expenses of an approximated 700-900 € per month. This figure is the same for both EU residents as well as non EU residents. Fluctuations in the living costs vary depending on where in Finland a student studies. Larger cities like Helsinki, often boast higher living costs. In order to obtain a residence permit, international students wishing to study in Finland need to be able to prove that they are able to cover the cost of living for at least one year.
Since university is not truly free, there are several options when it comes to financing a student’s education. There are study abroad grants, home country loans, student loans (for Finnish students), and scholarships. A student can also search online for scholarships and grants that apply internationally, or find organisations within their specific field that offer aid. Loan amount and arrangement depends upon each country, each institution, and each student’s situation. Public support for higher education is very high in Finland. The country has worked hard to develop a culture of learning, and has made it a goal that by 2020, 42% of young adults would have gotten a university or polytechnic degree. The local or national government owns most of the educational institutions, and the government takes responsibility for providing assorted social benefits for students. These benefits include help with housing, meal costs, childcare and healthcare.
Since Finland does not charge tuition for its universities, scholarships aren’t particularly promoted or used, but some do exist. CIMO is responsible for most of the scholarships, which generally apply to students wanting to learn Finnish as well as those studying at the Doctoral Level or carrying out research at a Finnish university. There is also the Finnish Government Scholarship Pool, which is given out by the Finnish government to students at the doctoral level in any field. This scholarship lasts for 3-9 months, depending on the course of study or research. Several universities in Finland also participate in the Erasmus Mundus scholarships, which apply all through Europe. The aid applies to courses that fall into the Erasmus Mundus Master’s and doctorate courses, and gives students the opportunity to study in at least two different universities based in Europe. The Erasmus Mundus scholarship offers up to 48.000 € for Non-EU/EEA students and up to 23.000 € for students who are EU/EEA nationals.
There are three main types of student loans available for qualifying students: study grants, housing supplement, and the government guarantee for student loans. Study grants become available for Finnish students as soon as he or she is no longer eligible for child benefits. The housing supplement assists students living in rented or right-of-occupancy accommodations, and even if the student does not qualify for the aforementioned aid, they can apply for a general housing allowance. The government guarantee is for when a student does not qualify for any other loan. They are allowed to apply for a bank loan. The specific arrangements (interest, etc) are made between the bank and student. There are other minor loans that can be accessed that are specific to school travel, meals, or interest on loans (for a student with a low income). The amount of aid given out depends upon each specific student and their situation. KELA (Social Insurance Institution) is responsible for giving out the loans. KELA is mostly for Finnish citizens, but if a student is registered as a permanent resident or is in Finland for a reason other than education (working there, return migration, etc), they may also be eligible for aid.
The job market is difficult for students while they are studying, though many do work in order to pay for their university costs and living expenses. For non-EU students, they are allowed to work only if their job is considered relevant to the degree or if the number of hours for a part-time job does not go over 25 per week. After graduation, the rate of those unemployed over 25 years old is 6.7%. This is a little better than some other European countries (like Ireland). The rate of employed from age 15 to 64 in Finland is 70%. This is above the OECD average rating, which is 65%.