Université gratuite en Finlande – Comment ça marche?

Hello! I heard that in the Quebec province, we were in elections! So today I’m making a video for you, Quebec people. Like you, I have no doubts, I learned that Quebec Solidaire had free tuition in its electoral platform. And consequently, of course, everybody in the province started talking about Finland. Honestly, I had a lot of fun, recently, reading all the comments people are writing on Facebook. and repeating them to my Finnish friends. Because, let’s say it, guys, it’s becoming ridiculous. You know, it’s not because it’s a country far away and people don’t hear much about it usually that you can say whatever you want. So, I thought: I’m in Finland, I know how it works. let’s take care of this. And, who can tell better what is happening in Finland than Finns? So I asked two people who are studying in the same program as me at university if they could answer some questions What I did is simple: I just took things people were saying on social medias, or were asking to me I put those in affirmations and I read them to my Finnish friends and they told me what they were thinking. Before we start, I want to tell you that there are two things I don’t want to do with this video. First, I don’t want to promote an idea. So I won’t defend free tuition or defend tuition fees. I think there must be enough people around you trying to do one or the other. I think also that it’s an important project as a society and that it should match people’s values. I want to give you some information to help you build your own opinion. Second, I don’t want to throw numbers at you. My reason for that is very simple: it’s because politicians are way too good at it, let’s say it. They are always just arguing about numbers. Let’s not get into that. I won’t start with percentage of taxes and other stuff because nobody agrees on that. I will give you some numbers that I find on official websites. I hope it will answer your questions. Let’s go. (University of Helsinki) Hi, I’m Jonathan. I’m from Helsinki. I was born and raised here. Hi, I’m Siiri. And where are you from in Finland, Siiri? Valkeakoski. Which is in Pirkanmaa, near Tampere. Yeah. And you have been raised in Finland and went to school in Finland. Yeah. To start off: “Finland is a Scandinavian country.” I know some Finns have very strong feelings about this one. Well, yeah, we are a nordic country. not a Scandinavian country, so… I guess that’s the most common misconception actually that people think we are a Scandinavian country. So yeah, you’re not part of the Scandinavian peninsula. If you want to be technical about it, we are not. You’re not vikings? Yeah (laughs) I guess it goes down to that. So, for those who want more information about that, actually, it’s easy to find if you google a little bit. In the deeper history, they have very different cultural roots. They have a different mythology, they have a different way of life, and the language is completely different. Here, you have a very nice looking tree of the Indo-European languages, and look. Look where is the Finnish language. They don’t even know what is the protolanguage of Finnish. (Finnish Master 4) Nooo, I love studying foreign languages don’t worry! “In Finland, education is completely free.” Is it really completely free? Basically yes. But for example, in high school, you have to pay your own books. Yeah, I have to pay… is it a hundred euros per year, for university? That’s the student union fee, actually. Yeah, the student union fee, kind of. What is included, actually? Like, what kind of services do you get with that? Health care is the biggest one, I think. Health care and does that include the teeth? Like, dentist? One free dentist, and then… mental health, general health, basically everything. So now you can compare with universities in Quebec. Because it’s all nice to talk about free tuition, but it’s not only the tuition fees that cost something when you’re a student it’s all kind of other things also. For example, if we compare with the university at which I was when I was in Quebec, the Laval University, when you are undergraduate, it’s 317$ per year and when you are a graduated student, it’s 430$ for the health insurance. The classic sentence: “Nothing is free, there is always somebody paying.” So, who’s paying? We are paying, I guess, if you wanna go there. Well, whoever is paying taxes: companies, people… We do have a fairly high tax rate in Finland, so… I mean, we are a welfare society and personally, I support that system that we have, so I do still like to say that there is free university. And do you know how the… like, how does the government calculate how much money the university gets It’s very complex… Probably. There are different things that they calculate: how many students graduate, how many students there are, the research papers… Yeah, and it’s kinda controlled also by how much each department gets You know, if we need more