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Finland - Higher Education

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceFinland - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


There are two types of higher education institutions in Finland: universities and polytechnics (AMK institutions or ammattkorkeakoulut). There were 29 polytechnics as of fall 2000. There are 20 universities in Finland.

Polytechnics: Polytechnics provide instruction for expert functioning in the following areas: national resources, technology and communication, business and administration, tourism, catering and institutional management, health care, and social services among others. Lecturers are required to have a master's degree and principle lecturers need an academic postgraduate degree. Local and national governments fund the polytechnics (43 percent and 57 percent, respectively).

There are 3,118 full-time teachers and 1,261 part-time teachers in the polytechnics. Tourism, catering and institutional management, culture, natural resources, humanities, education in technology and communications, business and administration, health care, and social services follow the three largest enrollments. All degree programs have 20 credits (half of an academic year) in onthe-job training.

Universities: Universities offer bachelor's, master's, licentiate, and doctorates. Students generally complete a bachelor's degree in three years and a master's degree in five years. In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, each university conducts a three-year assessment to target outcomes for its overall operating principles.

The purpose of universities is to promote independent research and scientific and artistic education, to provide instruction of the highest level based on research, and to raise the young to serve the fatherland and humankind. Universities shall arrange their operations in order for research, education and instruction to achieve high international standards, by observing ethical principles and good scientific practices. (University Act 645 1997)

Here is a list of universities in Finland: Abo Akademi University, HSme Polytechnic, Helsinki Business Polytechnic, Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki University of Technology, Lahti Polytechnic, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Oulu Institute of Technology, Satakunta Polytechnic, Sibelius Academy, Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration (Finland), Tampere Institute of Technology, Tampere University of Technology, University of Art and Design Helsinki, University of Helsinki, University of Joensuu, University of JyvSskylS, University of Kuopio, University of Oulu, University of Tampere, University of Turku, and University of Vaasa.

The University of Helsinki is the oldest and largest university in the country. By a strange quirk of history, the University of Helsinki began as the "Academy of Turku." Turku was the former capital of Finland but when Finland was annexed to the Russian Empire in 1809, Helsinki became the capital, and in 1827, the university was transferred to Helsinki and then named Imperial Alexander University. There are about 33,000 students at the University of Helsinki. There are 3,063 teachers and researchers and 2,204 docents.

All universities in Finland are public. Ten of the universities are multidisciplinary, four are arts academies, three are schools of economics and business, and three are universities of technology. There is also a military academy, the National Defense College, that offers a degree in the military field.

Admission Procedures: Each university sets admission criteria and student selection procedures. University admission is highly competitive and annual intake quotas limit enrollment. Students must have completed and passed their matriculation examination. Additionally, various entrance examinations are included in the selection process.

The number of openings in all universities is limited to about one-third of the students of university age. The number of applications each year is around 66,000 and about 23,000 students are admitted.

Administration: University administration is independently organized under the University Act and Statute, 1997, 1998. Universities enjoy legal autonomy and can decide their own research and teaching policies. The highest official at the university is the chancellor. Decision-making is under the guidance of the senate made up of the rector, the first vice rector, one professor from each faculty, three other teachers and researchers, and seven students, one of whom must be a postgraduate. The dean and faculty councils are in charge of the faculties. The faculty elects both the dean and the vice-dean.

Enrollment: The number of undergraduates is about 128,000. Additionally there are approximately 19,000 post-baccalaureate students. In 1998, the universities graduated 16,500 students.

Teaching Styles & Techniques: There has been a move in recent years to shift instruction towards a more student-oriented direction by developing interactive, discussion friendly learning environments. There are large lecture classes and smaller discussion classes and seminars. University teaching aims at developing a critical mind, gaining and contributing to knowledge within a bilingual and multicultural perspective.

Finance (Tuition Costs): All education in Finland is tax supported. Students pay no tuition and receive free teaching material. Universities receive 1,131,000 Euros annually from the national government.

Courses, Semesters, & Diplomas: One hundred twenty credits are required for a bachelor's degree, while 160-180 credits are required for a master's degree. It takes an additional 6.5 years to complete a master's degree, with 4 additional years required for a doctorate. The academic year consists of two terms: the fall term running from August 1 to December 31 and the spring term running from January 1 to July 31. Christmas vacation lasts 20 days, 10 before and 10 after Christmas.

Degrees are awarded in natural sciences, humanities, industrial arts, sports sciences, theology, social sciences, business administration, psychology education, agriculture and forestry, health care, musicology, theatre, and dance. A bachelor's thesis is required. No lower degrees in medicine, engineering, or defense are offered. There is both a lower and upper degree in law.

Professional Education: Professional education is offered in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine. The universities of Helsinki, Kuopio, Oulu, Tampere, and Turku have medical faculties. Basic medical education takes at least six years and leads to the degree of licentiate in medicine. In these fields, one first earns a practice degree or licentiate (between 200 and 250 credits) and then may continue to a doctorate that involves more course-work and the writing of a dissertation. Eighteen percent of physicians in Finland have taken the degree of doctor of medicine.

Postgraduate Training: After completing a bachelor's degree, students may pursue a master's degree, then a licentiate, and then a doctorate. All of the 10 multidisciplinary universities offer advanced degrees. In 1997, a total of 1,790 advanced research degree were awarded: 860 licentiates and 930 doctorates. About 40 percent of doctorates in Finland are awarded to women, while over half of all degrees go to women.

Foreign Students: There are about 8,000 international students studying at universities in Finland. The Finnish government does not assist foreign students. Admission to university by foreign students is the same as that for Finnish students with the individual universities establishing the selection criteria for admission. National health services are available to foreign students who also receive special concession for travel by air, road, and rail.

Students Abroad: Finnish students who study abroad are given a stipend to support themselves. The tuition of the host institution is paid for by the national government. Students (usually postgraduate students) submit applications to study abroad. Trying to receive these grants is highly competitive, and successful applications depend both on national priorities and student abilities.

Role of Libraries: The role of both university and individual faculty libraries is at the heart of education. University libraries in Finland work towards integrated and electronically-assessable collections. While printed material remains central to libraries, the integration of print and electronic materials is essential to keeping current in the various disciplines. This process will require increased cooperation within a single university as well as between universities.

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