Multidisciplinarity and unique curricula interest Asian students

In the autumn of 2016, Akina Sakata, Mizuki Kuribayashi and Mai Kyono arrived from Japan to study at UTA as exchange students. According to Kuribayashi, the Finnish social system is much admired in Japan. “I am planning to acquaint myself with the pros and cons of the system and to take the information back to Japan. The courses on social policy and gender studies seem interesting,” he said.

In the autumn of 2016, Akina Sakata, Mizuki Kuribayashi and Mai Kyono arrived from Japan to study at UTA as exchange students. According to Kuribayashi, the Finnish social system is much admired in Japan. “I am planning to acquaint myself with the pros and cons of the system and to take the information back to Japan. The courses on social policy and gender studies seem interesting,” he said.

“Versatile faculties.”

“Unique research on interesting topics.”

“UTA offers courses that I have not come across anywhere else.”

The feedback above comes from a survey investigating South East Asian students’ impressions of the University of Tampere (UTA). The students were especially interested in gender studies and peace and conflict research.

“The University should further highlight these courses,” says Kirsti Lindberg-Repo, the brand researcher responsible for the study.

According to Lindberg-Repo, Asian students find the University of Tampere appealing not only because its courses and research differ from the mainstream, but also because the University is multidisciplinary and academically strong.

“Multidisciplinarity provides the academic diversity these students are looking for. It allows them to choose courses that are more versatile and to develop a personalised competency profile that gives them a competitive edge in the job market. It is one of the reasons why students decide to apply for studies at the University of Tampere,” Lindberg-Repo points out.

Such aspects can compensate for the Finnish universities’ often modest international rankings.

“Academic opportunities and ensuring employability with the right competences are important to Asian students. They believe in individual performance more than Americans, who emphasise a university’s reputation and networks,” Lindberg-Repo says.

Tuition fees are also not a problem because, according to Lindberg-Repo, Asians are accustomed to paying premium prices for good teaching.

“Families proudly save their whole lives and want to invest in their children’s studies. If students and their families are assured of the University’s excellence, families are happy to pay tuition fees. In addition, especially Singaporeans are accustomed to very high rents, which they don’t find here in Tampere,” Lindberg-Repo says.

According to Lindberg-Repo, the University should make an effort to appeal to Asian students because they bring important know-how and are sought after in the local labour market.

“If we could get them to work in Finland at least for a short while, their expertise would be gained locally and the business community in Finland and Tampere would internationalise. Within a couple of years, there will be a shortage of digital natives here,” Lindberg-Repo points out.

“In addition, Asians are accustomed to completing their studies. Graduation is a matter of honour for their families,” Lindberg-Repo says.

The brand study

The study mapped Asian students’ thoughts on universities in Finland and Tampere with an online survey sent to over 295 students in South East Asia.

In addition, in-depth focus group surveys and interviews were conducted with more than fifty students.
The students represented over twenty universities in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

International students at UTA

In January 2018, the University’s thirteen international master’s programmes received 869 applications. When UTA offered more programmes in 2017, the number of applications was 1,109.

The largest number of non-domestic applications came from Bangladesh and Pakistan, followed by Nigeria and Ghana. Numerous applications also came from Vietnam, China and India.

The most popular master’s programmes were the Master’s Degree Programme in Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research and Sustainable Business Management: the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change.

Text: Hanna Hyvärinen
Photograph: Jonne Renvall