Postgraduate Study in Finland
Finland: an Overview
Finland is a large country in Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, and it also has Estonia to its south just across the Gulf of Finland. Finland is one of the five Nordic countries, along with Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland.
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The population of Finland is around 5.4 million people, which makes it the most sparsely populated country in the EU. Most of its population live in the southern region which is where the capital city, Helsinki, is based. Other large Finnish cities include Tampere, Turku, Oulu and Jyväskylä.
Finland features stunning landscapes and is covered in forest, lakes and islands – it is one of the largest wood producers in the world. With it extremely northern location it does experience extremely cold winters which are also rather long – around seven months in the far north of the country, hence the population is largely concentrated in the south!
Finland and has an extensive welfare state and is considered to have the best educational system in Europe, and its inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living.
Finland is a member of the EU, the United Nations and the OECD. The currency in Finland is the Euro.
Finnish Education and Institutions
The Finnish higher education institutions could be described as small but perfectly formed! It consists of two complementary sectors: universities and polytechnics, also known as Universities of Applied Science (UAS).
There are 16 universities and 27 polytechnics/UAS, and they are all very much internationally oriented. All the universities and polytechnics are self governing although they are largely funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. This means that the Ministry oversees the quality of teaching ensuring the institutions maintain a high standard.
Universities vs polytechnics
The universities in Finland provide academic higher education based on research, whereas the polytechnics/UAS's provide a more vocational/professional learning experience with the emphasis on preparation for life in the workplace.
Finnish universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as post-graduate Licentiate and Doctoral degrees. Finnish universities currently have around 200 master’s degree programs, and 23 Doctoral programs for students wishing to study in English.
The academic year
The Finnish academic year is divided into two terms – the autumn term which runs from August/September to December and the spring term which runs from January to the end of May. Most degree programs (particularly at bachelor level) only take in new degree students at the beginning of the academic year (autumn term) however in some cases studies can start in the spring term – so check with your chosen program/institution.
Finnish higher education institutions offer over 450 English-speaking degree and non-degree programs. They use the ECTS system (European Credit Transfer System) in measuring a student’s workload and therby awarding degrees. In this system one full-time academic year is equivalent to 60 higher education credits. Finnish universities have moved to the degree structure of a three years bachelor's degree (worth 180 ECTS credits), and two years master's degree (worth 120 ECTS credits).
Polytechnic master’s degrees (worth 60-90 ECTS credits) last from 1-1.5 years, and are ideal for people with a bachelor's degree and at least 3 years of post graduation work experience. Polytechnics/UAS offer both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, in fact overall in English they provide around 100 bachelor’s degree programmes and over 20 master’s degree programmes.
The universities and polytechnics are in charge of selecting their own students. Most Finnish higher education institutions use an on-line electronic admissions system for their bachelors and masters degree student intake. To apply you will need to send in copies of any previous educational certificates as well as some other required documents (check with your institution of choice). You may also need to pass an entrance examination depending on what programme you are applying for.
To apply for a master’s program in Finland, many but not all of the universities use the University Admissions Finland Service (www.universityadmissions.fi service). To check whether your chosen university uses the UAF for its admissions it is advisable to check with the university’s Admissions Office.
Doctoral level education is only provided by the universities in Finland – the polytechnics/UAS do not offer post-masters level degrees. The post-masters level degrees that you can do are Licentiate (worth 60 ECTS credits) and doctorates (worth 240 ECTS credits) degrees. The doctoral degree normally requires at least four years of full-time study.
If you are interested in doctoral studies you should contact your chosen university directly to find out more about how and when to apply. The International Office of each university will be able to advise you further, or, alternatively, it could be a good idea to contact the Faculty/Department of your subject area of interest. If you hold a masters degree (or equivalent) then you should be eligible to apply for PhD-level studies in Finland – however all the universities define their own entry criteria.
Finland: Tuition Fees and Funding
In Finland bachelors and doctoral level programmes do not charge any tuition fees regardless of your nationality. Many masters degree programmes are also exempt from tuition fees, although some may charge annual tuition fees from non-EU/EEA students. The cost of the tuition fees is covered by the Finnish government.
Scholarships in Finland are mainly available for doctoral level studies and research only. There are of course some exceptions to this, and if you are a non-EU citizen and are undertaking a master’s degree programme in which you are charged a tuition fee, you will be eligible to apply for institutional scholarships at your university.
Scholarships are also available for those students partaking in the Erasmus Mundus Masters programs. To find out more about these you should apply through the university consortium offering your Erasmus Mundus programme.
Your home country may also have a selection of 'study abroad’ scholarships so it is worth checking with the educational authorities.
