Productising Finnish education for export: The barriers and enablers of internationalisation. A multiple case study: Fifteen members of future learning Finland

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School of Business | Master's thesis
MSc program in Entrepreneurship
MSc program in Entrepreneurship
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The recent Finnish policies have encouraged higher education institutions to export education abroad and, indeed, Finland has entered into a new period of change. The country is sitting on an excellent educational system encompassing many challenges and opportunities, which this thesis is aiming to unravel. The main objective of this study is to investigate the barriers to and enablers for internationalisation in universities, polytechnics and vocational education and training schools in Finland. The study was assigned by Future Learning Finland, part of FinPro, to create a sustainable and profitable education export strategy for Finland. The study took a holistic approach to productising Finnish education for export with the aim of inspiring future thesis topics. The research is qualitative and interpretative. Twenty participants involved in the education export activities in Finland were interviewed. Among them, there were three universities, seven polytechnics, three vocational institutes, three companies, the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland and the National Union of University and Polytechnic students. The interviewed members were managers, directors, senior advisors, experts, senior lecturers and coordinators, mostly in the field of education or international business. The data from the interviews forms the empirical data of this study. Phenomenological research approach and methods were used to gather and interpret the empirical data. In particular, the author used the experts' direct quotes to categorise the barriers and enablers into 215 SWOT elements. Using the TOWS Matrix, four strategies were formulated by matching the Strengths and Weaknesses parts with the Opportunities and Threats. This thesis has numerous findings. Firstly, different stakeholders have different definitions and visions of education export. Secondly, the Finnish education is an excellent product but the process of selling it is complex, requiring extensive human and financial resources. Thirdly, business networks and personal contacts play an important role when exporting educational services, in particular, the need to forge meaningful partnerships and approach the right markets. Fourthly, the attitude towards education export in Finland is both negative and positive, the latter showcasing the Finnish exporters' motivation to succeed in the internationalisation of Finnish education. Finally, the customers are the most important element when productising and internationalising education, and Finnish exporters should focus on building and delivering products that meet customers' needs and expectations. The conclusion from the findings indicates that Finland has know-how strengths, as well as, weaknesses on a national level, however on an individual level the skills and capabilities to productise and/or internationalise are scattered around different organisations. This means that Finland as a whole has the potential to perform education export activities but each organisation alone will struggle, if not fail, to successfully sell its services abroad. Thus, there is a great need in Finland to work in consortiums or a cluster before expanding internationally. As a result, the author recommends four strategies that form "The Building Blocks of Finnish Education Export", proposing a new perspective regarding productisation as a process. Productising educational services in Finland has been previously perceived as building and packaging services into products, but in today's reality it should be more about producing what the customer wants and needs in a way that these products/services are sellable and most importantly profitable.
Finnish Education, Barriers, Enablers, Internationalisation, Productisation, SWOT Analysis
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