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Main providers


8.Adult education and training

8.3Main providers

Last update: 20 February 2024


The Finnish adult education and training system is the result of a historical process. It is not the result of consistent decisions for effecting structural changes, but each adult education organisation has emerged to satisfy specific educational needs. Hence, each adult education organisation has its own aims, mode of operation and target group.

General adult education comprises general upper secondary schools for adults, (Finnish: aikuislukio, Swedish: vuxengymnasium)  and liberal adult education. General upper secondary schools for adults are institutions mainly intended for gainfully employed adults, who wish to complete comprehensive education or general upper secondary education syllabi or parts of these. Liberal adult education offers non-formal (non-certificate-oriented) studies, which provide adults with opportunities to develop themselves without qualification- or occupation-specific aims. Educational institutions offering liberal adult education are: folk high schools, adult education centres, study centres, summer universities and sports institutes.

Vocational adult education and training can be divided into upper secondary and additional vocational education and training. The education or training may be either certificate-oriented or non-formal. Upper secondary vocational education and training is certificate-oriented, whereas additional vocational training may be either.

Educational institutions and other education providers

Educational institutions and other corresponding education providers involved in adult education and training may be divided into the following groups

General and interest-oriented: 

  • General upper secondary schools for adults, (Finnish: aikuislukio, Swedish: vuxengymnasium)
  • Folk high schools, (Finnish: kansanopisto, Swedish: folkhögskola)  
  • Adult education centres, (Finnish: kansalaisopisto, Swedish: medborgarinstitut) 
  • Study centres, (Finnish: opintokeskus, Swedish: studiecentral )
  • Sports institutes (Finnish: liikunnan koulutuskeskus, Swedish: idrottsutbildningscenter) 
  • Institutions providing basic art education, like music institutions (Finnish: musiikkioppilaitos, Swedish: musikläroanstalt) 
  • Summer universities, (Finnish: kesäyliopisto, Swedish: sommaruniversitet)  


  • Institutions providing vocational education and training
  • Vocational adult education centres, (Finnish: ammatillinen aikuiskoulutuskeskus, Swedish: yrkesutbildningscentrum) 
  • Continuing education centres of universities
  • Universities of Applied Sciences
  • Home economics counselling organisations
  • Organisations for crafts and design


  • Commercial organisations

General upper secondary schools for adults

The term “general upper secondary school for adult students” refers to institutions providing comprehensive and general upper secondary education for adults. Upper secondary schools for adults, (Finnish: aikuislukio, Swedish: vuxengymnasium) are either separate institutions or adult education units operating linked to institutions providing education for young people. They also offer the opportunity to complete the matriculation examination and individual subject syllabus. In addition, it is possible to improve the grades of subjects completed earlier. There are upper secondary schools for adults in approximately 40 municipalities. Where required, individual upper secondary schools for adults may also specialise in specific courses or in the instruction of specific adult target groups. General upper secondary schools for adults also provide other educational services for a fee.

Comprehensive education and general upper secondary education for adults are also organised by some folk high schools (Finnish: kansanopisto, Swedish: folkhögskola). Summer universities (Finnish: kesäyliopisto, Swedish: sommaruniversitet), specific "summer upper secondary schools" and some other educational institutions may also organise teaching of the comprehensive and general upper secondary education syllabus. However, the possible accreditation of the courses they provide is decided by the education provider concerned.

Folk high schools

There are 73 folk high schools (Finnish: kansanopisto, Swedish: folkhögskola) in Finland. They are national adult education institutions operating as boarding schools. Most of them are privately owned. Their purpose is to promote the self-motivated education of citizens, at the same time emphasising each their particular set of values and ideology and their own educational objectives.

In ideological terms, the folk high schools are divided into Grundtvigian (independent) institutions, Christian, party political and trade unionist institutions and those with some other organisational background. In addition, there are special institutions for disabled people.