of this in society, we can sort of control it like that, that we should have more people graduating from this type of studies. So there are these… yeah, that makes sense. …controlling systems. According to the website I found tutkibudjettia.fi In 2018, 12% of the Finnish government budget is going to the education system. So, now, you can have fun comparing with the projects suggested by the different parties. This one, I hear a lot: “Finns get paid to go to uni.” I guess we can say that. Yeah, kind of, but also the money is meant to pay for the accommodation, the things that you need in uni, the living, food… Because you’re kinda meant to move out, when you go to uni. Yeah, so, what I get at the moment, I’m not working, I’m just a student now, and I get around 600 euros per month. and about four hundreds something of that is the living benefits because I live in my own apartment and then two hundreds something is the student benefit. Ok, so you guys get two separate things, you get like something to pay your rent and the student benefit for the rest of your living Yeah. Just general expenses like food and what not. So those two things are calculated separately? Basically, yes. With the new system, since last year, I think that one of the changes is that some students are getting more possibilities to have loans than actual benefits. It’s 650 euros per month, I think. And you can take it in two part or every month. whatever you need. These are very good loans, actually. Like if you graduate on time, you don’t have to pay the entire loan back, you get 30% for yourself. That’s pretty nice. So you get free money, basically. So I understand you can say that we are paid to go to uni. if we graduate on time. So, in fact, the system is a bit comparable to the one we have in Quebec. It’s just that’s it’s more uniform. while in Quebec, it’s only students categorized by the government as “really needing it” who will get the student benefits and in Finland, it’s more everybody. But there is a limit. For instance, if you make more than 12,000 euros a year, you won’t receive any benefits. 12,000 euros a year, that’s about 16,000 Canadian dollars. And to get the benefits, you have to be studying full-time. That’s working as in Quebec: to be considered full-time, you have to do at least 3/4 of the credits you are supposed to do each year. So you can take things a little slower, but not too much. You have to think, also, that like in Quebec, it’s impossible to live off only the student benefits it’s really not enough for that. You need to have some money on the side, or to be living with somebody else helping you pay your apartment, or to be working part-time during your studies or to be taking the loans. So, the loans granted to students in Finland are very generous, 650 euros a month, but if you need to take them every month during your studies… I calculated with the number of months during which you have the right to take the loans and in Finland, a student graduating with a bachelor degree can have debts of 19,500 euros and with a master’s degree, 35,100 euros. 35,100 euros, that’s approximately… wait a bit 53,000 Canadian dollars. So it’s still a big debt to start a professional life. It’s not unicorn land. and that’s if they don’t go on exchange, because then, the loans go up to 800 euros a month So: “In Finland, anyone can go to uni for free.” Anyone has the chance. But of course, we have entrance exams, for example, which can be intense Many people try for like 4 years in a row to try to get into especially like psychology or other departments that are really popular. or law. so some people get in first try, and then others they have to try every year again and then they have to go to work because they didn’t get into uni and they have to keep themselves up somehow. so it can be a though process. And some people argue that it’s unfair that some people can afford to take these courses that prepare you for the entrance exam. they are kind of expansive. And if you take those courses, it’s quite likely you get in. so I guess you can say that there is something unfair If you’re a really good student you can get into university without entrance exams Like in mathematics. If you got a good grade, like a really good grade you can go into uni with that. But not everybody does it, of course Not everybody who gets a very good grade in mathematics goes to study mathematics at university. I guess. “With free studies, there must be a lot of abuse, like people spending years doing there degree or doing five bachelor degrees just to keep getting free money from the government and not pay taxes.” Well, I think it depends on how you think about it. People at university are young people and they are probably having a pretty good time in their life at that point. I think that should be allowed. I understand the concern, but I don’t think it should be a system that just pushes the people out to work life as soon as they can. Same. And I