‘For What Population?’ -survey anticipates the number of new students at all levels of education and in all regions

On behalf of SITRA, MDI has carried out a study entitled, ‘For what population?’ which simultaneously examines Statistics Finland’s regional and age group-specific population forecasts and the number of new students at all levels of education with the help of the National Board of Education’s Vipunen-statistical service covering the period 2018–2040.

According to the study, the total population of the country is projected to decline in 2031, but for primary school children, the trend has been negative since the second half of the 2010s. Demographic change in the 20s and 30s permeates all levels of education one level at a time. Urbanisation, regional segregation, migration and declining birth rates affect all regions with varying degrees of intensity in the 2020s and 2030s. The development of the number of new students in the figures for the whole country seems to be a more balanced development than the real real picture given from the regions’ perspective. The need for new students will increase or decrease moderately only in the largest urban areas. Elsewhere, the need for new students is declining. As the age groups of young people shrink, an additional emphasis on adult education and internationalisation could be a solution to the decline in the demand for education throughout the country and especially in the regions.

The report examined both the development of the whole country and regional development at the municipal, regional and provincial levels at the same time. The study is divided into two complementary sections: actual developments in the 2010s and projected developments in the 2020s and 2030s. With regard to the actual development, the situation in respect of population development and education in the 2010s was analysed. With regard to expected development, the need for education related to the number of new students at the national and regional level in basic education, upper secondary education, vocational undergraduate degrees, polytechnics and universities was examined.

The survey data related to Statistics Finland’s population development and population forecasts, as well as to the National Board of Education’s Vipunen statistical service. The forecast of the number of new students for 2018–2040 was based entirely on demographic factors and on the continuation of the current situation. The forecast must however take into account the uncertainties related to e.g. population forecasting and the education forecasting assumptions based upon it.

The study was commissioned by Sitra and carried out between September 2019 and January 2020.