Migrants at the university doorstep: How we unfairly deny access and what we could (should) do now

Anna-Leena Riitaoja, Aija Virtanen, Nina Reiman, Tuija Lehtonen, Maija Yli-Jokipii, Taija Udd, Leena Peniche-Ferreira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Downloads (Pure)


The Finnish Government recently launched policies to meet labor shortage challenges, recruit highly skilled international workers. However, they overlook a skilled population already living in Finland, namely highly educated migrants. The problem is that migrants tend to be treated similarly, whether they are well-educated or not. This means that migrants are typically directed into low paying jobs. How is it possible to better develop this group with more effective career guidance? We believe an important answer lies in improved university education for migrants. This investigation is based on responses from surveys, interviews, and project evaluations. An analysis is made of three successful university-based short-term integration programs. The emerging questions include, to what extent are obstacles for migrants appropriately deliberated in universities? What can we learn from the three model programs? Should language learning be incorporated into advanced academic programs? The analysis includes how current practices constrain migrants’ access to university education. Even with positive intentions, the prevailing understanding of equality involves equal treatment for all, despite educational or other differences. In addition, simplistic understanding of language skills and learning appears to predominate how migrants are treated. Highly educated migrants face serious challenges when there is a disconnect between language training and one’s disciplinary studies. We surmise there are critical differences between general population language training programs and those situated within disciplinary departments. Analysis of the model programs reveals that a systematic and holistic approach for overcoming current challenges is possible but with an emphasis on sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121–145
Number of pages25
JournalApples - Journal of Applied Language Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • higher education, second language learning, highly educated migrants, equality, access, academic literacy

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


Dive into the research topics of 'Migrants at the university doorstep: How we unfairly deny access and what we could (should) do now'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this