Everyone wants a piece of China – so do the educational institutes. What are the chances of Finnish schools to succeed in attracting Chinese students when there are world’s top universities from USA, UK and other countries competing in the same market that even provide preschool education in order to promote their excellence?
Finland is still relatively unknown destination among Chinese people. Students that end up studying to Finland have, in many cases, first heard about Finland from their relatives or friends. They seem to respect the cost-free education, fresh air and clean and peaceful studying environment as well as high-technology knowhow. Those that have loads of money target at international top universities to gain the best education and reputation money can buy. Those that are not wealthy tend to target at those destinations where they can improve their competitiveness through differentiation in order to survive the competition in the work life and secure their future.
I have recognized three types of Chinese students:
- Highly talented and smart kids. Those are the ones that each university wants. The sky is the limit for these students and they do not need to worry about their background nor financial support – scholarships are destined to them.
- The rich kids. Money can buy everything – also good education. The wealthiest kids have even a separate budget for shopping in global brand stores. The future is handed on a silver platter.
- Average kids. These kids are not geniuses nor they come from utterly rich families – in other words, they are not in preferential position. These kids look for opportunities in countries such as Finland.
The future is unknown
During the last decade the amount of Chinese students studying abroad has tripled (Waldmeir 2013). Over the half of them do not return back to their homeland. Those that have excelled in their studies can easily find jobs both abroad and in China, especially in the fields of science and technology. It is notable that 35 % of technology chiefs and laboratory directors in Silicon Valley are Chinese.
The future seems more blurry to those that return back to China. They need to start the job hunting at the same level as the locally studied job hunters. There are millions of newly-graduated students competing in the same job market. The foreign universities are also fairly unknown to employers. Though the criticism towards friendship city projects in Finland is tough, they raise the awareness and recognition of Finland and Finnish education via culture, student and teacher exchange.
Chinese are interested in recognized knowhow. Unfortunately, Finland doesn’t have any universities in the list of world’s TOP 100 universities. China has two; Tsinghua University and Beijing University. Finnish Aalto University is currently co-operating with Tsinghua by utilizing the Chinese MBA students for increasing the China business knowledge of Finnish companies. In addition, Aalto University has set up in co-operation with Tongji University a Sino-Finnish Centre in Shanghai that provides a platform for exchange between students, teachers, researchers and industry.
Interdisciplinary education and research as well as practical and project management knowhow are the strengths of Finland in education export. Chinese want to learn from the best and take the best practices in their homeland. When targeting Chinese education market it is critical to focus on those areas where the education institutes have concrete references and publicly recognized knowhow.
China supports the fields of education that are in line with the China’s 5-year plan. For example the Chinese industry and business require modernization and improvement of knowhow. China is investing heavily in domestic innovation and industry but the knowhow of the people isn’t sufficient for reaching the development objectives. Finland has solid professional knowhow in many fields of industries e.g. forestry, machinery, grocery industry as well as environment and ICT technologies. Therefore Chinese companies and multinational companies operating in China could be an interesting clientele to Finnish upper secondary and tertiary schools.
Creativity is an asset
Chinese admire creative people. We should also foster creativeness. We should identify the fields of expertise and projects where our knowhow is easily acknowledged and is internationally competitive. The offering must be very concrete and benefits clearly articulated – to both decision makers and the end-users (students). In communication we should forget the Finnish modesty and without any hesitation be proud of our knowhow and excellence! Behind all studying is the motivation to improve oneself and succeed in competitive job market. Chinese students are looking for those education opportunities that they believe to support their future objectives. The most important objective is employment.
This blog writing is a shortened version of my article “Koulutusviennin kohdemaaksi Kiina” (in Finnish – free translation “China as a destination of education export”). It is published in the article collection edited by Karelia University of Applied Sciences. The original article and the whole collection can be read in: https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/80057/B23.pdf?sequence=1
Waldmeir, P. 2013. China parents count cost of sending children to overseas universities. Financial Times. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/98c4a5ac-63c1-11e3-b70d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz32qUYtmv9. 26.5.2014.