think that it’s not such an issue that students take so long to graduate, because things happen some students get depressed while they are studying and I think it should be taken into account that life happens. Sometimes, life happens. Yeah. And I think we are different kind of students like how we study. Some people, they can handle pushing through in the minimum amount of years and just doing crazy work loads and they are fine with it. While other people just can’t cope with it. They need more time, they are slower learners but this gives them the opportunity to actually graduate. Do you think people would actually graduate faster with tuition fees? Well, yes. But I think a lot of people wouldn’t graduate. Yeah and I think people wouldn’t do anything beside studying, like go to… what is it called? exchange? exchange, yeah. Or do traineeships. They wouldn’t get experience. So, unexperienced with just graduating. I don’t think that’s good either. Yeah. And a lot of people are working, even full-time, while they study it gives that opportunity to balance the studying and the working. It’s not like everybody is just free-loading. So, I calculated, and in Finland, you have a limit of 30 months to complete a bachelor degree if you want to do it while receiving students benefits from the government and 21 months for a master’s degree. If you go to uni into a program where the bachelor and the master are together, the maximum is only 48 months and if the two are separated, it’s 54. That means, considering that most people don’t study during the summer, 3 years and 3 months for a bachelor degree and 6 years for the two of them together. Considering that the normal time to complete a bachelor and a master is 5 years, it’s not that big of a difference. “If uni becomes free, inscriptions will explode and it won’t be sustainable as a society.” Would you go to uni if you had to pay tuition fees? It would definitely depend on my own economic situation and everything. Same… I probably actually wouldn’t have gone to uni if we had tuition fees. Here, for those who like numbers, it’s your moment. So, I had a bit of fun comparing numbers from the OECD and the Quebec government in order to know the differences between the graduation rates. And yes, Finland has graduation rates higher than Quebec. These are the numbers for the “active population” which means here from 25 to 65 years old. So apparently, in Quebec, 13.4% of people have a bachelor’s degree while in Finland it’s 16.3%. For the master’s degree, it’s 4.6% of people in Quebec and 14.4% of people in Finland. As you see, it’s a big difference. However, it’s not only free tuition that is creating the gap. Because if you compare Quebec to Canada, there is also a very big difference. 9.9% of people in Canada have a master’s degree and 20.6% of people have a bachelor’s degree. If we put together all university degrees, including doctorates, it’s 31.5% of Canada’s population, 18% of Quebec’s, and 29.3% of Finland’s. However, if we counts also certificates, it adds 7.3% to Quebec. So there are a lot of opportunities for certificates, in Quebec, apparently. What is also very interesting is that when you count all tertiary education, this means everything that is not mandatory, everything after high school, Quebec is actually doing very well. Because it’s 56% in Canada, 61.7% in Quebec, and 43% in Finland. This means that Quebec is training people in technical skills, people able to do more manual things. Because, you know, it’s not because you’re not putting your behind on a bench at uni that you don’t have a future. So Quebec is not doing that bad. Those numbers could come from differences in economy types. Although, it’s a bit less fun when we start comparing dropouts rates. This means people who don’t even have their mandatory education. Because then it’s 12.1% of people in Finland who don’t have their mandatory education, 9.4% of people in Canada, and 17% of people in Quebec. So maybe Quebec should focus a bit on a way to keep people at shool in order for them to get their mandatory education. This, too, could be a beautiful project to have as a society. “University is free in Scandinavia (including-Finland Scandinavia) only if you have good grades.” So if you have bad grades, what happens? Don’t ask me (laughs) If you have bad grades, then you just have to retake the courses, or… Yeah, if you don’t pass. Yeah. But if you have a low grade, but you pass, then you pass. If you fail a compulsory course, what happens? You take it again, whenever it’s available. What happens on your transcript? Does it appear that you failed once and had to retake it or does it just disappear? No, it doesn’t. (laughs) Let’s leave it at that (laughs). It just shows online, basically, but not on your diploma. Ok, here I can’t help but speaking my mind. Free tuition only for those who succeed and have good grades, it means allowing rich people to have difficulties, but forbidding it to people who