Folk high schools mainly offer general programmes as well as comprehensive and general upper secondary education. In addition, they organise upper secondary vocational education and training, generally leading to qualifications in the fields of culture, social welfare and leisure services, as well as additional vocational training. In terms of quantity, the majority of education provided by folk high schools consists of general, non-formal studies, which do not lead to any formal qualification. Folk high schools may also arrange open university (Finnish: avoin yliopisto, Swedish: öppen universitetsundervisning) instruction.

Adult education centres

There are 174 adult education centres (Finnish: kansalaisopisto/työväenopisto, Swedish: medborgarinstitut )  which are mainly municipal institutions of adult education that have been established to meet local educational and cultural needs. The adult education centres mainly provide courses in art, foreign languages and practical skills, which do not lead to qualifications. In addition, they also organise social studies and other general subject studies, some additional vocational training courses and comprehensive education. In addition, adult education centres organise open university (Finnish: avoin yliopisto, Swedish: öppen universitetsundervisning) instruction in co-operation with universities.

Study centres and educational organisations

Study centres (Finnish: opintokeskus, Swedish: studiecentral), of which there are 12, are maintained by educational and cultural organisations and they aim to provide citizens with opportunities for systematic study by arranging study circles, courses and lectures. In the background of the study centres, there are various non-governmental organisations, such as trade unions, political parties, producers’ organisations as well as Christian organisations. In addition to the study centre activities, cultural activities may be organised.

The study centres and their regional offices organise courses and lectures on shop-steward training, first-aid skills, voluntary social work, as well as other social and interest-oriented adult education and training. In addition, the study centres organise study circles, i.e. study in small groups, and they may also arrange additional vocational training.

Sports institutes

Sports institutes (Finnish: liikunnan koulutuskeskus, Swedish: idrottsutbildningscenter)  are maintained by support organisations, foundations and other private organisations. These centres are regional or national boarding schools for children, young people and adults alike. At present, grown-ups form the largest student group. A total of  11 national and 3 regional sports institutes currently fall within the framework of statutory government transfer. The task of sports institutes is to provide instruction in sports and physical education and to organise coaching activities. They also function as training centres for athletes.

Sports institutes mainly organise general adult education, although some of them also arrange upper secondary vocational programmes in physical education and courses leading to qualifications. Sports institutes also provide supplementary general and social education as well as supplementary vocational training. They support widely also different voluntary physical activities.

Institutions providing basic art education

Basic art education is provided by music institutions, (Finnish: musiikkioppilaitos, Swedish: musikläroanstalt)  and other art institutions.

The biggest educational area is music. Music institutions include music institutes that provide basic education in music and conservatoires that provide also upper secondary education and training in music.

Music institutions may also provide basic dance education and the conservatoires may provide upper secondary vocational education and training in dance. In 2024 there were altogether  97 music institutions, 42 of which were private.

Upper secondary vocational education and training in music and dance is provided also by some vocational institutions.

Summer universities

Summer universities, (Finnish: kesäyliopisto, Swedish: sommaruniversitet) are usually private organisations, which are maintained by specifically established associations with members from the region’s local authorities, institutions of higher education, student unions and private organisations. There are 19 summer universities, and despite their name, they operate all year round. Summer universities operate in about 124 locations. Summer universities are organisations providing education on a regional basis. They provide open university, (Finnish: avoin yliopisto, Swedish: öppen universitetsundervisning) education, additional vocational training, language courses, various general educational and cultural events as well as university activities of the third age. University students may complete degree studies at some summer universities by taking examinations and participating in lectures and seminars. Instruction organised at summer universities is open to all; participants are selected in the order of registration.

Institutions providing vocational education and training 

Institutions accredited to provide education may provide upper secondary and further vocational education and training for adults. Vocational institutions have established special adult education programmes or units. The qualifications to be taken are partly the same in adult education and training as for young people.

In addition, the theoretical studies in apprenticeship training, (Finnish: oppisopimuskoulutus, Swedish: läroavtalsutbildning ) are usually organised at vocational institutions or at vocational adult education centres, (Finnish: ammatillinen aikuiskoulutuskeskus, Swedish: yrkesutbildningscentrum).

