'The Nordic Utopia' boasts efficiency and happiness levels that have had them perched at the very top of the leaderboards for the last half-decade
More than 20,000 international students are currently studying in Finland and there's never been a better time to join them. For the fifth year in a row, Finland was voted the world's happiest country in the World Happiness Report 2022.
When you're not studying there's plenty to explore, from visiting Santa Claus in Lapland to witnessing the country's natural phenomena of permanent sunrise, the Midnight Sun, from June to July.
Finland is the perfect destination to boost your career prospects, as shortages in the labour market mean there's plenty of opportunity for employment once you graduate.
There are two types of higher education institutions in Finland:
- Universities - 13 universities operate under the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, all of which aim to provide academic education based on research. Universities in Finland offer both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
- Universities of Applied Science (UAS) - formerly known as polytechnics, these focus on training professionals in response to labour market needs and emphasise close contacts with business, industry and the service sector. There are currently 25 in Finland, with the list being available at Study.eu.
Both offer qualifications at Bachelors and Masters level, in line with the three-tier Bologna process. However, only universities offer PhD courses.
Finland's academic calendar runs from 1 August to 31 July. The year is split into two semesters:
- autumn - from August/September to December
- spring - from January to May.
Finland's institutions are recognised by the QS World University Rankings 2022. Nine universities appear in the list, led by the University of Helsinki in 104th position, followed by Aalto University ranked 112th.
Degree courses in Finland
English-speaking Bachelors are mainly found in UAS institutions - traditional universities have more to offer candidates looking for courses taught in English at Masters and PhD level. However, UAS institutions provide more than a hundred Bachelors courses in English, in locations across Finland and in a range of subjects.
A three-year university Bachelors degree, typically taught in Finnish or Swedish, is made up of basic and intermediate study, a language component, and a thesis.
UAS programmes have a strong vocational emphasis, giving students relevant on-the-job training as a compulsory part of the course to prepare them for entering the world of employment. As a UAS student, you'll complete core and optional studies resulting in the submission of a thesis.
Start your search for an undergraduate course in Finland at Studyinfo.fi - Bachelors.
At Finnish universities, Masters courses take two years to complete. Those delivered at UAS institutions can be shorter (one to one and a half years), due to candidates needing a wealth of professional experience - usually three years' worth - before the course begins.
Courses are delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars, practical workshops and internships, either face-to-face or in an online format. You'll also gain credits from general studies and language courses. Assessment methods include coursework assignments, exams and a final dissertation.
Your eligibility for a course is based on the extent and quality of your previous academic qualifications, your language skills and other faculty-specific requirements.
To search for English-taught Masters courses in Finland, see Studyinfo.fi - Masters.
Finnish PhD courses are only offered at traditional universities. They're typically four years in length, although some can be longer, and are provided in both English and Finnish. You'll also need a Masters degree to be eligible to apply for the doctoral degree programmes.
Doctorate-level study is research based, and incorporates compulsory coursework, seminars, conferences and the submission of a thesis. You might have to defend your published thesis in a public discussion as part of your final assessment.
Unlike Bachelors and Masters, where courses follow a set structure, PhD studies are available in tailor-made form. Shop around to find an institution that can best cater to your research aspirations.
Students currently attending a UK university can take part in the government's Turing Scheme, which enables students to study abroad at an overseas university.
Check that your institution is involved in the programme and offers the Turing Scheme in Finland.
If you're from an EU/European Economic Area (EEA) country, you're in luck - you'll incur no tuition fees studying in Finland. Non-EU/EEA students, however, are subject to annual tuition fees, typically between €8,000 (£6,846) and €16,000 (£13,692). Check with your institution for specific figures.
You'll also have to pay a small fee to join your university's students' union, which is usually around €80-€100 (£68-£86) for the year. The student card you receive will offer discounts for public transport and student restaurants.
