Haaga-Helia exploring international opportunities for education and training services

Haaga-Helia is increasing its education exports to developing countries. Finnpartnership has provided the institution with important support in mapping new markets and identifying partners.

Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences was among the first higher education institutions in Finland to explore international export opportunities for education and training services. Its major first step was the sale of a teacher training package to Sweden in 2008. Soon after, Haaga-Helia struck a similar deal in Saudi Arabia.

As project manager Pasi Halmari from Haaga-Helia points out, developing countries will play a key role in the coming years when institutions seek growth through exports. Finnpartnership’s business partnership support has provided decisive support in mapping the education markets and identifying potential partners and long-term business relationships in developing countries. “The business partnership support covered part of the costs and really encouraged us. It reduced the obstacles to exploring new markets and partnerships for us,” says Halmari.

New education services in Malaysia

In recent years, Haaga-Helia has utilised Finnpartnership’s business partnership support in identifying partners in Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru and Botswana. The biggest progress has been made in Malaysia, but building new partnership requires patience.

Haaga-Helia first established contacts in Malaysia during an export promotion trip in 2011. Soon after the trip, Haaga-Helia signed a letter of intent with a Malaysian institution, but it took a further four years before the actual agreement was in place. Now the contract has been signed. In autumn 2016, Haaga-Helia will launch a study programme in hospitality at Disted College in Penang. “We will be training chefs in our programme, which corresponds to a bachelor’s degree.” Haaga-Helia has plans to reinforce its foothold in Malaysia. It is working in cooperation with the Wawasan Educational Foundation, which manages Disted College.

Inroads in Africa

Haaga-Helia continues to explore the markets in Vietnam and Peru to identify collaboration opportunities with local institutions. “The challenge is to find suitable partners who we could build a profitable business relationship with.”

In Botswana, Haaga-Helia has progressed much faster. In 2015 the Botswana government commissioned Haaga-Helia to produce a training package for 60 vocational teachers. Halmari believes that further projects will materialise soon. Haaga-Helia has also made inroads in South Africa, where it has reached a deal with the Tshwane University of Technology in the capital city of Pretoria on a training package for 32 vocational teachers. “This is our first training package there, and our collaboration will probably continue after it is finished.”

Team Finland helps open doors

According to Halmari, Haaga-Helia has benefited greatly from the Team Finland networks and particularly from the Finpro export promotion trips. Organisations can join business delegations which are headed by ministers or high officials and offer opportunities for making contact with local ministries and potential partners. “Contacts with ministries offer a way forward. Export promotion trips also include opportunities to meet potential partners directly and schedule negotiations.”

Haaga-Helia sells its services to ministries, higher education institutions and other education providers both public and private. The new act on the tuition fees for non-EU foreign students also creates new opportunities for the consumer market. Halmari believes that Finnish operators should continue their efforts to promote Finnish expertise in the education sector. Finland enjoys a good reputation thanks to its excellent performance in assessments such as the PISA surveys. “We should not be too modest when dealing with international clients. I always use superlative adjectives when describing the Finnish education system. After all, studies show that it is one of the best in the world.”

Joining forces pays off

Finnish education providers who are interested in internationalisation and exports have established a national cluster for education exports. Launched in 2011, Future Learning Finland (FLF) aims to promote the growth of education service business on the international market. Haaga-Helia has been involved in the cluster since its start. “Cooperation and knowledge sharing are key to education exports. We Finnish operators are so small that we have no choice but to join forces in order to take on larger projects, for example on the huge Chinese market,” Halmari points out.

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