Internationalisation is a central strategic goal for Finnish higher education institutions
An international evaluation team set by the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council has published its report on international degree programmes (IDP) in Finland. The evaluation team finds that internationalisation has been taken as a serious objective in all strategies of the Finnish HEIs.
The IDPs are seen as an important instrument for reaching the objectives of institutional internationalisation. Student bodies of the IDPs are quite diverse and this diversity is also seen in the variety of learning styles.
Finnish IDP managers are very satisfied with the quality of the teachers and students in the IDPs. According to the evaluation team, the approachability of teachers is one of the strengths of Finnish IDPs. Altogether the IDPs do not differ significantly from regular degree programmes with regard to their structure, management, quality assurance, marketing and recruitment of students.
One of the main problems discussed during the site visits was the difficulty that international students have in gaining access to the Finnish labour market. One of the main obstacles mentioned was an insufficient ability to speak Finnish. One of the issues related to the employment of IDP students is that HEIs do not follow up them after their graduation.
In their report, the evaluation team makes the following recommendations:
At the system level the size of IDPs should be considered from the economic point of view as well. The follow-ups on the IDP alumni should be organised more systematically at the institutional and national level. At the institutional level the evaluation team points out that developing services for IDP students should not be a separate process. Increasing cooperation between teachers and support staff, alumni surveys, rewarding teachers for improving their languages skills as well as more active approach on the extra-curricular activities for IDP students are suggested actions at the institutional level.
At the IDP level quality boards with internal and external stakeholders and furthermore the role of the professional field in developing and improving the IDPs are recommended. Also when HEIs are offering multiple IDPs it is important to share and compare experiences to improve the quality of the services. Differences in learning styles and cultures should be recognised and improving multicultural competencies of all students can help the international student to familiarise with Finnish society.
The chair of the evaluation team was professor Jussi Välimaa (University of Jyväskylä) and other members of the team were Katarzyna Fonteyn (Konecranes PLC), Irma Garam (CIMO), Esther van den Heuvel (Erasmus University, Rotterdam), Christina Linza (Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences), Minna Söderqvist (Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences) and Jan Uwe Wolff (VIA University College).
An Evaluation of International Degree Programmes in Finland (pdf). The Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council 2:2013