Higher Education in Finland
Polytechnics (also referred to as UAS, or uiversities of applied sciences) and universities are the two sectors comprising Finland's higher education system. While universities explicitly promote research-based academic studies such as biomedical and psychological programs, polytechnics provide students with vocational-type education intended to give them the skills necessary to gain employment upon graduating. You can only earn a post-Master's or doctoral degree from a university.
UAS's offer students access to various majors that provide Bachelor and Master degrees upon completion. It generally takes a polytechnic student between three and five years to earn a Bachelor's from a UAS and another two to three years to earn a Master's degree. Additionally, Finland's polytechnic universities have many programs that are available in English, along with a few Master's programs that are also available in English.
Admission to Finnish higher education institutions is based on a student's GPA earned while in high school or from taking a university's own entrance examination. These examinations differ from others in that they are not designed to test a student's ability to memorize information or "guess" the answer to a mutiple choice question. Instead, questions on a Finnish entrance exam test analytic and critical thinking skills by implementing more short essay-type questions.
Students who graduate from a polytechnic university may apply at a university to pursue a master's degree. A polytechnic graduate may have to take additional studies at the university in order to maintain the level of education experienced by university graduates.
Finland's Tuition System
Finland's Ministry of Education funds higher education so citizens of Finland do not have to pay tuition fees when attending a polytechnic or university. This also applies to international students in most cases. For example, some master's degree programs may have associated tuition fees for students who are not members of the EEA or EU. However, students attending a polytechnic facility or university will need to purchase books and other course materials as well as pay for their own living expenses. Finland's cost of living is similar to other European Union countries.
Visas and Student Resident Permits
If you are taking an entrance exam in Finland, you will need a visa, which allows you to stay a maximum of three months. As a degree student studying in Finland who is not an EU or EEA citizen, you will then need to apply for a student residence permit. For more information, contact your country's Finnish embassy to find out how to gain a student resident permit. You may also visit the website of the Finnish Immigration Service to determine what you will need to apply for this permit.
Be aware that at the time you apply for a student resident permit, you will be asked to show proof that you can support yourself while living in Finland. Currently, international students must show that have access to 6000€ per year or 500€ per month to minimally cover living expenses. In U.S. dollars this equates to about $600 per month or $7000 annually.
Why Study in Finland?
Besides the fact that Finland pays for most, if not all of tuition fees, the uniqueness of the Finnish culture, the closeness to several other fascinating countries and the country's emphasis on constantly improving the quality of its higher education system makes Finland one of the best places to earn a degree in the world.