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Masters in Finland

by Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier

Why study for a Masters degree in Finland?

A Masters in Finland can be a great choice for adventurous international postgraduates looking for a unique study abroad experience in Europe. Though less well known than its Scandinavian neighbours, Finland boasts a small number of institutions with a good track record. The University of Helsinki is in the world’s top 100. The higher education sector in Finland has considerably expanded its offering of postgraduate programmes in English to attract international students. Other than that, the biggest political shake-up in Finnish higher education has been the proposed introduction of tuition fees. These fees won't apply to undergraduate or doctoral programmes, only non-EU students on English-taught masters degrees, so is it such a big deal? Actually, yes it is, Finland has prided itself on providing free higher education to ALL, including non-Finnish citizens, and education is seen as having an important role in the development of the knowledge economy.

Masters degrees at Finnish universities

Finland has two types of higher education institutions where you can undertake Masters degrees: 14 universities and 24 polytechnics, which are more accurately known as Universities of Applied Science (UAS).

All degrees, including Masters degrees, are awarded ECTS credits. Universities follow the Bologna three-tier system: Bachelor (three years), Master (two years), Doctorate (four years). UAS are more focused on vocational training and applied research. As such, Masters are a little different than in universities and last one – to one and a half years. In addition, they can only be accessed upon completion of a bachelor and three years of professional experience.

Structure and content of Masters degrees in Finland

Masters degrees offered by Finnish universities are always 2 years in duration, although at polytechnics (UAS) the duration can be shorter, due to the fact that students must have significant professional experience before starting the course.

As in other European countries, credits are gained through a mix of compulsory/core courses and optional courses or activities. Teaching for masters degrees is delivered face-to-face or virtually through lectures, seminars, tutorials, practicals as well as career planning, language courses or a period of internship. Assessment will be based on coursework, exams and the final dissertation.

Applying for a Masters in Finland

The Finnish academic year begins in September, but the application period for Master's programmes in Finland is generally from November through to February/March (though in some cases it may close as early as the end of January). The exact dates may vary from one university to another, or even within one single university, depending on the Masters programme in question. You may also find that different universities and courses have different entry requirements for prospective postgraduates.

Entry requirements

As a minimum, Masters applicants should hold an undergraduate degree (three years minimum). For UAS masters, you will also need three years of professional experience. If you already hold a higher education qualification that is from another country than Finland, your eligibility is decided based on:

  • Your academic performance.
  • Language skills: English or Finnish if you are opting to pursue a Masters in the country’s language.
  • Other faculty-specific requirements, if applicable.

Application process

There are some differences between applying to study at UAS or universities.

  • UAS: You should submit your application to the polytechnic (UAS) in question. In some UAS Master's programmes applicants may also be required to pass an interview, or an entrance examination.
  • Universities: In most cases, you will have to apply directly to your chosen university. A small number of institutions have signed up to a service similar to UKPASS, called University

Visas and immigration for Masters students in Finland

Because Finland is a member of the EU, visa and immigration requirements for international students wishing to study a Masters degree in Finland will vary according to nationality. If you are a citizen of an EU or EEA country, you will be automatically entitled to enter Finland and live there as a student for the duration of your course (you will, however, need to be registered as a student and to report your presence in the country within three months of arrival). Students from outside the EU and the EEA will usually need to apply for a visa in order to enter Finland and live there whilst studying a Masters degree.

Residence permits

Finland can be a bit confusing so a little bit of semantic is needed here: In Finland, a visa (‘viisumi’ in Finnish) is a short-term residence permit which allows you to stay in the country for a maximum of three months. It is therefore not suitable if you are going to study a Masters degree. What you will need is a long-term 'student visa' called a 'student residence permit'.

You can only start your residence permit application once you have received formal acceptance from your Finnish university or polytechnic (UAS). It will take some time so make sure you don’t delay. This is particularly important because you will need to visit the local Finnish embassy in person. If your home country does not have a Finnish embassy, you will need to travel to a Finnish embassy in a nearby country.

In order to apply for a residentce permit, you will need:

  • A formal offer of admission from your university.
  • Proof that you can support yourself financially during your studies (see the budget section above).
  • Suitable health insurance.

For more detailed information, consult the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland or of The Finnish Immigration Service. The immigration service will deliver the residence permit which is valid for one year and must be renewed at a local police station. You will have to demonstrate proof of financial resources every year


ALL non-Finnish students must register at the local police station, even if you are from the EU. For those requiring a residence permit, police registration is required for its annual renewal.

Fees and funding for Masters degrees in Finland

In 2013 a group of Finnish MPs passed a motion regarding the introduction of tuition fees for Masters degrees, and while no decisions to start charging tuition fees have been finalised, a trial period is underway during which institutions can choose to charge fees to non-EU students enrolling on specific Masters programmes which are delivered in English. A list of the courses that fees apply to can be found here, but even if a course is on this list, each university can decide whether or not to charge the fees.

So currently fees can range from nothing (even for an English Masters programme) to nothing! This is because despite the political move to introduce a pilot period during which universities can collect fees for international Masters students, none seem to have decided to do so.

Other costs

All students will have to pay a small fee, either to become a member of the university or of the student union. Other costs may include access to student facilities such as sports centres, as well as buying textbooks or other materials.


Note that it is usually not possible to apply for any Finnish scholarships before you have received a minimum of a conditional offer of admission.

Erasmus Mundus programmes, while they offer scholarship options, will not be subject to the Finnish national rules about tuition fees. Check the individual Erasmus Mundus programme information.


Our own postgraduate funding website provides a comprehensive database of small grants and bursaries available to support postgraduate study around the world, including travel bursaries, living cost support, fee waivers and exchange programmes. Click here to start searching for funding to study a Masters in Finland, or elsewhere.

Careers and employment prospects with a Finnish Masters degree

Masters programmes in Finland, notably those targeted at the international student community, have strong research content and are designed as preparation for doctoral studies. This is not always as explicit in the title as for UK Masters by Research, so it is worth checking the career prospects information on the programme pages. However, both research-led and taught Masters are a valuable addition to your CV regardless of whether you are aiming for a research career or not.

Universities have career services that can advise you on employment opportunities. They will have local knowledge of the labour market in Finland and in Scandinavia so if you intend on staying after your studies, it is worth consulting with them. If you require a visa to study in Finland, check what the post-study employment situation is.

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