The Finnish higher education has been developed as a system of two parallel sectors, the university sector and the non-university sector comprising the universities of applied sciences (in Finnish ammattikorkeakoulut). Oulu University of Applied Sciences represents the latter. The Finnish system of universities of applied sciences was built during the 1990's to create a non-university sector of higher education. It is founded on the institutions which previously provided post-secondary vocational education and which have been developed to form a nationwide network of regional institutions of higher education, i.e. University of Applied Sciences. They carry out research and development which serve education in University of Applied Sciences and support working life.
Oulu University of Applied Sciences responds to the business and employment needs of Northern Finland by arranging and developing training at the higher vocational level. Presently, ca. 9,000 students attend Oulu University of Applied Sciences, which began to offer higher vocational training in 1992. Each year, around 300 international exchange students complete part of their studies at Oulu University of Applied Sciences, and about 130 (in 2013) visiting lecturers teach at the University of Applied Sciences. Usually, they come within the framework of an EU Programme or an agreement made between Oulu University of Applied Sciences and its partners.
In the academic year 2015–2016 Oulu University of Applied Sciences offers degree programmes in the following fields: 1) Social Sciences, Business and Administration, 2) Culture, 3) Natural Resources and the Environment; 4) Natural Sciences, 5) Social Services and Health Care and 6) Technology, Communication and Transport. There are 28 degree programmes leading to a higher vocational qualification at Bachelor level (B.Sc. hons). Three of them are conducted entirely in English. At the Master level four degree programmes are conducted in Finnish.