What is the Finnish UAS’s students experiences and expectations about international students while studying together at UAS? Do the UASs supply opportunities for local students to study/work together with international students? Universities of applied sciences (UAS) throughout Finland, offer various opportunities for such situations. This article describes one such opportunity: internationalization at home. The article also suggests some solutions for UAS to improve the experiences of the Finnish UAS students – to be more successful.
Authors: Hoa Vu & Tarja Ahonen
International Studying in Finland
Finland’s educational background is well-known worldwide because it is the heart of the Finnish welfare society. Every year, UASs in Finland welcome thousands of international students to study there. This huge amount of newcomers give a chance for all students to work and study in a multicultural environment. However, the multicultural environment might affect local students due to the cultural diversity in the classrooms. The research, based on the perspective of local students, aims to enhance the collaboration between Finnish and international students within Finland’s UASs. The study determines the expectations and experiences of Finnish students while they study/work with international classmates. Based on these aspects, suggestions are given to help UASs fulfill the gaps. It also helps UASs improve the experiences of their local students.
Internalization at Home and Gap Model of Service Quality
In 2017, the total number of international students in Finland account for 6,8% of total number of all higher education students while 9,551 local students applied for the exchange program and 10,445 international students came to Finland for their exchange period (Study in Finland 2017). This shows that there are many Finnish students who do not study abroad. Internationalization at home is the process whereby the intercultural, international and global dimensions are mixed intentionally into the education systems for students in a country. The programme brings opportunities for students to develop further their knowledge, experience, and soft skills e.g., in intercultural understanding, multicultural, intercultural and critical thinking, etc without traveling aboard. (Beelen & Jones 2015) Thus, “internationalization at home” programmes should be applied by educational institutions effectively to bring international studying environments to Finnish students.
The research considers Finnish UASs students as the customers. The analyses part of the research mentions the service quality, customer experiences, satisfaction and Gap Model of Service Quality. The Gap Model of Service Quality is used to demonstrate the gaps between service quality and customer satisfaction. There are five gaps in total, in which the gaps between customer expectation and management perception as well as between management perception and the service quality specification are mentioned in the research. The gap between customer expectation and management perception happens when service providers do not realize which characteristic of products and services should be fulfilled to meet customer’s needs. The gap between management perception and the service quality specification occurs when the companies completely realize their customer’s expectation, but they do not have enough resources to fulfill the needs. (Parasuraman etc. 1985, 44-45)
The expectation and experience of Finnish students are determined. Finnish students have several expectations such as enhance language skills, expand network, have knowledge of cultural difference. The experiences of Finnish students are divided into two types of experiences. The positive experiences include having a chance to meet lovely people from around the world, having interesting times, gaining knowledge of cultural differences, increasing the language skills. The negative experiences include the lack of responsibilities of some international students in teamwork, lack of punctuality and problems in communicating due to the cultural differences. (Vu 2019, 48-49)
The gaps between expectations and experiences of Finnish UASs students with other international classmate are determined. The gap of language difficulties is due to the gap of ”customer expectation and management perception”. Thus, both Finnish and international students do not have the necessary English language skills to understand each other. However, the UASs do not recognize this situation and therefore the schools do not necessarily have actions to fulfill it. The author also believes that the gap of cultural difference is due to the gap between ”management perception and the service quality specification”. Studying among different nationalities might cause some cultural conflicts. Although the UASs are aware of the existing conflicts, they do not have sufficient resources to fulfill the gap. (Vu 2019, 41)
The ” internationalization at home” programme is seen to be successful since several respondents have positive feedback to the programme. Respondents emphasize how it helps them to develop and enhance their knowledge of cultural differences, improve language skills, further develop soft skills such as communication, teamwork, have an international studying/working environment, save abroad living costs and traveling time. (Vu 2019, 42)
Recommendation for Enhancing Collaboration
The first recommendation is make language courses compulsory to local students to help them improve their English skills. These courses can include some tips/guidelines on how to communicate more effectively. These courses also fulfill the gap of ” customer expectation and management perception”. Second, UASs should open cultural courses for newbies. These courses provide students knowledge of different cultures and supplies different skills and tools on how to study/work among other nationalities without having conflicts. The gap of ” management perception and the service quality specification” are also narrowed down through those cultural courses since new students obtain the necessary knowledge from the beginning of their studies. The third recommendation is the arrangement of local tutor students for international newbies. The combination brings Finnish tutors a chance to make new friends, reduce the cultural shock and to gain experience in the international studying/working environment. The fourth solution is increasing the involvement of teachers during the courses by managing the teamwork and helping students when needed. They can also make a survey after the course to evaluate the participation of each student during their teamwork assignments. Finally, UASs could provide programmes that let students take courses from different faculties. Students can gain knowledge and get new friends at the same time through these programmes. (Vu 2019, 45-47)
Beelen, J. & Jones, E. 2015. Redefining Internationalization at Home. The European Higher Education Area. [Cited 23 March 2019]. Available at: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-20877-0_5
Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. & Berry, L. 1985. A Conceptual Model of Services Quality and Its Implications for Future Research. American Marketing Association. The USA: American Marketing Association.
Study in Finland. 2017. Higher Education in Finland 2016-2017. Study in Finland. [Cited on 17 October 2018]. Available at: http://www.studyinfinland.fi/instancedata/prime_product_julkaisu/cimo/embeds/studyinfinlandwwwstructure/100601_Higher_Education_Finland_2016_2017.pdf
Vu, Hoa. 2019. Enhancing the Collaboration between Finnish and International UASs Students – Finnish Student’s Perspective. Bachelor’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti.
Vu, Hoa. 2019. Fourth-year International Business student. Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Finland.
Ahonen, Tarja. 2019. Senior Lecturer. Lahti University of Applied Sciences Ltd, Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti.
Reference to this publication
Vu, H. & Ahonen, T. 2019. Enhancing the Collaboration between Finnish and International UASs Students – Finnish Student’s Perspective. LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2019/04/16/enhancing-the-collaboration-between-finnish-and-international-uass-students-finnish-students-perspective/