International students give valuable feedback on TAMK services
As the domestic working-age population in Finland declines there is an urgent need to recruit more workers from abroad. At the same time, many students are attracted to Finland by the quality of education offered. Tampere University of Applied Sciences becomes more international with each passing academic year as more and more international students join the community as degree, exchange and double degree students.
Nonetheless, according to surveys and testimonials, it is difficult for international degree students to find employment in Finland. Despite their love for Finland, not all students remain in the country after graduation as they cannot secure employment. There is a crucial need to work on new solutions to support and build employability paths for TAMK students.
Already for years, TAMK has been offering special services for international students. For example, TAMK is the only Finnish higher education institution that has a full-time Social Counsellor working with international students. Mirja Onduso´s work includes assisting students with practical matters, such as housing, residence permits, health care, Finnish culture, etc. TAMK also has a Welcome Τeam comprised of representatives from different services. The team’s goal is to ensure a smooth start to all new international students.
Yet, there is still a need to improve existing services and introduce new solutions for the international members of the community. Education plays a key role in the integration process of internationals, but to ensure a holistic service culture we need to work hand in hand with the other key stakeholders in the region. Together with Tampere University and the city of Tampere, TAMK is involved in the International Tampere HUB project in order to improve the employment of international talents in Tampere.
“We are currently rethinking and redesigning our services, so that we can better support TAMK international students to enter the Finnish working life. We will keep on working on the Study and Stay model launched collaboratively with Tampere University and the city of Tampere to give more visibility to our services and ensure the best possible support to our students,” comments Clémentine Arpiainen, Senior Advisor in service path development for international students.
Students show an active interest in all services
During the spring 2021, TAMK’s International HUB team conducted a survey to better understand the familiarity of international students with various support services that are available throughout the studies and beyond graduation.
Most of the survey respondents (80%) are active degree students, originally from various countries such as Bangladesh, Germany, Russia and Vietnam. Although a significant number of respondents (75%) moved to Finland in the last three years, 20% of the students have been living in Finland for over five years.
According to the survey results, the international students in TAMK are familiar with services such as Study Services and Wellbeing Services. However, only 9% of the respondents said they knew about Alumni Services and still less, a mere 3%, were familiar with TREE, continuous education services offered in the Tampere Universities community. Both these services can help graduating students with further strengthening their skills and networks in order to successfully build a stronger career.
Moreover, the survey revealed the quality of each service. Study Services scored the highest with 89% of the respondents claiming satisfied from the information, support and help they receive. Admission Services came in second with 80%, and International Services followed with 66% satisfaction score.
It is important to note that according to the survey the great majority of the students (77%) are interested in learning more about the Alumni Services. Similarly, students indicated their interest in attending alumni seminars and alumni events and said they would like to hear more about post-graduation education opportunities in TAMK.
“Even though not many students know about the alumni services they seem positively interested to join our alumni register and explore what we have on offer,” explains Kirsi Popova, planning officer for alumni services.
Most international students wish to stay in Tampere
The survey showed that most international students (63%) intent to stay in Tampere after graduation, while 11% would move elsewhere in Finland. However, every fourth of the surveyed students expressed desire to seek employment abroad.
The students planning to stay in Finland after graduation are interested in having more opportunities to improve their knowledge on Finnish language, society and culture. Furthermore, they are interested in more activities that promote their integration and socializing with Finnish students (66%), as well as networking with peers (71%) and mentors (40%).
“We know that we need to strengthen our efforts to offer more solutions for our students to be able to learn Finnish, build their professional networks and nurture this feeling that Tampere is home already during their studies. Language skills, social and professional networks and experience are keys towards employability. We will work in close collaboration with local employers to build models that benefit both parts,” explains Arpiainen. New internship-model, special work projects and networking events can make a basis to successful employment relationships.
Sustainable service design workshops coming up
Even though the International Hub project in Tampere is wrapping up, the work continues. TAMK strives to improve its services for all students and in the meantime offer special support to international students from the point of their arrival to Tampere all the way up to their successful integration into Finnish society. The data collected from this survey can be a catalyst for the further development of all TAMK services.
“There are services in place already, but it is clear now that we need to find new ways to reinforce them and ensure all students are fully aware,” comments Eeva Heikkilä, Specialist in International Services.
And last but not least, the survey revealed the students’ interest to actively participate in the further development of TAMK services for international students. As a response to this, three workshops will be organized during the autumn 2021 where the students will be able to give further feedback and suggestions, while networking with peers.
The students’ insight is very important and always plays a vital role in the development of TAMK services.
Service path development for international students
Text and photograph: Dimitra Panopoulou-Huovila