Studying in Finland – discover Finnish cities

Studying in Finland - an overview

Studying in Finland may seem like a leap in the dark, since it is the least well-known Scandinavian country – but Finnish culture has permeated Europe in many ways and its products are actually very familiar to us. At some point in our lives, we have all probably had a Nokia phone and watched the Moomins cartoons, set in Moominland. Maybe you have written letters to Santa Claus, in Lapland, or sat in a sauna and wondered which genius devised the ultimate cleansing and relaxing experience? These seemingly very different objects are linked by the fact that they all originated or are located In Finland, the land of a thousand lakes (although there are actually 187,888 across the country) and consistently voted the happiest place on earth!

As an EU student you are in the privileged position of being able to get your degree in Finland without paying any tuition fees, and in the process gain an internationally recognised and highly respected qualification. The Finnish education system has been highly acclaimed for its quality and relevance to the job market. The higher education sector is divided into two categories: traditional research universities and universities of applied sciences. Both offer Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, but only universities provide doctorate programmes. At present, Finland’s higher education sector runs approximately 600 courses in English, so you have a vast number of options to choose from, and Elab is here to guide you through the many possibilities available in the greenest, safest and cleanest country on the planet.

Studying in Finland – international rankings

A short word on rankings. The best known organisations, such as QS, take research output into consideration, and consequently assign 60 per cent of their marks for research. This means that Universities of Applied Sciences do not feature in the majority of ranking lists, because of their emphasis on placements, practical work and projects. Below, you will find two charts, one for universities, one for universities of applied sciences.

UniversityQS Ranking 2024THE Ranking 2021
University of Helsinki115-121101
Aalto University109-201201
Turku University315-301351
Jyväskilä University446-401351
Oulu University313-301251
Lappeenranta Un. of Technology351-251251
Tampere University414251
University of East Finland548-501501
University of Applied SciencesNational Rankings
Turku UAS13
Metropolia UAS14
Laurea UAS16
Savonia UAS17
Hame UAS18

Which kind of university should I apply to?

In the end, this decision depends on two factors: whether you are aiming to build a career in a specific field and need practical as well as theoretical knowledge, or whether you are considering an academic future and are more interested in theory and pursuing research.

Universities of Advanced Sciences offer Master’s qualifications (not doctorates) and prefer you to have at least three years’ work experience between finishing your bachelor’s degree and starting postgraduate studies. This is not the case for universities, where you can glide from undergraduate to postgraduate studies without taking a break.

Universities of Applied Sciences have slightly lower language requirements than universities, and the majority are more likely to accept an IELTS score of 6, rather than demand 6.5 upwards, as is the case in universities.

It will take you 3.5-4.5 years to get your first cycle degree at a UAS, where you will get 210-270 ECTS credits. In contrast, university degrees take three years to complete and give you 180 credits. This may make a difference to which institution you decide upon, if you take into account the cost of living in Finland for an extra 6-18 months.

If you are interested in taking placements, working on industry-linked projects, group work and networking, then a university of applied sciences is a good choice. Your assignments will be practical, as well as based on theory, and you will start by taking core modules and add optionals, before finally writing a bachelor’s thesis, to get your degree. Universities of applied sciences are keenly aware of the needs of the job market and have close ties to industry, business and the service sector.

University degrees take you through foundation and intermediate levels of study, and include a language component and a thesis. The focus is on academic research and international cooperation.

Master’s degree programmes are taught through lectures, seminars, internships and some online work. Courses last for two years, and you are assessed through coursework, examinations and the dissertation you have to produce.

Studying in Finland – what is the educational approach?

Universities and UASs both have a student-centred view of learning, and value student input and collaboration with members of the academic staff. You will be surprised by the relaxed atmosphere during seminars, where lecturers are called by their first names, and you are free to ask questions, dispute, debate and offer your independent views. Independent thinking is very important in Finland’s institutions of higher education, and you will find yourself being encouraged to pursue your own interests and take part in open dialogue with your peers and academics.

