CROSSING BORDERS IN EDUCATION: FINLAND AND THE UK
In the European world of increasing educational exchanges, all Finnish universities, most of the polytechnics and many colleges now have links with UK colleges and universities. Some two thousand exchange students from Finland will arrive in the UK in 1996-97, Britain being the most popular destination for Finnish students. Hundreds of academic staff from Finland annually teach in a British college or university, as do British teachers in Finland. Some 700 Britons studied in Finland in 1995-96 under one European scheme alone (ERASMUS, now somewhat refashioned as SOCRATES and LEONARDO).
Finland has participated in ERASMUS since 1992. The most popular destination for Finnish students has been Britain: in 1995-96, more than a thousand Finnish ERASMUS students attended a college or university in Britain, followed by Germany, the Netherlands and France. These countries also sent the most students to Finland. Popular among these students are business studies, engineering, social sciences, languages, and art and design.
To promote student and staff mobility, Finnish universities, polytechnics and colleges have set up dozens of English-language programmes. Increasingly, too, overseas students and teachers are seen as assets, worth taking care of.
Still, there are clearly many more students going abroad than overseas students coming to Finland. Finnish students generally appreciate the chance to study abroad; they are keen to learn about other countries and and cultures; they know foreign languages; and what is often crucial, they can take their grants abroad, whether doing an exchange or a whole degree.
In contrast to the eagerness of Finnish students to study in Britain, British students know little about Finland and the opportunities on offer. The funding and degree structure in British higher education also remains something of a barrier in many exchanges: UK grants are portable in certain cases only, and it is certainly much harder to break away from a relatively compact British degree than a Finnish one.
In spite of these problems, it is safe to conclude that student and staff mobility will remain an essential part of higher education. What is evident in the work of the Finnish Institute, too, is the increasing demand within vocational training to cross national borders. This has been closely followed by a growing number of links at school level.
New links keep emerging between Finland and the UK. For one example see Friends in the North below
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