Guidance and counselling in higher education has been in focus for many years. It has, for example, been identified as a key issue regarding the completion rates of qualifications. Further, a specific challenge related to immigrants entering higher education has been that their prior learning has not been easy to accredit, and thus there have been difficulties for them to begin meaningful studies in a Finnish higher education institution. Inadequate language skills may also cause problems.
The study possibilities for foreign-language students and students with immigrant backgrounds in Finnish higher education institutions will be increased by removing barriers to student selection and studies and by developing guidance counselling and other support actions for these students. The development plan for education and research states that the skills and competences acquired abroad should be accredited flexibly, so that supplementing studies providing a qualification could be offered through the open university and continuing education. Steps will be taken to increase preparatory training for university of applied sciences studies.
The development plan for the years 2011-2016 also specifies that completion rate in higher education will be raised to 75% from 67,8% as regards bachelor's degrees and from 70,3% as regards master's degrees. More weight will be put on retention rates in the financing of institutions.
Both universities and universities of applied sciences provide general student counselling services to both applicants and existing students. The organisation of the services varies somewhat between the institutions. Various student welfare services, such as financial aid, often have their own personnel. Some institutions also employ counselling psychologists.
In addition, higher education institutions have study affairs secretaries or counsellors in charge of the planning, co-ordination and development of guidance and counselling, editing of study guides and training of tutors in a given field of programme. Subject-related guidance is given by teaching personnel and other staff members. Tutoring groups help students to learn more about their institutions and higher education study.
All universities and universities of applied sciences have their own careers and recruitment services providing guidance and information to students, recent graduates and employers. The aim is to improve the skills and competencies required in working life with the help of career planning services, information about the labour market and training to improve working-life skills. The students will learn to make labour market contacts also through, for example, traineeships and commissioned final projects. Employers are offered information and practical help in recruiting trainees and new employees.