Free tuition fees for European Union (EU) students, a beautiful natural landscape and a high standard of living are just some of the reasons you should consider studying Finland

More than 23,000 international students are currently completing their studies in Finland and there's never been a better time to join them. Finland was voted the world's happiest country in the World Happiness Report 2018.

In your study breaks there's plenty to explore, from visiting Santa Claus in Lapland to witnessing the country's natural phenomena of permanent sunrise, the Midnight Sun, in the north from June to July.

Finland is the perfect destination to boost your career prospects, as shortages in the labour market mean there will be plenty of opportunities for employment upon graduation.

Finnish universities

There are two types of higher education institutions in Finland:

  • Universities - 14 universities currently operate under the , all of which aim to provide academic education based on research. Universities in Finland offer both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
  • Universities of Applied Science (UAS) - formerly known as polytechnics, these focus on training professionals in response to labour market needs and emphasise close s with business, industry and the service sector. There are currently 24 of these institutions in Finland.

Both offer qualifications at Bachelors and Masters level, in line with the three-tier Bologna process. Only universities offer PhD courses.

Finland's academic calendar runs from 1 August to 31 July. The year is split into two semesters:

  • autumn - from August/September to December
  • spring - from January to May.

Finland's institutions are recognised by the . Five universities appear, led by the University of Helsinki in joint 102nd position.

Student exchanges

Students currently attending a UK university can take part in the EU's education, training and youth support programme, . The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements, with opportunities lasting from three months to one academic year.

Financial support is available through Erasmus+ for any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation that is actively involved in education and training. However, your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in another EU country, of which Finland is one. Speak to your institution for information on how to apply.

If you're from a Nordic or Baltic country, and currently studying for a Bachelors or Masters, you may be interested in applying for the student exchange programme. You can study in Finland for one week up to twelve months.

This information is still valid following the UK's decision to leave the European Union and will be updated if changes occur.

Degree courses in Finland

English-speaking Bachelors are mainly found in UAS institutions; traditional universities have more to offer candidates looking for courses taught in English at Masters and PhD level. However, UAS institutions provide more than 100 Bachelors courses in English, in locations across Finland and in a range of subjects.

A three-year university Bachelors degree, typically taught in Finnish or Swedish, is made up of basic and intermediate study, a language component, and a thesis.

UAS programmes have a strong vocational emphasis, giving students relevant on-the-job training as a compulsory part of the course to prepare them for entering the world of employment. As a UAS student, you'll complete core and optional studies resulting in the submission of a thesis.

Start your search for an undergraduate course in Finland at .

Masters degrees

At Finnish universities, Masters courses largely take two years to complete. Those delivered at UAS institutions can be shorter, due to candidates needing a wealth of professional experience - usually three years' worth - before the course begins.

Courses are delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars, practical workshops and internships, either face-to-face or in an online format. You'll also gain credits from general studies and language courses. Assessment methods include coursework assignments, exams and a final dissertation.

Your eligibility for a course is based on the extent and quality of your previous academic qualifications, your language skills and other faculty-specific requirements.

PhDs

Finnish PhD courses are only offered at traditional universities. They're typically four years in length, although some can be longer, and are provided in both English and Finnish at many institutions.

Doctorate-level study is research based, and incorporates compulsory coursework, seminars, conferences and the submission of a thesis. You might have to defend your published thesis in a public discussion as part of your final assessment.

Unlike Bachelors and Masters, where courses follow a set structure, PhD studies are available in tailor-made form. Shop around to find an institution that can best cater to your research aspirations.

Course fees

If you're from an EU/European Economic Area (EEA) country, you're in luck - you'll incur no tuition fees studying in Finland. Non-EU/EEA students, however, are subject to annual tuition fees of between €4,000 and €18,000. Check with your institution for specific figures.

You'll also have to pay a small fee to join your university's students' union, usually around €40.

Remember that, on top of any course fees, you need to factor in the costs of living in Finland. advises that life in Finland can be expensive, and you'll need to budget €700-€900 euros per month for costs including accommodation, transport, food and course materials.

If you're a non-EU/EEA student, you'll have to prove you have financial backing in the process of applying for your student residence permit. This is in addition to the costs of your insurance.

Funding to study in Finland

EU/EEA citizens will be hard pushed to find funding at Bachelors or Masters level due to abolished tuition fees, the Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI) offers a number of scholarships for Doctoral students. Find out more at .

Alternatively, you may look into completing an . As part of this scheme EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA students can benefit from funding at Masters level.

If you're a non-EU/EEA citizen, you may still be able to find funding for your Bachelors or Masters tuition fees through your place of study. Browse Study in Finland's list of to see if funding is available to you.

While you'll have the freedom to find part-time work to support your time in Finland, don't rely on this as your sole source of income. As a native English speaker, you may find language barriers prevent you from securing employment. If you're successful in finding a job, you may find that your earnings don't fully cover your costs of living. Ensure you've budgeted carefully before making the move.

How to apply

All applications to study at Bachelors or Masters level in Finland must be submitted through . The site can also be used to browse available courses in both English and Finnish, and contains information on all areas of the Finnish higher education sector.

Typically, annual deadlines are as follows:

  • Bachelors - January for courses starting in the autumn term, or September for courses with a January start date.
  • Masters - application windows are slightly more lenient for Masters courses, opening late November/early December and remaining open til mid/late January. UAS institutions can extend this deadline to March in some cases.

If you're applying for a PhD course, you'll do so directly to your chosen institution. There's no stipulated time frame, with some schools accepting applications all year round. Check whether you're working to a deadline or not before you begin your application.

Masters applicants should hold an undergraduate degree, as well as proof of language proficiency where required and proof of higher education qualifications. You won't typically need to sit an entrance exam, although if you're applying for a UAS Masters you might also need a few years of professional experience.   

To be accepted onto a Bachelors degree course, you'll need to hold the right educational certificates, meet language expectations and successfully pass an entrance exam.

Language requirements

You must be able to demonstrate proficiency in English for English-taught courses. The most commonly accepted proof is the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

If you're a native English speaker, you most likely won't have to prove your proficiency with an official test. Exact guidelines for language requirements will vary between institutions - check with yours to see what's required of you.

To study courses in Finnish, you'll need to be relatively fluent in the language when making your application. This means that you should be between intermediate and advanced level on the following proficiency scales:

Even if you're enrolling on an English-speaking course, it's advisable to learn some Finnish before you arrive to help you communicate and engage with your community. You can take online courses for free, at sites such as .

Student visas

As an EU/EEA citizen, you won't need to apply for a visa to complete your studies in Finland. However, you'll need to register at your local police station within three months of your arrival, and if you're staying for longer than a year you'll need to register with the Finnish population system. This can be done at your nearest .   

If you're from a country outside the EU/EEA and looking to study for a minimum of three months, you'll need to obtain a renewable student residence permit.

To apply for this permit, you'll need a formal letter of acceptance from your Finnish university, health insurance and proof that you can support yourself financially through your studies. Applications can be processed via or the Finnish consulate or embassy in your home country.

This can be a lengthy process, taking a number of months from start to finish, so allow plenty of time for your application to be approved by sending it off as soon as possible.

This visa information is still valid following the UK's decision to leave the EU and will be updated if changes happen.

Comparison to UK qualifications

The undergraduate qualifications you've earned in other European countries should be recognised by Finnish universities, thanks to the country's involvement in the Bologna process. The Bologna process is an agreement made between EU member states to ensure the direct comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications.

This means your Finnish qualifications should be internationally recognised too, although it's always best to check this with individual employers. For help with having your credentials officially evaluated, see .

Find out more