Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice


7.2. First-cycle programmes


Last update: 22 February 2024

Branches of study

University bachelor's degree:

•    180 ECTS credits

•    target time three years.

At universities students first complete a bachelor's degree, after which they may go for a master's degree. As a general rule, students are admitted to study directly for the master’s degree and in many fields a university bachelor’s degree is considered to be a stage for a master’s degree. The two-cycle degree system does not apply to medical fields where students study directly to a licentiate’s degree.

Degrees at universities are usually taken according to subject, but in some fields there are also multidisciplinary degree programmes. The academic degrees usually include studies in one major subject and in one or more minor subjects. Some fields offer specialisation areas. 

University of applied sciences (UAS) bachelor’s degree:

•    210-270 ECTS credits

•    target time 3.5 – 4.5 years.

At UASs degrees are professional programmes emphasizing practical labour market skills and co-operation with local business and industry. 

Universities and UASs offer programmes under 12 different fields of education based on the international ISCED classification. 

- Education

- Arts and culture

- Humanities

- Social sciences

- Business, administration and law

- Natural sciences

- Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)

- Engineering, manufacturing and construction

- Agriculture, forestry

- Medicine

- Health and welfare

- Services

Although higher education institutions have the same field classification, the degree programmes in the same field may differ greatly between the university and UAS sectors. This is due to the different nature of the two sectors. For example, in the field of Health and welfare universities of applied sciences offer degree programmes in nursing or a midwifery and universities offer degree programmes in Health Science, which gives the eligibility to administrative jobs.

Admission requirements

A) General eligibility for higher education is defined in legislation:

•    Upper secondary qualification (Finnish matriculation examination or upper secondary vocational qualification)

•    The International Baccalaureate (IB), European Baccalaureate (EB) or Reifeprüfung examinations

•    Foreign qualification that provides eligibility for higher education studies in the awarding country

•    A student is eligible for higher education studies if the institution acknowledges that he/she has sufficient knowledge and competences irrespective of his/her previous education.

B) Specific eligibility of degree programmes is determined by higher education institutions.

Higher education institutions select their students independently. There is restricted entry, “numerus clausus”, to all fields of study, as there are many more applicants than there are places available. The target numbers of degrees are determined in performance negotiations between the Ministry of Education and Culture and the higher education institutions. There are flexible pathways leading to higher education. Student admission may be based on:

•    the grades attained in the upper secondary qualification certificate or 

•    the results of an entrance examination or

•    the grades in the upper secondary qualification certificate together with the results of an entrance examination.

The role of upper secondary education certificate in higher education application has been emphasized. From 2020 onwards the majority of selected applicants are chosen according to their final grades from the matriculation examination or the final assessment from VET. The target in this reform is to reduce gap years and bring forward the beginning of higher education studies.


Higher education institutions decide independently on their curricula. Bachelor’s programmes typically consist of:

-    basic or introductory studies

-    subject studies or professional studies

-    optional studies

-    compulsory language and communicative studies

-    practical training (compulsory in UAS bachelor’s studies)

-    bachelor’s thesis or a final project.

The main teaching language is Finnish but Swedish is also used. In Finland there are higher education institutions, whose role is by legislation to give Bachelor’s degree programmes conducted in Swedish. There are two Swedish universities and two Swedish universities of applied sciences. In addition, there are a few bilingual (Finnish and Swedish) universities.

Higher education institutions also organise wide variety of programmes, courses and smaller modules in English. Bachelor’s degree programmes conducted in English are mainly offered in UAS, while universities offer more master’s degree programmes in English.

Teaching methods

Higher education institutions design their own instruction according to national statutes and their own degree regulations.

Teachers and lecturers have autonomy regarding their teaching, as well as the materials and methods used.

Alongside the traditional forms of teaching – lectures, demonstrations and examinations based on lectures and literature – instruction makes increasing use of other methods, such as essays, projects, seminar and group work. The use of new information technologies in instruction has also increased.

In universities of applied sciences practical on-the-job learning is a compulsory part of the degree programme. Topics for final projects come primarily from real cases or problems in working life and are often commissioned by enterprises.
Students in higher education institutions are generally responsible for acquiring their learning materials and textbooks. Students have the right to use the institutions’ libraries freely with a library card. Also municipal library services are open to all, and the basic services are normally free of charge.

Progression of students

At university students have the freedom and responsibility to plan their studies independently. The freedom of choice concerning the order of studies varies between different subjects: in some fields, students are free to plan the sequence of their studies, while the order of courses is defined in more detail in other fields. For some courses, the student may be required to have completed certain preliminary studies or received, for example, the grade "good" from earlier studies.

At the university of applied sciences students can plan their own studies, but the structure of studies may be more determined than at university.

Students progress in their studies by completing individual courses and study modules. If a student fails the examination there are typically a few possibilities to retake a failed course. In order to obtain a degree, compulsory courses must be completed to an acceptable standard.

The system of personal study plans facilitates the planning of studies and the monitoring of progress in studies. It also supports student guidance and counselling. Higher education institutions can have their own follow-up systems by which they can support progression of students. 

Many students get public financial aid for students. In order to get the aid yearly, students have to progress in their studies and complete at least 5 ECTS credits on average for each month of financial aid. 

Typically, the study time for a university bachelor’s + master’s degree is 7 years and a study time for a UAS bachelor’s degree is 3,5 – 4,5 years. The period of the right to study is not necessary the same as the target time for a degree. 

If students fail to graduate within the period of right to study but want to conclude their studies, they can apply for extra time. The student can be granted the right to complete his/her studies after the acceptance of a feasible plan for the completion of the degree. At universities of applied sciences this may be granted for one time for a maximum period of one year.


Higher education institutions have recruitment services and portals where users can find information on degrees and qualifications, career planning and writing applications. These services are meant for students who seek placements for training periods during their studies or vacancies after they have graduated. The services are also used by employers for their recruitment purposes.

Bachelor’s degrees in universities of applied sciences contain a compulsory practical on-the-job period. Final projects for students are often commissioned by local enterprises especially in the universities of applied sciences.

In many fields, university bachelor’s degree is considered to be a stage for a master’s degree and many students at universities continue automatically to master’s degree programme after bachelor’s studies.

Student assessment

Student assessment in higher education institutions is mainly based on continuous assessment. In most cases, students are assessed on the basis of written examinations at the end of lecture series or larger study units, but there are also oral examinations. In addition, students write papers for seminars and other papers which are evaluated.

For the university bachelor’s degree students write a thesis. At art academies, the thesis may take the form of an artistic production, such as a concert or a play, which also includes a written part. At universities of applied sciences students do an individual final year project that commonly includes a thesis. The examiners of coursework are usually the course lecturers or the teachers responsible for the study unit or module.

Each higher education institution gives regulations and instructions on student assessment in its degree regulations.  According to legislation students have the legal right to know how assessment criteria are applied to them and to see their graded examination papers or other performance records. Students have also legal right to request correction, if they are not satisfied with the assessment.


When a student in higher education institution has completed all the studies required for a degree, the student may apply for certificate. The certificate is decided and awarded by the higher education institution.   

Students will receive on request:

•    a degree certificate

•    a diploma supplement

•    a credit record.

The degree certificate generally contains the average grades for the different subjects as well as the grading for the theses.

The diploma supplement is an appendix of the qualification certificate and it includes the necessary information on the institution as well as studies and credits referred to on the degree certificate and their level and status in the education system.

Each student’s study credits are registered on the credit record. The student may request a transcript of it, where necessary.

The higher education institution must, on request, also provide students with a certificate for the studies they have completed while still continuing on the degree programme.