Specialised vocational institutions

Specialised vocational institutions are institutions designated as such by the Government. They are mainly owned by businesses and operate in the sectors of trade and industry. Some 37 institutions receive state subsidies. Most of these institutions focus on the training of employees for their respective owner companies. Most of the training provided by specialised vocational institutions is further vocational training

Continuing education centres of universities

The first continuing education centres were founded in universities in the 1970s. Nowadays all universities have their own continuing education centres. Commercial services provide most of their financing. In addition, these centres may have several affiliates operating outside the university town. Continuing education centres organise vocational continuing education for individuals already holding an academic degree and provide and co-ordinate open university, (Finnish: avoin yliopisto, Swedish: öppen universitetsundervisning)  education in co-operation with university departments and different adult education organisations. In addition to continuing education centres, some universities have separate open university units.

In 2009 apprenticeship-type training was introduced into continuing education for people with higher education degrees.

Universities of applied sciences

Universities of applied sciences (UAS)degree programmes may be completed as adult education. The time spent completing a degree is usually slightly shorter than the corresponding education for young people, since adult students’ previous studies and work experience may be accredited.

In addition to degree-oriented education, permanent universities of applied sciences may provide professional specialisation studies with a scope of 30-60 ECTS credits. In certain circumstances, the Ministry of Education may confirm a more extensive scope for these studies. The specialisation studies are extensive continuing education programmes supplementing the degree system, which are provided for people with a university degree, a vocational post-secondary qualification or a vocational higher education degree, or for others with sufficient aptitude for study. The university of applied sciences in question grants certificates to people who have completed the specialisation studies to an acceptable standard.

In recent years, universities of applied sciences have developed their provision of open education. Open UASs offer the opportunity to study individual study units included in UAS degrees. UAS postgraduate degrees provide practically oriented education and training aimed at mature students. UAS master degree programmes provide practically oriented education and training aimed at mature students. UAS master’s degrees are of equal level with university master's degrees.

Counselling organisations

The crafts and design as well as home economics counselling organisations are national organisations operating in the administrative field of the Ministry of Education. Their tasks also include adult education and training. There are four national organisations: one crafts and design organisation and three home economics counselling organisations.

The activities of the counselling organisations rely on the work of employees and the voluntary work of their members. In addition to the central organisation, they all have regional and local offices. However, their activities are not governed by any separate legislation. Important activities include guidance, counselling and training of adults, young people and entrepreneurs.

The crafts and design counselling organisation focuses on developing and promoting Finnish handicrafts both as part of the national culture and for profitable employment. The organisation gives basic training in handicrafts to children and young students as well as additional training in handicrafts for the adult population. The task of the three home economics counselling organisations is to help promote the economic, mental and material well-being of homes and families as well as the protection of the environment. In addition, some of them provide women living in the countryside with additional vocational training in home economics.

In addition, there are other counselling organisations promoting economic activities, which operate under other ministries and receive public funding for their costs; these include counselling organisations for agriculture and forestry.

Commercial education and training

There are about 1000 private commercial training organisations in Finland. They are relatively small specialised businesses based on the expertise of a few employees, such as driving schools, language schools and companies providing training in information and communication technology. Private businesses also organise barber, hairdresser and beautician training as well as masseur training, for example. In addition, there are private art, music and dance institutions.

Private commercial organisations do not fall within the public system of funding. They are also not permitted to use the titles of qualifications reserved by the formal education system. Students in the organisations, however, may take part in tests where they can demonstrate their vocational skills and receive the right to use the protected qualification title.

The activities of the commercial organisations are controlled by consumer protection authorities.

Geographical distribution of adult education institutions

Geographical accessibility of education in Finland is good. The network of various types of institutions providing adult education of different kinds is comprehensive at all levels of education. Adult education and training is provided by some 800 institutions in Finland; some of them are specialised adult education providers.

Distances are long in Eastern and Northern Finland. The State gives students extensive aid as regards the costs of travelling to and from the educational institution. In addition, the institutions may offer lodging possibilities and there are boarding school type institutions, such as folk high schools that provide adult education.