can’t afford it. I don’t think I need to say anything more. Speaking of failing, in Finland, you have something called the ‘retake exam’. What is it? Yeah, for the courses you mean that you can take the exam again instead of taking the whole course again. Yeah. How does it work? Well, basically, if you failed the exam, then the retake exam is usually very soon after that. So you get the results for the first one, and if you failed it then you can apply for the retake. So you don’t have to wait for the course to happen again. And if you fail that, you have the third try. There is a third try? And you can sometimes even try to improve your grade. “University is free in Finland only if you don’t reorient during your studies.” I’ve changed my programme twice (laughs) It’s still free for me. And I’m still graduating, maybe, on time. Yeah. I mean, there is a sort of maximum point. But, you can still be… you know, you can change your degree and stuff. I don’t know the specifics of when the limit comes, but it’s not like you can, for the rest of your life, and try different things and it’s free until you die. There is a certain maximum. I think the maximum, at the moment, is… It’s a certain [number of] months, but I think it’s about five or six years now that you can reorient. Ok. But you just have to graduate. And after that, the government won’t pay you money, but you can still attend the university. So it’s still free, you just don’t get student benefits. Yeah. Ok. And you have to apply for more time to study from the university. Ok, now I will tell you: most students, including me, we don’t want to study forever. Studying is not always that fun. We don’t have regular schedules, it’s a lot of stress, we are always under evaluation, and we are poor. Personally, I have been at uni for five years and I don’t want it to last much longer. “Finns must be overwhelmed by taxes.” I think the taxes go to… they have a good purpose. So I’m OK paying my taxes. I think the way it is… I mean, it’s definitely better than just having a steady rate of, whatever, 13% for the entire nation and the rich people just enjoy their life. I can understand that it sucks for people who make a lot of money to just give up half of their pay, but… I mean, you are doing it for a very good cause. So, if you’re not completely selfish, it should be kind of… you know. You can definitely be rich in Finland too, it’s not like they take everything away. In Quebec, people mostly bring Finland as an example of a country where education is free, but do you know other places? Well, Nordic countries Nordic countries, I guess Sweden, Norway… There are differences. We don’t all have the same system. But more or less the same principle in all of the Nordic countries, I think. The last sentence is more of a question: Is university free only in Finland? Here again, I found a short list: Germany, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Scotland, France, Greece, Iceland, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, and Uruguay. So, next time we want to compare ourselves to know what free tuition would change in our system, maybe we could choose another country than Finland. It could be healthy to look at what we, Quebec, have in common with those other places. And those countries don’t all have the same system: they have different ways to make it work. So it could be interesting to compare ourselves to others than only Finland. So, yeah, you’re not alone, guys. It’s kinda comforting, actually. It means that there is a way to make the system work, no matter where you are. That’s about it. Thank you very much, guys, seriously. No problem. I hope you guys have free education in Quebec soon. (laughs) So I will finish on this. I would like to add, first, that free education is a beautiful project to have as a society, but it doesn’t resolve everything. I would even say that it’s more up to your values. If, for you, equality in opportunities si important, then maybe free education could be a project that you could stand for. I would like to ask you, also, to not go crazy with the graduation statistics. You don’t really want to live somewhere where everybody has a university degree. I some fields, their are actually too many people with degrees. And in Quebec, especially, we should maybe focus a bit more on dropouts. I will make a second video with other parts of my interview about elementary and secondary education. So, if you’re interested, follow me. And if you have questions, don’t be shy! You can ask them in the comments. There are no such things as stupid questions! I will also put the sources for the statistics I used in the description. Thanks for watching and see you next time!

Stephen Childs


  1. Bonjour, je suis africain et je viens De la côte d'ivoire . j'aimerai savoir si c'est possible d'avoir une bourse d'etude. Titulaire De baccalaureat et en premiere année de licence en droit

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