The number of applications for student visas in Finland increased in 2023, up 48% from 2022, according to the nation’s immigration agency.
The immigration service addressed the backlog of applications in its announcement.
By the end of July, 8,762 non-EU nationals had applied for residence with the purpose of attending school, up from 5,911 at the same period last year.
The Finnish Immigration Service described the growth as “dramatic” and noted that there was “growing” interest in the nation’s educational system.
Harri Suominen, the co-founder of Edunation and AsiaExchange, stated in an interview with The PIE that “Finland is increasingly being picked up on the radars of students and recruitment agencies.”
“While it would be wonderful to believe it is solely due to outstanding marketing efforts by institutions and Finland, a great deal of it can be attributed to recent changes in our residence permit procedures – not having application fees, and minimizing the red tape,” he stated.
The reduction of red tape has led to an increase in enrollment at institutions. Tampere University’s Joanna Kumpula told The PIE that the university is shattering records “left and right.”
“At this time, it appears that the number of new international master’s students is rising by roughly 42%.
“I say roughly because there will likely be some cancellations owing to the lengthy wait lists for residence permits. The largest increases [in Tampere] have mostly coincided with national increases and have primarily been among students from countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
“Many of those students have not even been able to receive their interview times with consulates before the semester starts,” she said.
The immigration office said in its release that it had been able to “process more applications than ever during the same period” in response to the backlog of applications, which has become a critical problem for Finland as numbers rebound after Covid.
As we do every year, we increase our resources to be ready for the summer. We have also additional staff to process applications filed by students for the remainder of the year due to the noticeably increased number of applications, according to Anu Tarén, head of the section of permission and nationality unit at the immigration service.
The backlog would be eliminated by “the end of the year,” according to the service’s forecast.
The shaky state of Finnish politics may also have an impact on numbers. The right-wing coalition formed a government after an election in April, and moving forward, it appears that a harsh position on immigration will prevail.
The government has already proposed raising tuition costs for students from outside the EU.
Despite plans from the previous administration to bring in skilled workers to fill a labor shortage and current initiatives by numerous universities to entice students to stay after graduation, the Finns, the far-right party in the coalition, have ambitions to “dramatically” reduce immigration.
Perhaps in Finland, we are still learning how important it is to make people feel welcome.
When viewed through the lens of the new government’s program, the future does appear to be extremely difficult.
However, Kumpula pointed out that the realities of the changes they seek to enact do not entirely support the recruitment of international students for higher education. “On the one side, they do recognize that we need more international talent, both employees and students.
Perhaps in Finland, we still do not fully understand how important it is to make visitors feel welcome, she reflected.
“Finland has already made significant strides and is already a global player, but the truth is that we don’t go far enough.
Suominen continued, “We must recognize what a wonderful nation we are, proclaim it to the world, and extend a cordial invitation to visit.”