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Tampere Universities take responsibility for immigration work in higher education

Published on 3.2.2021
Tampere Universities
Elizaveta Zimina
Elizaveta Zimina works in the ICT field. Finnish language skills are not needed there as all communication takes place in English. She however assumes that it is often difficult for immigrants to find a study or work place, especially without language skills.
The Tampere Universities community is now one of the higher education institutions in charge of immigration work and the national SIMHE services (Supporting Immigrants in Higher Education).

The purpose of SIMHE is to support immigrants’ study paths, employment and integration. The Tampere Universities community provides counselling services and initial language studies for immigrants who are planning to apply for higher education studies. The higher education institutions are supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Head of Competence Area Päivi Vartiainen from Tampere University of Applied Sciences’ School of Pedagogic Innovations works as Tampere Universities’ contact person in the national SIMHE cooperation group. According to her, it is highly important to be a member of the SIMHE group from the viewpoint of regional development and equality:

“It was about time for Tampere Universities to fully join the national SIMHE work. It is important to use all competences, including foreign ones, in the Tampere Region. It is also important to guarantee equal higher education possibilities for all residents regardless of their background,” Vartiainen says. 

Cross-organisational service paths

The Tampere Universities community has now developed SIMHE services for a year and a half with the support of the KORKO project. In addition to the project employees and the Tampere Universities community, many other parties have also participated in the development. For example, immigrant work experts of the City of Tampere and the national SIMHE operators belong to our important cooperation networks.

“Expert cooperation and local cooperation enable the high quality of SIMHE services. It is important to plan smooth cross-organisational service paths for customers. Service users’ needs are diverse and thus expert cooperation is important in customer relations,” states Project Manager Heli Tiitinen.

Website supports planning and self-evaluation

The new website for SIMHE services of the Tampere Universities community was just published. The website was designed as an information source and self-evaluation tool for those planning higher education studies. The website aims at presenting the sometimes complicated study and application possibilities clearly and mainly in a simplified language.

“I am particularly proud of the Finnish language proficiency test available on the website. It was planned by University Teacher Maija Tervola based on Finnish vocabulary,” Heli Tiitinen says.

The test can be used by those planning higher education studies as well as their supervisors. Based on the test, it is possible to roughly evaluate if their Finnish language skills are sufficient for higher education studies or if additional courses are still needed and on which level.

Learning Finnish is a key to communication for Elizaveta Zimina

Doctoral Researcher Elizaveta Zimina from Tampere University’s Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences completed the language proficiency test. The level 5 was still too difficult for her but she did really well on the level 4.

Zimini, who grew up in eastern Siberia, completed a translation degree in St. Petersburg and a master’s degree in natural language processing at the University of Gothenburg.

“I am learning Finnish for personal purposes, to be able to communicate with local people, watch news and understand local art. The language is an important key and the Finnish language helps in integrating into the Finnish society,” Zimina says.

Zimina participated twice in Maija Tervola’s Finnish language course.

“The Finnish language course corresponded to my language proficiency level and developed all basic language skills: writing, talking, reading and listening. The primary course objective was to help students in learning to talk about their studies or professional field in Finnish but we also discussed other interesting everyday topics,” Zimina tells.

Further information:

Project Manager Heli Tiitinen, heli.tiitinen [at]

SIMHE website:

SIMHE services:

KORKO project: 

You can contact SIMHE counselling services by email simhe [at]

Text: Emmi Rämö
Photo: Elizaveta Zimina