On top of course fees you need to factor in the costs of living in Finland, which can be expensive. If you're living in a city such as Helsinki, you'll need to budget for €700-€1,000 (£599-£855) per month for costs including accommodation, transport, food and course materials.
If you're a non-EU/EEA student, such as from the UK, you'll have to prove you have financial backing in the process of applying for your student residence permit. This is in addition to the costs of your insurance.
Funding to study in Finland
EU/EEA citizens will be hard pushed to find funding at Bachelors or Masters level due to not having to pay any tuition fees. However, the Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI) offers a number of scholarships for Doctoral students. Find out more at Finnish National Agency for Education - Scholarship programmes.
If you're a non-EU/EEA citizen, including those from the UK, you may still be able to find funding for your Bachelors or Masters through your place of study. Browse Study in Finland's details on tuition fees and costs to see if funding is available to you.
While you'll have the freedom to find part-time work to support your time in Finland, don't rely on this as your sole source of income. As a native English speaker, you may find language barriers prevent you from securing employment. If you're successful in finding a job, you may find that your earnings don't fully cover your costs of living. Ensure that you've budgeted carefully before making the move.
As an EU/EEA citizen, you won't need to apply for a visa to complete your studies in Finland. However, you'll need to register at your local police station within three months of your arrival, and if you're staying for longer than a year you'll need to register with the Finnish Population Information System. This can be done at your nearest Local Register office.
If you're from a country outside the EU/EEA - including those from the UK - and looking to study for a minimum of three months, you'll need to obtain a renewable student residence permit. This application costs €360 (£308) plus renewal fees. For an EU national, you only pay €54 (£46) to register your right of residence in Finland.
To apply for this permit, you'll need a formal letter of acceptance from your Finnish university, health insurance and proof that you can support yourself financially through your studies. Applications can be processed via Enter Finland or the Finnish consulate or embassy in your home country - for the UK, this is the Embassy of Finland, London.
This can be a lengthy process, taking a number of months, so allow plenty of time for your application to be approved by sending it off as soon as possible.
How to apply
All applications to study at Bachelors or Masters level in Finland must be submitted through Studyinfo.fi. The site can also be used to browse available courses in both English and Finnish, and contains information on all areas of the Finnish higher education sector.
Typically, annual deadlines are as follows:
- Bachelors - January for courses starting in the autumn term, or September for courses with a January start date.
- Masters - application windows are slightly more lenient, opening late November/early December and remaining open till mid/late January. UAS institutions can extend this deadline to March in some cases.
If you're applying for a PhD course, you'll do so directly to your chosen institution. There's no stipulated timeframe, with some schools accepting applications all year round. Check whether you're working to a deadline or not before beginning your application.
Masters applicants should hold an undergraduate degree, as well as proof of language proficiency where required and proof of higher education qualifications. You won't typically need to sit an entrance exam, although if you're applying for a UAS Masters you might also need a few years of professional experience.
To be accepted onto a Bachelors course, you'll need to hold the right educational certificates, meet language expectations and successfully pass an entrance exam.
You must be able to demonstrate proficiency in English for English-taught courses. The most commonly accepted proof is the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
If you're a native English speaker, you most likely won't have to prove your proficiency with an
official test. Exact guidelines for language requirements vary between institutions - check with yours to see what's required of you.
To study courses in Finnish, you'll need to be relatively fluent in the language when making your application. This means that you should be between intermediate and advanced level on the following proficiency scales:
- Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment (CEFR)
- National Certificates of Language Proficiency (YKI)
Even if you're enrolling on an English-speaking course, it's advisable to learn some Finnish before you arrive to help you communicate and engage with your community. You can take online courses for free at sites such as Venla.info.
Comparison to UK qualifications
The undergraduate qualifications you've earned in other European countries should be recognised by Finnish universities, thanks to the country's involvement in the Bologna process - an agreement made to ensure the direct comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications.
This means that your Finnish qualifications should be internationally recognised too, although it's always best to check this with individual employers. For help with having your credentials officially evaluated, see ENIC-NARIC.