Many of the nation’s leading schools and universities can be found in Helsinki. Alongside these important institutions, there are also countless adult education opportunities.
Upper secondary education (age 16-19)
Before young people in Finland finish their last year of basic education (in most cases, the year they turn 16), they choose to continue their education in one of two study tracks. The two choices are general upper secondary school (lukio) or vocational school and training (ammattikoulu or, more familiarly, amis).
Our Study journey timeline shows how both options fit into the Finnish education system. School guidance counsellors help teens choose the path that suits them best.
Lukio, Finland’s own brand of prep high school
Finnish lukio is roughly equivalent to lycée in France. It cannot be directly compared to a US high school or UK grammar school.
Lukio prepares students for higher education studies. The course load is therefore rigorous. After a maximum of four years of study, lukio students sit for the matriculation examination. Performance on these tests is critical for university admission. At present, students can only take the matriculation examination in Finnish and Swedish.
Amis, or Finnish vocational education
Ammattikoulu, colloquially known as amis, is Finland’s name for vocational education and training, or trade school.
In amis students study towards three different levels of vocational qualification. These qualifications are based on competence in a chosen field, and are shown in demonstrations of practical work. Vocational schools have expanded their selection of training options from the more traditional fields of health and welfare, technology and service industry positions to include subjects like ICT, entrepreneurship and the natural sciences.
Vocational training options in English are expanding, and there are several on-the-job training programmes that provide Finnish language support for newcomers to the country.
Call the city’s Education information phone service at +358 9 310 44986 with any inquiries about Helsinki schools, daycare centres, playgroups and study paths.
Cost and transport
In Finland, compulsory education continues until the year students turn 18. This means that all materials and equipment for lukio and amis studies are paid for by the state. Travel costs for school journeys that are longer than seven kilometres are also covered.
It is not unusual for Helsinki teens to attend a lukio or amis further away from their home. This is especially true if they wish to attend an amis programme in a particular vocational field or a lukio with a special emphasis. The metropolitan area’s reliable public transport makes the commute easy.
All lukios in Finland follow the core curriculum for general upper secondary schools. Young people in lukio and amis are expected to be very independent and manage their own class selections, school schedules and responsibilities. Daily instruction schedules vary.
In the past, students who chose to study at lukio did so with the intention of continuing their studies at a university. Likewise, students that elected to attend amis went on to study towards a profession or qualification at a university of applied sciences. Finland has since made the system more flexible, so young people can change direction if they wish. If they qualify, they can now apply for admission to any higher education institution, no matter what their education background. It is even possible to combine the two paths and earn a double degree.
Studyinfo.fi is a great source of information on general upper secondary education, vocational education and training, and higher education study options in Finland. Applications can also be submitted through this site.
Higher education in Helsinki
Once graduates finish lukio or amis in Finland, they can apply to study in a university (yliopisto) or a university of applied sciences with a vocational emphasis (ammattikorkeakoulu). Both institutions are very selective.
Universities of applied sciences are known as polytechnics or technical colleges in other countries. They offer practically-oriented training for work in areas like nursing, engineering, business and hospitality. The universities of applied sciences in the Helsinki area offer hundreds of study options in Finnish, Swedish and English on campuses with state-of-the-art tools and techniques. See the links below for more information on the different vocational-emphasis study options.
- Diak Diaconia University of Applied Sciences
- Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
- Humak University of Applied Sciences
- Laurea University of Applied Sciences
When it comes to universities in the Helsinki area, the University of Helsinki regularly places among the top 100 universities in the world in international rankings. The state-of-the-art Aalto University, which focuses on technology, business and art, has also performed well in many recent comparisons. English-taught degree programmes are offered on the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. See the links below for more information on the different university study options in the Helsinki area.
Tuition and scholarships
University studies are available at no cost for permanent residents of the country and EU/EEA citizens. The state benefits agency Kela has more information on university student and researcher eligibility for healthcare and other forms of support. In addition, Helsinki’s student housing association provides shared or single-occupant housing at a significantly reduced price.
Non-EU/EEA citizens studying in Finnish higher education must pay tuition fees and other costs. Some higher education institutions in Finland offer scholarships for university students and researchers. Applicants must apply for these scholarships at the same time that they apply for admission.
The majority of students in Finnish universities study towards a master’s degree. Universities of applied sciences award students the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree after completing their studies.
Recognition of qualifications
If you have completed a degree outside of Finland and are applying for a master’s programme, for example, you may need to apply for recognition of qualifications from the Finnish National Agency of Education. In many instances, it is at the discretion of the educational institution to determine whether your degree is sufficient. Equivalency of degrees varies across professions and countries of origin.
Graduates of university programmes have the option of continuing in post-graduate studies. Finnish universities offer both licentiate and doctoral degrees.
In Finland, students of post-graduate studies are often responsible for arranging their own funding. The Association of Finnish Foundations and the Finnish National Agency for Education offer more information on grants and support.
Helsinki offers many opportunities for life-long learning. For those who may not have completed their schooling, free basic education and upper secondary school classes for adults are available at the Helsinki Upper Secondary School for Adults.
The City of Helsinki runs two Adult Education Centres, one in Finnish (työväenopisto or kansalaisopisto) and the other in Swedish (Arbetarinstitutet, or Arbis for short) that offer courses in languages, art, home economics, IT and exercise, among many other interesting subjects. Both offer classes in English, in addition to Finnish and Swedish.
Classes are held in over 70 convenient locations throughout the city. Most take place in the evening. Arbis also organises Open University courses, university-level adult education available for a fee. The Ilmonet service lists all of the adult education course options in the Helsinki metropolitan area. In addition, Kansalaisopistot.fi also provides courses in a range of subjects, and the Helsinki Summer University provides instruction year round.
The Helsinki Vocational College Stadin AO also provides a wide range of courses and training towards different professions, open to young people and adults alike. For instance, apprenticeship training allows a trainee to work in a job towards a qualification. In addition, several special programmes offer new arrivals on-the-job training that includes Finnish language instruction.
Yes you can! The Adult Education Centre is a great choice for learning Finnish or Swedish in a classroom setting. The classes are very popular among members of Helsinki’s international community.