Finland is set to become the second Nordic country to introduce tuition fees for foreign students.
In two years, students from outside the European Union/European Economic Area will have to pay fees if, as is likely, a recommendation from an Education Ministry working group is adopted.
The group recommends charging fees of €3,500-€12,000 (£2,400-£8,200) a year, but universities and polytechnics will be able to set their own fees. Doctoral students will be exempted, as will prospective students who have been legally resident in Finland or another EU/EEA country for at least two years.
The switch is part of the Government's internationalisation drive aimed at increasing the number of foreign students (EU and non-EU) to 12,000 by 2010, or 42 per cent more compared with 2004.
Last year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said that Finnish universities and polytechnics should consider external means of financing such fees, at least for foreign students, to safeguard international competitiveness.
Free tuition, irrespective of nationality, has always been the backbone of Finnish education, and politicians have so far been unwilling to consider charging fees despite calls from the universities and polytechnics.
Vice-chancellors are becoming increasingly vocal about the introduction of tuition fees for Finnish and other EU students, too. Opponents of fees for international students argue that ending Finnish universities' biggest selling point - free education for all - will mean gifted but poor students will go elsewhere.
The report says such students will be able to apply for scholarships worth an estimated €7 million annually.
The working group has put forward a proposal to make part of the tuition fee tax-deductible for students seeking employment in Finland. It has already been announced that in future it will be easier for a non-EU/EEA citizen to obtain a work permit provided the person has a degree from a Finnish university or polytechnic.