1. Higher education in Finland

1.1 Finnish higher education system

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 90 or so 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 The remaining degrees are at Universities of Applied Sciences.

While 90 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.

1.2 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.

1.3 Application process for 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 here. 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.

1.4 Accreditation and recognition in Finland

All Finnish higher education institutions are regulated by the Ministry of Education although they do have a fair amount of autonomy. There are no private universities in Finland at this time.

Accreditation and recognition of Finnish qualifications is not a problem.

2. How much does it cost to study in Finland?

2.1 Tuition fees for Finnish universities

Finnish universities do not charge tuition fees for EU students.

2.2 Loans and grants in Finland

There is no national student loan or grant available to international students for the simple reason that there are no tuition fees for Master’s degrees. The Finnish government is already providing free higher education and therefore is no need for it to provide further assistance. This naturally means that you will have to finance your living costs on your own but the overall cost of your studies will be lower than in many other countries.

2.3 Cost of Living

Even though studying in Finland is free you will still have to plan for anticipated cost of living.

In Finland, the general cost of living is relatively high. The average monthly living expenses for a student in Finland are approximately €800-900 (£700-800). This may vary a bit, depending on your study location in Finland – for example, accommodation and other living costs may be higher in the Helsinki metropolitan area and other larger cities.

As a student you can get discounts in student restaurants and cafeterias, public transport and national rail travel. Student housing with shared facilities is usually a low-cost accommodation option. For detailed information on the local student accommodation options available in different study locations in Finland, the related costs etc. you are best advised to contact your university in Finland. It is also advisable to try to arrange your accommodation as soon as you have an offer letter from your university as demand in the most popular student cities can be very high.

For more advice on housing please visit this website.

In the following table you will find an estimate of the monthly living costs for students.







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€800-900 (£700-800)

3. Student life in Finland

3.1 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.

3.2 On Arrival

British and other EU nationals do not need a residence permit to stay in Finland, but they must register their residence after staying three months in Finland. The local police handle the registration, except for Nordic citizens, who register at a Register Office and present the Inter-Nordic Migration Form.

3.3 Opening a Bank Account

The student affairs office, your tutors, or your fellow students in Finland can assist you in this. To open an account, you need to visit the bank branch in person. Please remember to take all the necessary documents with you - including your passport for identification purposes. Please check beforehand with the bank which documents and certificates you will need - the requirements may vary slightly from one bank group to another.

The account types offered for daily banking do not usually differ from each other significantly, either in terms of their features or their service charges. When it comes to choosing your Finnish bank it may be the easiest solution to just pick one that has a branch office within a convenient distance from your student flat or your university, so that if you need to visit the bank in person it is always near.

3.4 Working in Finland

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

There are no restrictions on the amount of hours you can work. Your chances of finding a job will improve if you can speak Finnish or Swedish in addition to English. It is not advisable to count on finding a part-time job to fit in alongside your studies but it is possible for you to do so if the opportunity should arise.

4. 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.