Future Prospects

The ongoing Bologna Process blurs the distinction between vocational and academic qualifications. In some fields, new postgraduate degrees have been introduced. Co-operation between the different systems is rising and some integration will occur (although not without a substantial amount of pressure). This results from not only the Bologna Process but also the goal of Finnish politicians -- to educate the vast majority of Finns to a higher degree (ca. 60-70% of each annual cohort enter higher education).

In recent years, a cut in the number of new student places has often been called for by the economic sphere, as well as trade and student unions, because of an ongoing trend of rising academic unemployment, which is interpreted as a result of the steep increase in student places in higher education in the 1990s. In particular, some degrees in universities of applied sciences (AMK/YH) have suffered inflation. In a reflection of this current belief, the Ministry of Education has recently decreed a nationwide cut of 10% in new student places in universities of applied sciences to be applied starting from 2007 and 2008. It is still largely undecided whether (and when) some of those cuts could be redistributed to areas in need of a more highly educated work force. In 2001 and 2002, university graduates had a 3.7% unemployment rate, and university of applied sciences graduates had 8%, which is on a par with the general unemployment rate (see the OECD report). In 2015, under prime minister Juha Sipilä's cabinet, the government decided to cut down on university funding by approximately €500 million.

An increase in vocational school student places might be preferred, as a shortage of basic workforce such as plumbers and construction workers is widely acknowledged in Finland. It should also be noted that retiring age groups are bigger than the ones entering higher education in Finland at present and for quite some time into the foreseeable future. If the current number of student places were kept unchanged to the year 2020, for example, Eastern Finland would have enough student places for 103% of the estimated size of the age group 19-21.

Higher education system restructuring
Due to globalization and increasing competition for diminishing younger age groups, system-wide restructuring has been called for by the Ministry of Education. Since 2006 all institutions of higher education have been sharing methods of cooperation. The total number of institutions is expected to drop significantly within 10-15 years.
The process within universities began with merger of the University of Kuopio and the University of Joensuu into the University of Eastern Finland in 2010. In Helsinki, three local universities, namely Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics and University of Art and Design Helsinki, merged to a new Aalto University on August 1, 2009. Also several universities of applied sciences have announced mergers (such as Haaga and Helia, which merged into Haaga-Helia in 2007).

New methods of cooperation such as consortia and federations have been introduced within universities (e.g., University of Turku and Turku School of Economics Consortium). Partnerships between traditional universities and universities of applied sciences are also developing (e.g., the University of Kuopio and Savonia University of Applied Sciences formed the Northern Savonia Higher Education Consortium). In general, such system-wide change closely follows the pattern established in Central Europe and the United States and Spain and Hungary.