SFERC Research Brief 2021-1


SFERC Research Brief 2021-1

Lessons learned from the practices of Sino-Finnish Joint Degree Provision

Source publication: Cai, Y., Liu, B., and Xiao, C. (2019). “Experience of Sino-Finnish Joint Degree Provision: Practitioners’ Perspectives “, in X. Du, H. Liu, and F. Dervin, (eds.), Nordic-Chinese Intersections on Education. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 233-256.

Sino-Finnish education cooperation is being encouraged by both countries. Finland is interested in China because of its world economic standing; China is interested in Finland because of its world-class education standards and performance. This has led to many higher education institutions to collaborate and develop joint education provisions. This research paper evaluates the challenges and best practices by using two programs, MARIHE and SAMK as case studies, that both the Finnish and Chinese educationists, administrators, leaders and policymakers to face. MARIHE refers to the Master’s Programme in Research and Innovation in Higher Education and SAMK refers to the nursing double bachelor degree program between Satakunta University of Applied Sciences and Changzhou University.

Masters in Research and Innovation in Higher Education (MARIHE) is a 2 Years Joint Degree Masters Program offered to International Students by a consortium of 3 European Universities and BNU as a partner. The first cycle of funding from the EU was sanctioned in 2012.

Best Practices

  • Aligned motivation and interests on both sides – Both the Beijing Normal University and Changzhou University were interested and want to create partnerships with Finnish higher education institutions for developing MARIHE and SAMK respectively.
  • Trust and effective communication – As was evident in both cases, that when a person who was familiar with both systems liaised, greater trust and clearer communication channels could be set up.
  • Top-level decisions on commitment despite uncertainties – The university leaders in both cases were fully committed to overcoming barriers to make the cooperation successful.

Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK) in collaboration with Changzhou University provide 4 Years Bachelors Degree in Nursing specialising in elderly care. Chinese students need to spend two years at SAMK and 2 at Changzhou University.


  • Legislation Barriers – In the case of the MARIHE program, the aim was for international students to be able to complete one semester and in return get a Chinese degree qualification in addition to the European partner degree. However, it is a requirement for obtaining a Chinese degree that at least a year of study be completed in China. For students attending the SAMK program in Changzhou University, the obstacle lies in the hours of clinical practice that is required as the Chinese requirements are different from the program requirements.
  • Differences in program administration and coordination – While the European partners in MARIHE all have a similar admirative structure, it took time for them to eventually understand the administration system at BNU. As the top decision-makers at Changzhou University did not have the nursing background, the early-phase negotiations were somehow inefficient.
  • Difficulties in credit transfer –While ECTS in European universities is based on students learning time, the calculation of credits in Chinese universities is based on teaching hours. Thus, in both programmes, creative ways of exchanging and recognising credits must be developed.
  • Challenges in the course organisation –Traditionally the Chinese mode of education is primarily lecture-based, whereas, in the context of Finland, students need to prepare the written papers, presentations, independent readings.

While joint degree programs are an attempt to boost Sino-Finnish education cooperation, the aforementioned challenges must be overcome by all parties concerned. By overcoming the challenges it also offers opportunities for both sides to improve and innovate their own systems and education.

Writer: Fatema Irfan