Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Second-cycle programmes


7.Higher education

7.3Second-cycle programmes

Last update: 22 February 2024

Branches of study

Second-cycle programmes are:

•    university master’s degree 

•    university of applied sciences (UAS) master’s degree.

Master’s degree programmes are available at universities and at UASs. University and UAS master’s degrees are at the same level but the contents differ due to the different nature of the two sectors.

The mission of universities is to conduct scientific research and offer education based on research. Students in universities are typically admitted directly into bachelor’s + master’s degree programmes and continue to master’s studies directly after their bachelor’s studies.

UASs aim to train professionals with emphasis on labour market needs. Applicant to a UAS master’s degree programme must have a minimum of two years of work experience after bachelor’s degree before entering the programme.

The minimum scope of the bachelor's + master’s degree at universities in most fields is altogether 300 ECTS, in other words, five years of full-time study or 120 ECTS (2 years) after completing the bachelor’s degree. In medical fields universities organise their education without offering the first-level degree. The scope of a master level degree is 360 ECTS in Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and 330 ECTS in Dentistry. This is equivalent to 6 or 5,5 years of full-time study respectively.

The National Defence University grants the second cycle degree of Master of Military Sciences. After taking the Bachelor of Military Sciences, the students deepen their education in practical employment for 3-4 years. After this period the students continue their studies for the degree of Master of Military Sciences. Officers who have graduated from the university are assigned to various wartime and peacetime tasks in the Defence Forces and the Frontier Guard.

Admission requirements

In universities, students often apply directly into the integrated  bachelor's and master’s programmes. Thus, there is no separate admission procedure for the master's degree after they have taken their bachelor’s degree. 

The requirement for master's programmes in universities of applied sciences (UAS) is a bachelor's level degree and at least three years of work experience.

Master’s programmes are meant for students of all ages. The universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS) also have to admit students via flexible pathways. Thus a student is eligible for studies if the university or UAS acknowledges that he/she has sufficient knowledge and competences irrespective of his/her previous education. See also 7.2.1.


Similarly to bachelor’s programmes, universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS) have autonomy regarding the curriculum and courses (see 7.2.1 Curriculum). Universities and UASs also organise programmes, courses and modules in foreign languages, usually in English.

Teaching methods

In the same way as first cycle programmes, universities of applied sciences (UAS) and universities are free to design their second cycle instruction according to national statutes and their own degree regulations. For more details see 7.2.1 Teaching Methods.

Progression of students

Students in second cycle programmes progress in their studies mainly as in first cycle programmes, that is, by completing individual courses and study modules.

The target time for a university master’s degree is 2-3 years after a bachelor’s degree. The regulations for exceptions to the target time are the same as for bachelor’s degrees (7.2.1). In 2012 the median duration of studies for a completed integrated bachelor's and master’s degree was 6,5 years. There is, however, considerable variation between different fields (4 years in the field of Dance and 8 years in the field of Architecture). 


Please see section Employability in 7.2.1.

Student assessment

At universities of applied sciences (UAS) and universities student assessment is based on continuous assessment, similarly to first cycle programmes. For the university master’s degree students write a master’s thesis. At art academies, the thesis may take the form of an artistic production, such as a concert, a play or some other performance, which also includes a written part.

Institution-specific decrees and regulations include provisions on the legal protection for students and the assessment of studies. (See Student Assessment in 7.2.1)


The certification and recognition of second cycle master’s programmes are similar to those in first cycle programmes. For more details, please see Certification in 7.2.1.

In some fields of study, graduates must have authorisation to practise their profession. These fields include Pharmacy and Psychology, for example.