About the Higher Education system in Finland

In common with most northern European countries, Finland has a highly demarcated higher education system. On the one hand, there are 10 comprehensive, research universities and an additional five specialised technical or artistic universities focusing on a narrow range of subjects, for example, engineering, economics, the performing arts. On the other hand, there are currently 26 Universities of Applied Sciences (the number is affected by mergers and consolidation) that specialize in providing more practical, hands-on education.

All institutions are typically referred to as universities and they all have the ability to award bachelor-level qualifications. Universities award Bachelor degrees such as BSc and BA, whereas universities of applied sciences award Bachelor degrees in subjects, for example, BBA (business administration), BEng (engineering). An undergraduate degree from a university typically takes 3 years to complete and university of applied science degrees last between 3.5 and 4.5 years including work placements.

At Bachelor’s level, Finnish research universities tend not to teach any degrees in English. Of the 87 degrees that we have been able to identify as being taught in English, only one (International Business at Aalto University, Mikkeli campus) is at a research university while three are on offer at Tampere University of Technology (Mathematics, Physics, Information and Communications Technology). The remaining 83 degrees are at Universities of Applied Sciences.

While 83 Bachelor’s degrees might suggest quite a wide range of options for international students, in reality these English-taught degrees are often the same or similar programmes offered at multiple locations. 70% of the Bachelor’s degrees are in only four subjects: international business, nursing, ICT and tourism/hospitality. In contrast to many other countries, there is very little on offer in creative art and design subjects.

Finnish higher education does offer some unusual options that are not easy to find elsewhere. There are two options available for students wishing to embark on a maritime career as a sea captain.  Finland is also the only country where we have found a degree in restaurant entrepreneurship.

A new degree for 2017 in eSports Business offered at Kajani University of Applied Sciences is the first we have come across to address the growing computer-based competitive and recreational sport sector. Finland is at the forefront of what is sure to become a global phenomenon.

In general, it is fair to say that Finnish higher education only offers Bachelor’s level education in English in strategic areas where it is trying to encourage immigration (nursing) or in areas where the country’s competitive advantage is well established (maritime sector, eSports etc). There is certainly no indication that research universities will be offering widespread opportunities in English at Bachelor’s level although postgraduate education is now just as international as in most other northern European countries.


Entry Requirements for Finnish universities

Universities in Finland are highly selective and often oversubscribed. Completion of secondary education at advanced level, equivalent to passing the exam at the end of Finnish upper secondary school, is the basic requirement for entry to Finnish universities and university colleges. If you have A levels you should be eligible for entry to a Finnish university although each university is free to determine its own requirements and you will need to contact each university directly to find out what these are. Additionally each university also has its own entrance exam.

The most common form of entrance exam is a written test, but when applying to subjects like visual arts, drama, or music, you may need to prepare a portfolio of your work, or you may be invited to an audition.

  • in most cases, the entrance examinations are held in Finland, and those who are invited to the exams must personally travel to Finland to take the test.
  • if you are applying to the Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (polytechnics) it is sometimes possible to take exams in other countries.
  • if you are applying to a Finnish University you need to be in direct contact with the Finnish university you are applying to in order to find out if you can take the examination in your home country.

How do you apply to Finnish universities?

Most Finnish Higher Education Institutions use online application systems. For universities of applied sciences there is a centralised application process which you can access at This system does not include the universities and you will be required to apply directly to them.

For Universities of Applied Sciences the main application period is January-February for the following autumn. You can also apply in August-September for courses starting in January. For Universities there is usually only one application period and that takes place between November and January.

How much does it cost to study in Finland?

Finnish universities do not charge tuition fees for EU students.

How do I get a visa to study in Finland?

As Finland is part of the European Union this is not required. You will need to register with the local authorities once you are resident in Finland but this is not a step you need to undertake in advance.

Can I work there as a student?

If you have an EU passport you can work while you are a student.

Which are the best universities in Finland?

1. University of Helsinki

2. Aalto University

3. University of Eastern Finland

4. University of Turku

Aalto University is the only research university with any Bachelor’s degree programmes taught in English.

Universities in Finland

About A Star Future

A Star Future provides information and guidance to British students looking to pursue their undergraduate studies abroad.

Through our presentations in schools and our websites we aim to ensure that British-educated students are well informed about their choices.


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