Finland’s universities and UASs do not expect students to memorise and regurgitate facts, and this is clearly seen in the entrance exams which you may, or may not, have to sit. Instead of the long list of multiple-choice questions so often encountered in other countries, the Finns prefer to give you a few fairly complex questions, which you will have to think about carefully in order to find an answer. This is a very different approach to learning, since it avoids mechanical problem-solving, born of working through past papers and learned strategies, and demands creativity and reflection.

It is interesting to note, too, that the application process to Finland’s institutions of higher education does not have a personal element. In practice, this means that you will not be asked about your extracurricular activities, your love of sports, volunteering or the fact you have been playing guitar since the age of three. In short, you will not be expected to bare your soul in an essay. You will be judged and evaluated purely on the basis of your grades and academic record.

Applying to a university or UAS in Finland – the process

Finland has a central application system, and you need to submit your documentation through the website. The studyinfo joint application to courses starting in autumn (September) is open to future students annually in January. All bachelor’s degree programmes available via the joint application share the same application period. Check the very specific deadlines and do not miss them, because late submissions are not accepted. Joint application also means that you can apply to up to six degree programmes with one single application, and you can list your preferences – but be aware that this commits you to choosing the top ranking university if it makes you an offer.

You will get a response by the beginning of June, and you are only allowed to accept ONE OFFER. Your decision is binding and all the other applications you have made are automatically cancelled. If you fail to confirm the place and do not register as a student with the university by the July deadline, you will lose your place. You will be provided with information on how to register with the university in the acceptance letter/email.

You can also choose to make single applications, which involves applying directly to each institution of higher education and filling in separate application forms. In this case – which is a time-consuming process – there is no upper limit to the number of applications you can make.

If you are applying for a Master’s degree, you have several options. You can apply on the official websites of the universities. You can apply on the official websites of UAS or you can go through the general portal,

Studying in Finland – visas and registration

EU citizens do not need a visa to study in Finland.

However, you will need to register with the Finnish Population Information System within three months of arriving in order to get your personal identity number. You will have to bring photo ID with you and proof of your student status and will be asked for demographic information such as:

  • Your date of birth
  • Your address in Finland
  • Nationality
  • Mother tongue
  • Gender

The service is free and can be booked online – ask your student services at the university to provide you with the link and the address of your local office.

You need your personal identification number for a whole range of administrative tasks, such as opening a bank account, getting a student discount on public transport, and any part-time job you might apply for.

In addition you must register your right to reside on the Finland Immigration Service – MIGRI. Once again, this is something your university can help you with when you have started your studies.

Studying in Finland – the cost of living and studying

Finland has some 24,000 international students and, while it is not the cheapest country in Europe, they report that they need from 800-950 euros a month, depending on where they have chosen to study, with Helsinki being more expensive than other towns and cities. Finland is, however, significantly cheaper than its Nordic neighbours, with housing ranging from 420 euros  a month for student accommodation to 850 euros  for a studio apartment, and groceries, utilities and transport reflecting prices found throughout much of Europe. As is always the case, your budget is determined by your choices, and living in a smart apartment in the heart of Helsinki, eating out four times a week and travelling everywhere by taxi is going to be far costlier than sharing an apartment with two other students, often cooking at home and using public transport. You can, of course, try to find part-time work to supplement your income, although your options will be limited if you speak no Finnish. Your first port of call should be the university, who often have posts to fill, as well as the service and travel sectors.

I want to study at a university in Finland, what is the next step?

Contact us, here at Elab, and one of our experienced consultants will go through your options, the application process, the courses and universities, and the practical aspects of living in Finland. If you are considering studying in a Nordic country, we can help you to compare Sweden, Norway and Finland, and guide you to make the best choice, in line with your interests and career plans.

Elab runs an extremely popular Europa Programme, which analyses higher education across the whole of Europe. If this interests you, we will give you information on what it covers and available start dates.

We are here to help, so drop us an email or call our offices for up to date information on studying in stunning Finland.

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