Aalto University educates the experts who will shape Finland's future. In Finland, around 1,500 foreign students graduate with a higher university degree, and around 360 of these students graduate from Aalto. Unfortunately, many of them have difficulties in finding a place for their internship and diploma work/master’s thesis. For example, during the current year, 44 % of foreign Master of Science in Technology graduates found employment immediately, while 48 % were looking for work after graduation. To fix this issue, Vice President for Education Eero Eloranta invited corporate representatives and people from Aalto to discuss the development of the collaboration between the companies and the universities. Around 30 people, mostly corporate representatives, participated in the breakfast meeting at the Aalto University Learning Centre on 4 May.
Risto Siilasmaa, who is chair of the board of both Nokia and F-Secure, told that he recruited foreign applicants even back in 1988, when he was beginning his corporate career. Siilasmaa encouraged people to move to Finland, which was not commonplace back then. Diversity is an asset for a company, and companies should see hiring foreign workers as an opportunity.
‘I don't understand why so many places require that their employees need to be proficient in Finnish even when the position is inside an organisation. Of course, many customer service roles require knowing the language. But we should make English an official administrative language. That would be a real marketing benefit for Finland. Of course, I’m not talking about a new national language, but of an official administrative language. Our officials are already proficient in English, so the change wouldn’t incur much costs,’ Siilasmaa said.
‘I think that foreign students should receive a working permit automatically when they receive their Master’s degree. We need to think about benefitting Finland in the long run, but we're bad at piloting things. Currently, corporate university contact persons have a very research-oriented role, even though it should be much more comprehensive than that. It should include e.g. recommending students to various other tasks than just R&D,’ he continued.
Tuition fees have made attracting foreign students even harder
Professor of Multimedia Technology Petri Vuorimaa from the Department of Computer Science at the School of Science leads the Master's programme in Computer, Communication and Information Sciences (CCIS). Its 580 students make it the largest Master's programme at Aalto, and its biggest major is Computer Science. The CCIS programme includes students from around the world, the majority of whom come from India, Pakistan and China. Vuorimaa is also responsible for the double degree programme at the international EIT Digital Master School.
‘Now that we require tuition fees for those who come outside the EU, we’ve had fewer Indian applicants, which is a shame, since many of them are experienced. Soon half of our ICT students will come from abroad and many of them will have job experience, but not in Finland,’ noted Petri Vuorimaa. ‘Foreign people should be allowed to find their place in Finnish working life, and entrepreneurship should be a real possibility for them as well. How will we be able to hold on to them?’ he pondered.
According to Vuorimaa, digitalisation has created a situation where no single company can dominate the spots for diploma work, and diploma works are being made in many different fields. Abroad, a student’s studies commonly include a mandatory internship and an academic diploma work. In Finland, these two are usually combined by completing a diploma work for a company. This, too, could be better demonstrated as a benefit of our system. We could also think about whether we need to serve the needs of foreign students better than we currently are. Aalto's student career portal, Aalto CareerWeb, could surely contain more work and internship opportunities for foreign students.
Brain gain should be utilised
According to Vice President Eero Eloranta, Aalto needs to be more attuned to the needs of corporate life. ‘We need to communicate more among people, to deepen our collaboration with industry. Our University is not here for itself, but for the needs of society. Aalto University is dedicated to developing its collaborations and the interaction between students and companies,’ Eloranta said, and encouraged the corporate representatives to contact him in all matters related to the subject.
‘This event was an excellent opening for the discussion on the new ways that the University and the corporate world could collaborate to ensure that even more foreign students remain in Finland either completely or for long enough to form those ever-important connections. I hope that this discussion will continue and that we’ll be able to better utilise our brain gain in the future,’ Eero Eloranta said.
Employers can freely advertise their work and internship positions as well as their diploma work and master’s thesis commissions for Aalto University students on Aalto CareerWeb.