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Internationalisation in a state of change in higher education

The Spring Forum for International Affairs of Finnish higher education institutions, held in Turku, found immigration and tuition fees of degree students from outside the EU and EEA challenges to international cooperation.

CIMO organises the annual spring forum in cooperation with higher education institutions. This year, the forum was organised in partnership with the Turku higher education institutions: University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University and Turku University of Applied Sciences. About 400 people working with international affairs in Finnish universities from across the country took part in the forum.

As usual, the programme was a combination of lectures, panel discussions and sessions on topical international issues. This year's topics included the refugee crisis and tuition fees that will come into force in the autumn next year.

Refugee crisis as a key topic

”Solidarity should extend to all”, the key note speaker, rector Rik Torfs from the Belgian KU Leuven University stressed. "Higher education institutions can support integration of refugees both mentally and materially in many ways."

Tuomas Martikainen, the Director of the Institute of Migration, Anni Vesa, advisor of international affairs fromSAMOK (organisation for students of universities of applied sciences in Finland) and journalist Peter Al Fakir had a panel discussion about how Finnish higher education institutions could help. Faster recognition of skills and validationof previous studies and qualifications were seen as key points in this respect.

According to a studyby the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, a quarter of asylum seekers in Finland have some background in higher education. Participants called for a similar national model and guidelines for validation of previous studies that already exist, for example, in Sweden.

Tuition fees featured in forum sessions

The forum sessions offered a number of different practical tools for international work: in addition to preparation for tuition fees and asylum seekers, the topics included strategic partnerships, staff mobility, Erasmus+ programme administration and alumni work, among other things.

The Ministry of Education and Culture is also preparing for the future. "We have started preparation for the international strategy for higher education and research for 2016–2020", says Tiina Vihma-Purovaara, Counsellor of Education. We want to include as many higher education institutions as possible in the work. The strategy is likely to feature in the programme of the next year's forum in Vaasa.

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