Finland: Living in Finland
Finland is a beautiful, safe and interesting country to live and study in. There is a strong emphasis on nature and outdoor living – with outdoor activities featuring water-based activities. It is that land of the midnight sun in the summer and periods of almost complete darkness in the winter – making it an exotic and contrasting place to reside. There are approximately 14,000 international students in Finland at any one time.
Finland is a technologically advanced nation which makes it a great place to study and network in, especially if you are interested in the field of IT and computing.
Consistently rated as a country with one of the highest standards of living worldwide – the cost of living in Finland is also rather high. The cost of accommodation will vary according to whereabouts in the country you are based, but the average monthly rent for a single room in a shared student flat ranges from around 200€ to 350€ – costs of self-contained apartment will obviously be higher. Overall monthly student living costs are estimated to be between €500 to €700 per week.
Although the tuition costs are low (and in many instances nonexistent!) in Finland, the cost of living is quite high, therefore many students work part time whilst doing their studies or during the holidays. However, work can be quite difficult to find unless you have a good knowledge of the Finnish language.
Nordic or EU/EEA students
If you are a Nordic or EU/EEA national, you do not need any special permits for working in Finland during your studies and there are no restrictions as to how many hours per week you are allowed to work
Non-EU/EEA students can work within certain limits on a student residence permit if either the amount of part-time work does not exceed 25 hours per week during term time, or the work is practical training included in the degree program. There are no limits in terms of hours on full-time work outside term times ie in the summer and Christmas holidays.
Non-EU/EEA students who have lived in Finland on a student residence permit, can apply for an additional residence permit after their graduation to search for work. This can be granted as an extended residence permit for up to six months.
Healthcare and Insurance
It is essential that students have a valid healthcare for the duration of their stay in Finland – it is advisable that this policy also covers you for travelling to and from Finland and for medical assistance in any countries you may be planning to visit throughout the duration of your studies. There is a Finnish National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, but this only covers permanent Finnish residents not international students residing in Finland on a temporary student residence permit are not covered by the NHI scheme. Make sure you organise your private medical insurance before arriving in Finland.
Finland: Visas and Immigration
If you are a Nordic/EU/EEA citizen and your studies in Finland are going to last more than three months you will need to get a student residence permit. You will need to apply for this from your home country. Be aware that if you come to Finland with a short-term visa and then want to stay longer you will usually need to return to your home country to apply for a residence permit.
If you are foreign nationals (ie a non-Nordic/EU/EEA citizen) you will need to have a residence permit to stay in Finland for 90 days or longer. This needs to applied for at your local Finnish embassy or consulate – check with them first to find out what documentation you need to bring with you.
Student Residence Permit
Nordic/EU/EEA citizens and non Nordic/EU/EEA citizens need to apply for a student residence permit once they have been officially accepted into a Finnish university/UAS. The university/UAS will send an acceptance letter for all admitted student once the admission process is completed, and this document is necessary to apply for a student residence permit.
In order to successfully apply for a student residence permit, you will need to prove that you have enough funding to support your everyday living expenses in Finland. Currently, non-EU/EEA citizens are required to show that they have at least €500 per month/€6,000 per year.
Since a student residence permit is usually granted for one year at a time, you'll need to renew it annually at your local police station in Finland.
Finland: Finnish Universities and Polytechnics
There are 16 universities in Finland – these are:
• Aalto University
• Åbo Akademi University
• Academy of Fine Arts
• Hanken School of Economics
• Lappeenranta University of Technology
• Sibelius Academy
• Tampere University of Technology
• Theatre Academy Helsinki
• University of Helsinki
• University of Eastern Finland
• University of Jyväskylä
• University of Lapland
• University of Oulu
• University of Tampere
• University of Turku
• University of Vaasa
There are 27 Polytechnics/UAS in Finland (including the Åland Polytechnic in the self-governing province of the Åland Islands, and the Police Academy). These are:
• Åland University of Applied Sciences
• Central Ostrobothnia University of Applied Sciences
• Diaconia University of Applied Sciences
• HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences
• HAMK University of Applied Sciences
• Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
• HUMAK University of Applied Sciences
• JAMK University of Applied Sciences
• Kajaani University of Applied Sciences
• Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences
• Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences
• Lahti University of Applied Sciences
• Laurea University of Applied Sciences
• Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences
• North Karelia University of Applied Sciences
• Novia University of Applied Sciences
• Oulu University of Applied Sciences
• Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences
• Saimaa University of Applied Sciences
• Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
• Savonia University of Applied Sciences
• Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
• Tampere University of Applied Sciences
• Turku University of Applied Sciences
• Vaasa University of Applied Sciences
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