Edition 86 - June 2008

Finland: efforts needed to make higher education as good as schools

The OECD published its economic survey of Finland at the beginning of this month. Its main recommendation is that Finland should step up efforts to make its tertiary education as good as its compulsory education, which has gained world fame due to its persistently high scores in the PISA studies. Indeed, OECD states that “while Finland is excellent in providing the population with basic skills, there are problems in the later stages of the education system”.

One particular problem regards the slow transition from secondary school to tertiary education, which can - in many cases - take several years: indeed, only a minority of students is admitted to their chosen field of study straight after completing secondary education. In order to help solve this ‘matriculation backlog’, OECD recommends to temporarily increase the number of starting places in the most popular fields of study. Another main recommendation concerns tuition fees: while they are still considered somewhat of a taboo in Finland, the OECD believes that coupled up with substantial scholarships, they would have a positive effect both on students and on universities. Fees could encourage faster graduation and influence students’ subject choice with a view to the labour market, which would eventually lead to greater responsiveness of institutions to students’ preferences and needs.

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