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Last modified 15.3.2011 at 13:16

Finnish Education System

Text: Annika Lamberg Illustration: Mira Torvinen-Määttä

In Finland education is highly valued and the high standard of education forms one of the corner-stones of the Finnish national strategy of developing the country as an information society. After the basic and upper secondary education, university of applied sciences is one of the two ways of acquiring higher education.

In Finland children go to school normally at the age of seven. Comprehensive school lasts nine years. Basic education is free and provided for the entire age group. Before comprehensive school everyone can attend one year of voluntary pre-primary education in day care centres or in pre-school classes in comprehensive schools.

Upper secondary education consists of general and vocational education and training. General upper secondary education prepares students for the matriculation examination, and in the vocational programmes students gain a vocational competence. In Finland completion of upper secondary education is regarded to be the minimum requirement to perform in the working life.

Higher education

Both general and vocational upper secondary certificates provide general eligibility for further studies. The higher education system consists of two parallel sectors; universities and universities of applied sciences. In Finland studies leading to a degree are free of charge for the students.

Universities are academic or artistic institutions and focus on scientific research and education based on it. They confer Bachelor's, Master's, Licentiate’s and doctoral degrees.

Oulu University of Applied Sciences belongs to the practically oriented higher education sector. Universities of applied sciences are working life oriented and operate on the basis of higher expertise requirements set by the working life. A Bachelor’s degree from a university of applied sciences requires 3.5 - 4.5 years of full-time study.

The majority of universities of applied sciences are multidisciplinary. It means that they provide education in several fields of study, and so does Oulu UAS. In total, there are 29 universities of applied sciences in Finland. The requirement for the Master's programmes in the universities of applied sciences is a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent, plus a minimum of three years of work experience in the field concerned.

Applying is made easy

For universities of applied sciences students are selected in a state-wide joint application system in spring and autumn. Applying to the Bachelor degree programmes conducted in English takes place through an online joint application at In this website there is up to date information on application dates and practicalities.

Students can apply to up to four different degree programmes at universities of applied sciences using the same application form. The application form can be submitted online at or sent by post to the admissions office of the applicant’s first choice university of applied sciences.

Higher education is popular in Finland. There is constantly a multiple of applicants compared to the intake number and the admission of applicants must be restricted in all fields of study. To ensure an efficient use of study places there is a rule that a student may only accept one place in a degree programme starting in the same academic year.

Sources of information: Ministry of education in Finland and Finnish National Board of Education

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You can find specific information and how to apply from the Studies and Applying section of Oulu UAS website.

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