Finland scores high in 2014s International Student Barometer survey

Once again Finland has proven to be an ideal study destination for international students. In the recently published International Student Barometer (ISB) survey, Finland scores high in many aspects regarding the well-being of international students. The survey sheds light on international students’ perception of their study experience abroad. The ISB’s findings regarding Finland survey go hand in hand with the results of the Student Satisfaction Award from 2014, in which international students named Finland as the best country to study in Europe.

The ISB survey was carried out in 209 institutions in 18 countries. Participation of 22 Finnish universities and universities of applied science has been organised and coordinated by CIMO. In total, 6,339 or 36% of all international students in Finland took part in the survey, which accounts for a high turnover.

Safe and sound: Finland convinces with high levels of security and good study facilities

In the survey 95% of students generally say that Finland is a good place to be, which is in improvement on a high level from 93% in 2010’s ISB survey. Striking 97% add that it is also a very safe study and living environment. Additionally, 85% of the respondents would recommend to others to apply for studies in Finland. Furthermore, the facilities of higher education institutions score continuously high marks. This includes the whole bandwidth of their services, expanding from learning spaces and laboratories to novel virtual learning platforms. The overall positive rating can be seen as a confirmation of the cutting-edge status of the world-renowned Finnish education system.

In regard to teaching, it is noteworthy that international students are very satisfied with the academics’ English language skills as well as with learning support. Overall learning satisfaction is high and covers all study levels. Moreover, class sizes in higher education are adequate, with satisfaction above international and European average.

In need of an upgrade: Promotion of existing career planning structures

Areas which are in need of improvement revolve around career planning. International students’ perception of their future employability after graduation lags behind in a European and global comparison. Connected to this stands the comparatively low satisfaction with career services at Finnish higher education institutions, in which career guidance traditionally has not been an incremental part of student counselling. While offers on career guidance exist and are under further development, they are yet to be aligned with the reality of growing numbers of international students and their expectations. However, a positive development is observable, as students’ recognition of career services has improved against the background of 2010’s ISB survey.

Contrarily to possible negative expectations related to living expenses in the Nordic countries, satisfaction with the quality and cost of accommodation has scored above average in a European and global comparison. This is a surprising finding, as rents in European capitals have been on a constant rise in the past years. Furthermore, international social life is especially valued by international students. Student society in Finland is multicultural and puts an emphasis towards the wellbeing of the students in terms of support through the international offices, student advisories, good sports facilities and free student health care. A seamless integration of international and local students however has not been achieved yet.

Here to stay: Environmental awareness as a living reality on campus

A new item in the survey refers to ecological aspects of campus life. High marks in this field indicate that Finland’s effort to include environmental awareness into various levels of society has not been in vain and is greatly appreciated by international students. The explicit wish of international students after the previous survey to include ecological aspects into the 2014 survey shows that awareness in this field is by no means a temporary phenomenon. Rather, ecological and environmental aspects have a direct impact on their wellbeing.

The overall high satisfaction with Finland as a study environment has been expressed by BA-, MA- as well as PhD and exchange students, which leads to believe that Finland puts the same thorough and honest emphasis on international students of all study-levels.

As these preliminary findings on the ISB survey underline, international students value the high standard of studying in Finland.

Jens Närger, CIMO - 2.4.2015

(edit 20.4. / The number of participating Finnish HEI's corrected as 22 instead of 24)