Higher education in Finland distinguishes between two types of schools: Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS). This article explains the differences and will help you get an idea which type of institution is right for you when you plan to study abroad in Finland.
In Finland, the higher education system makes a difference between “Universities” and “Universities of Applied Sciences”. While traditional Universities are research-driven, extending to their teaching approach, Universities of Applied Sciences are more practice-oriented with the goal of educating students for professional work life.
By the way: The Finnish term for “university of applied sciences” is ammattikorkeakoulu, abbreviated AMK. The Swedish term is yrkeshögskola.
The main difference is that Universities of Applied Sciences focus on providing education and conducting research that ties into professional working life. The key differences are:
A Bachelor’s degree programme at a research university usually lasts for 3 years (6 semesters), amounting to 180 ECTS credit points. Meanwhile, a Bachelor’s programme at a UAS might take between 3.5 and 4.5 years, 210 to 270 ECTS points, depending on the programme.
A Master’s degree programme at a research university usually takes 2 years of full-time study (120 ECTS credits), whereas UAS Master’s programmes are a bit shorter, between 1 and 1.5 years (60 to 90 ECTS credits).
In total, there are 25 Universities of Applied Sciences in Finland:
|Name||Campus(es)||Number of students|
|Åland University of Applied Sciences||Mariehamn (Åland)||600|
|Arcada University of Applied Sciences||Helsinki||2,700|
|Centria University of Applied Sciences||Kokkola, Ylivieska, Pietarsaari||2,900|
|Diaconia University of Applied Sciences||Helsinki, Oulu, Pieksämäki, Pori, Turku||2,900|
|Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences||Helsinki, Porvoo, Vierumäki||10,100|
|Humak University of Applied Sciences||Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Turku||1,400|
|Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK)||Evo, Forssa, Hämeenlinna, Lepaa, Mustiala, Riihimäki, Valkeakoski||7,500|
|JAMK University of Applied Sciences||Jyväskylä||8,200|
|Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (KAMK)||Kajaani||2,500|
|Karelia University of Applied Sciences||Joensuu||3,800|
|Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LAMK)||Lahti||5,200|
|Lapland University of Applied Sciences (Lapin AMK)||Kemi, Rovaniemi, Tornio||5,800|
|Laurea University of Applied Sciences||6 campuses in Greater Helsinki||7,400|
|Metropolia University of Applied Sciences||Helsinki||16,400|
|Novia University of Applied Sciences||Åbo / Turku, Jakobstad / Pietarsaari, Raseborg, Vasa / Vaasa||4,000|
|Oulu University of Applied Sciences||Oulu, Oulainen||8,500|
|Police University College||Tampere||6,000|
|Saimaa University of Applied Sciences||Lappeenranta, Imatra||3,300|
|Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK)||Pori, Rauma, Kankaanpää, Huittinen||6,100|
|Savonia University of Applied Sciences||Kuopio, Varkaus, Iisalmi||6,700|
|Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences (SeAMK)||Seinäjoki||4,600|
|South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (XAMK)||Mikkeli, Kotka, Kouvola, Savonlinna||9,400|
|Tampere University of Applied Sciences (part of Tampere University)||Tampere||10,200|
|Turku University of Applied Sciences||Turku||10,200|
|Vaasa University of Applied Sciences (VAMK)||Vaasa||3,200|
No: “Universities of Applied Sciences” is the official term in Finland, but you sometimes find the term “Polytechnics” to describe them, as well. They mean the same thing. In other countries, these types of institutions are also sometimes called “University Colleges”.
If you are from the European Economic Area (EEA), you usually do not pay any tuition fees in Finland. That means you can study tuition-free at Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences in Finland.
If you are from outside the EEA, you will have to pay for your education. Generally, Universities of Applied Sciences charge lower tuition fees than the research universities. The amounts differ from UAS to UAS and from programme to programme, but the fees are usually somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 euros per year. For more details, read our guide about tuition fees in Finland.
Yes. First off, the academic admission criteria at Universities of Applied Sciences are usually slightly easier to meet than at research universities. For instance, comparing the English requirements at Finnish universities, Finnish UAS usually require an IELTS score of 6.0 whereas research universities ask for a score of 6.5 or higher.
One important distinction is made for Masters degrees: Masters programmes at research universities are usually open to all applicants holding a Bachelors degree. But Masters degrees at Universities of Applied Sciences generally require 3 years of relevant work experience, in addition to a Bachelors degree.
It is difficult to determine the “best” UAS in Finland because - unlike the best Finnish research universities - no UAS is represented in a global university ranking. The Finnish Ministry of Education conducts a student survey every year, focusing on satisfaction with teaching and other relevant factors. But the survey is only of limited help if you want to choose a specific programme; it might reveal that Centria UAS has very satisfied students in Business & Law and Oulu UAS in Information and Communication Technologies; but the differences in the survey results are minimal and might not be relevant to you.
So, the best way to assess if a university or programme is right for you:
Finland’s education is known to be world-class. But in most international rankings, you will not find any of Finland’s Universities of Applied Sciences. Why is that?
The reason is pretty simple. First off: The fact that Finnish UAS are not represented in global rankings does not mean their teaching isn’t good. On the contrary, Finland’s higher education system is well-regarded for its inclusive, high-quality teaching.
However, international rankings put a lot of weight on academic research - some, like QS, as much as 60% of the total score. This happens via reputation surveys among academics as well as a calculation of research paper citations. And Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences generally conduct less research than classical universities, because their focus lies on practice-oriented education that prepares students for professional careers. So - don’t let rankings fool you, at a UAS in Finland you can expect top-quality education!
This is a very complicated question and depends on many individual factors. In many cases, both Universities and UAS’s will be a suitable choice for an international student who wants to study in Finland. But let’s have a look at the main differences again:
Choose to apply to Universities if you are looking for a research-driven education, perhaps even as groundwork for a PhD later; if you want to do a Master’s degree straight after your Bachelor’s without work experience; or if you put special weight on your institution’s place in international university rankings.
Choose to apply to Universities of Applied Sciences if you are looking for a more practice-oriented education; if your budget requires you to seek more affordable options; if you want to go to Finland for your Bachelor’s degree; or if you’re looking for a faster Master’s degree (12 to 18 months).