A rudimentary blog and website by a Finnish person who lived abroad and came back to Finland as an internation student.
October 26th, 2022
One of my largest gripes about Finnish higher education is how confusing the naming for different schools is, and how much misinformation there is around higher education in Finland. A large portion of this centers around the University and University of Applied Science confusion and debate. Many see these institutions as the same, or do not understand the difference properly, and it really hinders people's ability to make decisions on their choice on where to go study.
The best way to explain Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences is to ditch the marketing names that do not make any sense and simply refer to these schools as the direct translation from Finnish:
"Yliopisto" translates to University. You will notice schools like Vaasan Yliopisto, LUT Yliopisto, Aalto Yliopisto. These are full blown academic Universities, with the intent to provide their students with a longer degree (typically expected to be 5 years) that is academic, theoretical, and broad. Your time at a University is divided into two degrees. Your first degree, in English a "bachelor's degree", is known as a "Kandidaatin tutkinto". This translates directly not to Bachelor's but to "Candidate's degree", meaning, that you have a degree which makes you a candidate for the next expected step of University, the master's degree. While you may only complete a 3 year degree at a University in Finland, if you plan on working in Finland, know that you are generally expected to complete all 5 years and gain a master's, as that is considered the "full" University degree, while with a bachelor's degree you are only a candidate for a full University degree. There are 13 Universities in Finland, and they are known as the highest level of academic education one can go to.
A University of Applied Science(UAS) does not translate to "Yliopisto". In fact, the name for a UAS in Finnish is "Ammattikorkeakoulu(AMK)". This directly translates to "Higher School for profession/vocational education". There is no University in the name, and it is not considered a University. It is considered the higher level of a vocational insitution, and is open to both High School students, as well as those who decided to go to vocational school instead in Finland. A degree from a UAS is more practical and career oriented, and you will miss parts of the theoretical aspects of a University education. Your degree is also not referred to as a "bachelor's" or a Candiate degree in Finnish, it is simply "Ammattikorkeakoulu tutkinto" which means "Univeristy of Applied Science degree". The Master's is generally referred to as a "higher University of Applied Science degree" although there are options for a full master's (maisteri in Finnish) degree in some cases. It is important to understand, that for example in a job application in Finland, there is a distinction between a University and University of Applied Science. A UAS degree is useful in its own right, UAS institutions offer degrees that are invaluable and not always offered in Universities like basic trades, nursing, etc. however it is important as well to recognize that if you wish to have an academic higher education that goes as high as possible, a University degree is for you, not a UAS degree. Schools like LAB UAS, Tampere UAS, Metropolia UAS are some useful places to start with English degree programs.
I hope that this helps with some of the confusion around Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences, it really bothers me that the naming is so similar, as I have met so many people by now who either accidentally enroll in a UAS thinking they are at a Universitiy, fill out a job application saying they have a University degree when really they have a UAS degree and get rejected, or generally cannot distinguish where to apply to. I wish luck to everyone's application period no matter which type of school you choose to attend!