Carmen Neghina

Declining international student interest for Finnish universities


The first signs of a declining student appetite for studying in Finland surfaced a year ago. Coincidentally, in 2017, the Finnish Government announced they were planning to introduce tuition fees for non-European students. Ever since, Studyportals has been keeping a close eye on the students’ online search behaviour to see if this announcement would influence the interest for studying in Finland. Usually, online search behaviour is expected to have an impact on enrolment numbers 1-1,5 years later.

Unfortunately, what we’re noticing is that currently, interest in Finnish universities is at an all-time low among students considering either a Bachelors’ or Masters’ degree within continental Europe.

Studyportals’ model for interpreting data translates student search patterns into the “market demand” for degree programmes. It takes the number of students who show interest in applying to, enrolling in, or learning about a specific university and translates it into the potential demand for those programmes. As with any domain of economics, market demand is sensitive to changes in availability or changes in perception, and higher education is no exception.

Studyportals International Student Interest for Finnish Universities

Studyportals data is showing that, for the first time, the percentage of programmes offered by Finnish universities currently exceeds the relative demand for them. While we can see some seasonal trends in the data as well, with months close to application deadlines seeing a spike in student interest, we notice a downward trend for the first time in the second half of 2016.

This is mainly due to the gradual drop of international students interest from some of the main source countries for Finland.

Studyportals Student interest in studying in FinlandIn 2016, Russia, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Germany and Iran contributed almost 40% of all international students in Finland. Studyportals data from 2015 shows that the same sending countries represented about 53% of the international student interest toward Finnish universities. Student interest in 2015 correlates with enrolments for 2016. Since the 2016 Fall admission season, we’ve observed a decrease in the interest of non-EU students in applying for degrees in Finland. The negative pattern only became more pronounced following the announcement of foreign students’ tuition fees in late 2016 and deepening further with their subsequent introduction in August 2017. Student interest from Finland’s main source countries dropped to 35.7% in 2016, then to 19.6% in 2017, and is currently at just 16.3%.

Edwin van Rest, CEO and founder of Studyportals commented that:

“Studying abroad is a complex decision for our students, and costs are a major factor for some. We clearly see the recent introduction of tuition fees for Finnish universities influencing non-European students’ interest to study there. Projected applications and enrolments will also be affected over the next 2 years.

It’s alarming, yet there are proven strategies for overcoming similar patterns. Sweden is a great example of a country whose institutions recovered their position by acting strategically and effectively. I personally am confident that Finland has a strong education sector and, with the right strategies and with time, it can look forward to increasing its international applicant numbers in the post-free era.”

Currently, the annual tuition fees for Finnish English-taught Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes vary approximately between 4 000-18 000 euros, depending on the programme. Doctoral programmes, however, remain unaffected and PhD applicants can still enrol for free in Finnish universities focusing on research.

Mentions in the news

Why interest in Finnish universities has hit an ‘all-time low’ – Study International

International students’ interest in Finnish universities at “all-time low” – Helsinki Times

Non-EU students’ interest in Finland at “all-time low” – The PIE News


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