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Introductory Survey
The Higher Education System
The higher education system consists of two parallel systems, universities and universities of applied sciences (previously known as polytechnics): universities focus on academic teaching and research, while universities of applied sciences specialize in applied research and professional training. The structure of the degree system is the same in both sectors. There are 13 universities and 24 universities of applied sciences. The oldest institution is the Kuvataideakatemia (Academy of Fine Arts), which was founded in 1848, and is now a part of Taideyliopisto (Uniarts Helsinki). In 2019 a total of 153,767 students were enrolled within universities and a total of 142,157 students were enrolled within universities of applied sciences.
All universities are state-owned and are administered by the Ministry of Education and Culture’s Department for Higher Education and Science Policy. University-level education is currently free but students may be required to pay for extraneous services, such as health care and compulsory membership of the Student’s Union. Under the 1997 Universities Act, universities are obliged to promote free research and provide free education. However, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggested in 2010 that students be charged tuition fees as part of a number of reforms to help Finland out of economic recession. Other suggestions include replacing grants with repayable loans and speeding up the admissions system by standardizing university entrance requirements. Universities have enjoyed relative autonomy in decision-making, based on three-year performance agreements with the Ministry of Education and Culture. Government funding used to account for about 64% of university budgets, with the rest coming from the Academy of Finland, the Technology Development Centre Tekes, business enterprises, the European Union (EU) and other public bodies. The amended Universities Act of July 2009 (which came into effect in January 2010) further extended the autonomy of universities by giving them an independent legal personality, either as a public corporation or as a foundation under private law, with university staff no longer being employed by the state. The Government would continue to provide core funding (in the form of monthly payments to be managed by the universities themselves), with the universities responsible for acquiring additional finance. In addition, the new legislation required at least 40% of university board members to be appointed from outside the universities and ruled that university rectors, who had previously been elected by the professors, other staff and students, would in future be appointed by the board. Furthermore, the amended Act saw the creation of the new Aalto University through a merger between three existing institutions, and permitted universities to charge tuition fees for students from outside the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).
The current universities of applied sciences system was established during the 1990s to create a non-university higher education sector and was in place by 2000. The universities of applied sciences were founded through mergers of institutions that had previously provided higher vocational training and, in contrast to the government-funded and -controlled university sector. Most universities of applied sciences operate as public limited companies in the Ministry of Education and Culture's administrative branch.
Admission to both universities and universities of applied sciences is on the basis of completed secondary education and entrance examinations. In 2005 a two-tier Bachelors and Masters degree system was formally introduced in both universities and universities of applied sciences, in accordance with the Bologna Process (although a two-tier system had been in place since 1993). The traditional Finnish credit system was replaced with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) in 2005. The university Bachelors degree lasts for three years and students must accrue 180-210 ECTS credits; the university Masters degree is a two-year course following completion of the Bachelors and requiring at least 120 ECTS credits. The university of applied sciences Bachelors requires 210-270 ECTS credits over three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years, and the Masters 60–90 ECTS credits in one to one-and-a-half years. (Admission to the university of applied sciences Masters requires a Bachelors degree and at least three years’ professional experience). Licentiat is a third-cycle degree, typically awarded after two years of study, after completing a university or university of applied sciences Master's degree. In the field of veterinary medicine, it represents a three-year post-Bachelor programme. In the field of medicine programmes may be three or six years in duration, while a Licentiate in dentistry may be two or five years, depending on whether the course follows on from a Bachelors degree or whether it constitutes an integrated, long-cycle programme. A Doctorate requires a minimum of four years of full-time study, or two years of study following a Licentiat.
The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) is an independent agency, which is responsible for reviewing Finnish education providers at all levels; within FINEEC, the Higher Education Evaluation Committee is charged with assessing higher education institutions.

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