Finland's beautiful natural landscape, technological prowess and free tuition fees for European Union (EU) students make it an ideal study setting
Situated in northern Europe, Finland has one of the most advanced educational systems in the world. You'll also get to experience some pretty impressive sights - for instance, the midnight sun in the summer months and the polar night in winter, when the sun doesn't rise above the horizon at all.
There are two types of higher education institutions in Finland:
- Universities - 14 universities currently 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.
- 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 of these institutions in Finland.
Finnish academic years are split into two terms:
- autumn - from August/September to December;
- spring - from January until May.
While only the University of Helsinki (96th) features within the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, eight other institutions are present on the full list.
Students currently attending a UK university can take part in the European Union's (EU) education, training and youth support programme, Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to many young people, with opportunities lasting from three months to one academic year.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative, for any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation that is actively involved in education and training. However, your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in another EU country, of which Finland is one. Speak to your institution for information on how to apply.
This information is still valid following the UK's decision to leave the European Union and will be updated if changes happen.
Degree courses in Finland
Fewer English-taught courses are available at undergraduate level. Around 100 Bachelors degree courses are available at UAS institutions.
A three-year Bachelors degree, amounting to 180 ECTS credits and typically taught in Finnish or Swedish, is made up of basic and intermediate study, a language component, and a thesis.
For UAS programmes, there's a strong vocational emphasis with relevant on-the-job training a key component. There's also a requirement to study in one of the country's native languages, as well as one or more foreign languages.
The higher education system in Finland doesn't offer postgraduate certificates or diplomas, but there are plenty of Masters degrees taught in English to choose from. The country adheres to the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) in measuring a student's workload.
Therefore, a typical two-year Masters is the equivalent of 120 ECTS credits, and consists of a major subject choice, various minor electives, general studies, and language and communication studies, followed by a thesis.
The main exception to this course of study is the two-tier degree system deployed by Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS), with Masters courses lasting from one to one-and-a-half years (60-90 ECTS credits). However, to gain entry, you'll need to have completed at least three years of work experience after your undergraduate degree. These professionally-focused programmes involve advanced specialist study, elected options and a thesis.
Your eligibility is based on the extent and quality of your previous academic qualifications, your language skills and other possible faculty-specific requirements. You can search the study programmes database for suitable courses, or check individual Finnish university websites to see what's on offer.
Doctoral degrees are not offered by UAS institutions, only universities, with these four-year programmes the equivalent of 240 ECTS credits.
PhDs usually take the form of research and the preparation of a substantial dissertation, with the published work defended by the student in a public discussion.
Studies are available in tailor-made form. Contact the individual institution to find out whether their specialist area of study fits in with your research aspirations.
Students from within the EU or European Economic Area (EEA) do not pay tuition fees in Finland.
While higher education is free at the moment, those from non-EU/EEA countries will be expected to pay tuition fees from the 2017/18 academic year. Minimum fees are estimated to be between €5,000 and €20,000 per academic year.
Study in Finland also states that you should expect to spend around €700-900 per month on living expenses, with the immigration authorities requiring incoming students to demonstrate that they have at least €560 per month (€6,720 for the year). This is in addition to travel and insurance costs.
Funding to study in Finland
The majority of scholarships are for Doctoral students. It can be difficult for Bachelors and Masters students to obtain scholarships due the fact that the government already covers the cost of their education.
However, scholarships based on individual circumstances are available and these include:
- CIMO scholarships for Doctoral-level studies and research at Finnish universities;
- institutional scholarships offered by the higher education institutions themselves, especially for those enrolled in Masters programmes that carry a tuition fee for non-EU/EEA nationals.
You may be eligible to apply for some study abroad scholarships in your home country, and from international organisations and foundations. Contact the individual organisation to find out more.
How to apply
Online applications for specific undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are made directly through the individual university or UAS.
For a Masters course, you'll typically need to hold an undergraduate degree in a relevant field and fulfil language requirements. Entrance exams for this level are not common, but may be required for some arts-related subjects.
To be accepted onto a Bachelors degree course, you'll need to hold the right educational certificates, meet the language expectations and successfully pass the entrance exam.
For more general information on how to apply, see Study in Finland.
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). Exact guidelines for language requirements will vary.
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)
As an EU citizen, you're permitted to live in any EU country while studying as long as you:
- are enrolled at an approved university/other educational institution;
- are studying for more than three months;
- have comprehensive health insurance cover;
- have sufficient income (from any source) to live without needing income support.
Students staying in Finland for more than three months will need to register their residence at a police station. Those from Nordic nations have six months before they are required to register.
Students from non-EU countries looking to study at a Finnish institution for a minimum of three months will need to obtain an extendable one-year student residence permit before arrival in the country. Your application should be submitted to your country's Finnish embassy or via Enter Finland. The application process can be lengthy, so ensure that you allow enough time before the start of the course.
This visa information is still valid following the UK's decision to leave the EU and will be updated if changes happen.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Existing undergraduate qualifications acquired in other European countries will usually be recognised and accepted by Finnish universities. Conversely, your Finnish Masters degree should be internationally recognised, including by UK employers.