VAMK’s successful pioneer year in international student recruitment

International student recruitment plays a crucial role in the success and growth of Finnish higher education institutions as well as in contributing to the reputation of Finnish education globally.

Vaasa’s strength is its internationality and its international companies. Vaasa offers a combination of high-quality education, research opportunities, affordability, safety, and cultural richness that make it an attractive destination for international students. Vaasa has a thriving business ecosystem, particularly in the energy sector.

Our international degree programs are designed to meet the skills needs of companies in the region. This creates excellent opportunities for internships, part-time jobs, and potential employment after graduation.

Rebranding and visibility through international collaboration

After I started in my role as Head of Marketing and Communications a year and a half ago, VAMK has invested in international student recruitment and its development during 2022. To get started with student recruitment, we clarified our marketing slogan for the spring 2022 joint application round, and in the fall of 2022 we launched the VAMK Master School’s brand. Along with digital marketing and marketing webinars, we have invested in cooperation with the marketing portal Studyportals, which in addition to brand visibility supports us in the production of market analytics.

In a short period of time, agent cooperation has been developed in the recruitment of tuition-paying students in selected target markets. During 2022, we had six partners, promoting us mainly in Asian countries and the Middle East, supporting our marketing efforts with the help of digital campaigns and representing us on our behalf, e.g. in high schools in India, UAE and Lebanon. VAMK’s target markets include the so-called Talent Boost countries India and Vietnam.  In addition, intensified marketing activities have been carried out in the Middle East together with our partner institutions Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK) and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

Concrete outcomes

In the joint application for international degrees in January 2022, we managed to increase the number of our primary applicants by more than 60%. In particular, the share of the primary applicants is significant for us, since it indicates the applicants’ motivation to apply primarily to VAMK and to study in Vaasa.

With the release of the corona situation, we were also finally able to travel and visit secondary schools in the United Arab Emirates organized by our partner in the late spring, and again in the fall with high school visits and at the GESS Dubai trade fair in cooperation with Edufinlandia and our colleagues from Metropolia and SAMK. The result of these was a clear increase in the number of applicants not only from the United Arab Emirates but also from neighboring countries, some of whom are currently pursuing their studies with us.

As a new pilot, the separate application for the Bachelor’s degree programme in Energy Technology was run in the fall of 2022. The implementation is fully in English for the first time, and there were more than 1,500 interested applicants around the globe, mainly from the Asian countries. The studies themselves began in January 2023 with distance learning, because obtaining student visas has been an unfortunately challenging process.

International students as ambassadors of Finnish education

International students bring a rich cultural diversity to our campus. Interacting with students from different backgrounds enhances cross-cultural understanding and promotes a global outlook among local students. This exposure to diverse perspectives prepares Finnish students to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world.

Our international students act as ambassadors for Vaasa and Finland. International students contribute to the academic environment by bringing fresh perspectives, knowledge, and ideas from their home countries. This diversity of thought fosters innovation and stimulates academic excellence. These connections can lead to future collaborations, research partnerships, and cultural exchanges.

The economic impact and talent retention

International students contribute significantly to the economy of Finland. They pay tuition fees, spend on accommodation, food, transportation, and other goods and services, which generates revenue and supports local businesses. The tuition fee income helps to finance, among other things, the development of study environments, scholarships and research projects.

Many international students choose to stay in Finland after graduation to pursue employment opportunities. By attracting talented individuals, Finnish higher education institutions contribute to the development of a highly skilled workforce. These students bring their knowledge, skills, and international networks, which benefit the local job market and promote innovation and competitiveness in various sectors.

Overall, international student recruitment is vital for Finnish higher education institutions as it brings cultural diversity, fosters academic excellence, drives economic growth, supports talent retention, enhances institutional reputation, and strengthens global connections. To ensure the effective recruitment and support of international students, VAMK will continue to develop further its international degree program offering, as well as offer dedicated international student services, mentorship and talent programs and support for cultural integration.

We try to promote and streamline both national higher education collaboration and cooperation with authorities, e.g. through HERENET, the international marketing working group of universities of applied sciences, where I myself am now Vice-Chairman. VAMK will continue to pursue its strategy in 2023 and beyond in order to promote internationalization, provide its students with a global education and guarantee to companies talented and motivated workforce.

Sirpa Rutanen

Head of Communications and Marketing