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The Finnish Higher Education System

Higher Education in Finland is provided by Universities and Polytechnics. Universities emphasise on scientific research, and polytechnics emphasise on teaching the skills and knowledge required for working life. To obtain admission into higher education, students must complete at least 12 years of schooling and get Upper Secondary qualification or equivalent foreign qualification.

Main Laws Governing Finnish Higher Education

Law: Government Decree on Polytechnics Degrees – 352 of year 2003
Deals With: Objectives, duration and overall structure of degrees

Law: Government Decree on University Degrees - 794 of 2004
Deals With: Objectives, duration and overall structure of degrees

Law: Polytechnics Act - 351 (Ammattkorkeakoululaki) of 2003

Law: Universities Act - 645 (Yliopistolaki), 1997

Higher Educational Facts

Polytechnics or Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS)

In Finland, there are 29 polytechnics or UAS under the branch of government of the Ministry of Education and Culture. Except for the Aland University of Applied Sciences (Government of Aland) and the Police College of Finland (Ministry of the Interior), all other polytechnics function under the administration and authority of the Finnish Ministry of Education.

Universities 

In Finland, there are 20 universities in the Ministry of Education and Culture sector- out of which 10 are multi-faculty institutions,  3 are technical universities, 3 are business administration and economics institutions, and 4 are arts universities.

Higher Education Institutions

In Finland, higher education institutions are of two types:

Polytechnics, also known as Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS): Train students for job marketplace and provides vocational education and training on a higher level. It awards Bachelor’s (3.5 up to 4 years) and Master’s (1 to 1.5 years) degrees. 

Universities: Focus on carrying out scientific research and provides education based on it. It awards Bachelor’s (3 years), Master's (2 years), licentiate and doctoral degrees (4 years).

Both universities and universities of applied science provide Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes, with minor variation in admission conditions. Bachelor’s degree programmes in English are generally provided in Universities of Applied Science, while Universities provide more Master’s degree course of study in English.

Postgraduate Studies at Institutes of Higher Education: Institutes of Higher Education (korkeakoulu) offer postgraduate studies. Postgraduate studies in polytechnics and universities vary. In polytechnics, professional skills and knowledge can be enhanced, while in universities and other institutes of higher education further academic research can be carried out.

Higher Education Qualifications

The higher education qualifications in Finland by Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences are:

Universities

Universities in Finland award the following degrees:
  • Bachelor's degree: This degree lasts for 3 years and has 180 credits
  • Master's degree: This degree lasts for 2 years and has 120 credits
  • Scientific or Artistic Postgraduate degrees: Licentiate and the Doctorate
Also, specialist postgraduate degrees in the medical fields are conferred.

Polytechnics or Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS)

Polytechnics award the following degrees:
  • Polytechnic degrees: This degree lasts for 3.5-4 years and has 210-240 credits
  • Polytechnic master's degrees: This degree lasts for 1.5-2 years and has 60-90 credits.  

Admission Requirements and Procedure

The Admission requirements vary depending on the higher education institution and degree programme.  Most of the degree courses have an online application system. Each higher education institution have their own application process and selection criteria.
To know more about the admission requirements and procedure, click here.

Language Requirements

Students are required to prove their language skills. They should provide a certificate of language proficiency or take a language test.

National Certificates of Language Proficiency

The National Certificate of Language Proficiency evaluates general language skills and can be completed by taking a Basic, Intermediate or Advanced level test.
The National Certificate of Language Proficiency test comprises the following sections:
  • Speech and text comprehension
  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Structures and vocabulary
It can be taken in following languages- English, Swedish, Finnish and many other languages (as required). The Finnish language test is taken thrice in a year, and tests in the other languages are conducted twice in a year. 

In Finland, the higher education institutions generally accept IELTS or TOEFL test scores. 
Students who have finished their previous education in English, depending on their nationality or the country where the past education were finished, are exempted from the language tests requisite. EU/EEA country citizens come under this category.  

Grading System

The Higher Education uses grading scale 0-5.Passing an examination requires obtaining 50 % of the maximum points in the examination.

ECTS Credit System

Finnish higher education institutions use the ECTS system (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) in assessing a student’s performance. One full-time academic year corresponds to 60 ECTS credits.

Tuition Fees

In Finland, there is no tuition fees charged.

Scholarships

Scholarships in Finland are available generally, for Doctoral level studies and research only.
For Bachelor’s or Master’s level studies scholarships are seldom available as the Finnish government already covers the education costs. In the Erasmus Mundus Master's programmes, scholarships are available.

Student Financial Aid

Financial aid is available to students and includes Study grant (opintoraha), Housing supplement (asumislisa) and Government Guarantee for student loans (opintolainan valtiontakaus). 
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