Equity Over Excellence Mantra of Finnish Education System

10 min read

Are you stressed over continuous semester exams? The clock is ticking, and the deadline is knocking on your door! You are scrambling to submit homework or assignments at the last hour. Well, in Finnish education system, students like you and I don’t have to go through continuous stress. Why, may you ask?

The Education System of Finland uses a holistic approach towards education that strives for equity over excellence. Finland has only one standardized testing called the “National Matriculation Exam” that students have to sit for at the end of their upper-secondary school system (equivalent to high school).  

Education System of Finland

Cooperation, not competition, is why Finland has the best education system in the world. Finland’s Education curriculum focuses on personalized learning, minimal homework, supportive technology, lifelong learning, and highly skilled teachers. This focus on inclusive learning means all students are supported no matter the amount of support they require.

Finnish education system curriculum doesn’t have any ranking, comparison, and competition between students, schools, and regions. That is why they have one of the very best Reading performance (PISA) scores of 551 for girls and 504 for boys. 

Finnish Education System In a Nutshell

Have a look at the graph to have a better understanding of the Education system of Finland  in a nutshell:

Education in Finland
Academic degrees Vocational degrees Typical ages
doctor employment
master master (new) (+2-3)
bachelor bachelor (+3-4)
upper secondary school (voluntary) vocational school (voluntary) 18-19
comprehensive school (compulsory) 15-16
pre-school 6-7

Higher Education in Finland

Higher Education system includes 23 universities of applied sciences and 13 universities. 

Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS): Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) in Finland trains professionals to focus on labor market needs that help them better fulfill with Job requirements and hone necessary skills to succeed. This Finnish education system mainly focuses on cooperation with Business, industry, and service sectors at the regional level. It offers degrees in 

  • Bachelor’s Program 

  • Master’s Program

  • Professional Specialization

  • Open UAS education

  • Professional Teacher Education

Universities: Universities in Finland focus on academics, especially scientific research, to prepare students for the job market and academia. 

Degrees offered by Finnish Universities:

  • Bachelor’s Degree

  • Master’s Degree

  • Postgraduate Licentiate and doctoral degrees

  • Open university Education

Finland follows the “Bologna-Process,” which is the European-wide education system. Their higher education degree structure has a two-cycle model: First Cycle and Second Cycle. The first cycle consists of a Bachelor’s degree (kandidaatti) (3 years), and the Second cycle consists of Master’s and Doctoral degrees.

It is interesting to note that unlike other education systems, “Faculty” in Finland refers to several departments or administrative units, not individual faculty members or teachers. 

Credit and Grading Scale of Finnish Education System

Credit System: 

A Bachelor’s degree in Finland usually takes three years (180 Finnish Credits) and a Master’s degree 2 years (120 Finnish Credits) to complete. Doctoral degrees generally take four years to complete. Education model of Finland measures a student with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). 60 ECTS corresponds to 1 year of the academic year.

One credit is equal to 27 hours’ worth of work that consists of in and out studies for a course, seminar, or book exam. Students in the higher education system can attend lectures and pass exams or take an exam on required reading materials. Note that 1 US credit hour is comparable to 2 ECTS credit hours. 

Grading Scale: 

The Higher education system uses a grading scale from 0-5. While achieving a grade of 5 corresponds to excellent, a grade of 0 corresponds to fail. Getting a grade of 1 requires at least 50% marks out of the examination’s maximum points. 

Finnish gradeEnglish explanationUS equivalentGerman equivalent
4very goodB+1.7


The graduate thesis can be marked either on a 0-5 scale or a 0-7 scale. Usually, the awarding of point 7 (also known as Laudatur) is extremely rare and awarded to exceptional students once in 5 to 10 years. However, the evaluation criteria of the Ph.D. thesis is through pass/ fail or 0-5 points depending on the university.

Grade Abbr. Points English Explanation Literal Translation % of participants
Laudatur  L 7 outstanding lauded (Praised) Top 5%
Eximia Cum Laude Approbatur  E 6 excellent Approved with exceptional praise 15%
Magna Cum Laude Approbatur  M 5 Very Good  Approved with great praise 20%
Cum Laude Approbatur  C 4 Good Approved with praise 24%
Lubenter Approbatur  B 3 Satisfactory  Gladly approved 20%
Approbatur  A 2 Pass Approved 11%
Improbatur 1 0 Fail/Satisfactory Not Approved bottom 5%
Academic Year:

Finnish academic year has only two semesters and four periods: 

  • Autumn Semester: 1 September to 31 December (2 periods)
  • Spring Semester: 1 January to 31 May (2 periods)

There’s no summertime teaching available in June and July. Students get a 1-week break between each period and one month Christmas break.  

Finnish Education System

Tuition Fees in the Education System of Finland

The education system in Finland  is publicly funded and doesn’t require paying tuition fees. All international students weren’t required to pay tuition fees until recently. You still don’t have to pay the tuition fee in Finland if you meet any of the following requirements: 

  • You are a Finnish citizen 

  • You are married to a Finnish Citizen 

  • You are a citizen of EU/EEA country and Switzerland 

  • You have a permanent Finnish residence permit or a long term resident’s EU residence permit (P, P-EU)

  • You have a fixed-term continuous residence permit (type A)

  • You have an EU blue card. 

  • You are applying for Doctoral Studies (third cycle) in Finland.

  • You are studying a degree program taught in Finnish or Swedish 

  • You are an exchange student.

  • You have a fixed-term temporary residence permit(type B)

If you don’t meet any of the above requirements, you have to pay tuition fees in Finland. Tuition fees vary from program to program. So, check with your university about the tuition fee. To get more information, kindly visit the website. (https://studyinfo.fi/wp2/en/higher-education/tuition-fees/am-i-required-to-pay-tuition-fees/)

Special Note:  Regardless of nationality, Ph.D. students in Finland do not require tuition fees. Most students are fully funded or partially funded through grants or salaried positions. 

Applying to Finland:

Finnish Institution accepts students through Joint application Portal. This is a national application procedure by which many Finnish programs accept students. You can apply to 6 programs of your choice.

However, universities sometimes also accept applications separately. When you select your program, check if it requires you to apply by Joint application or individually. 

General Application Time:

  • January: Most programs accept applications this month.
  • March: Very few programs accept applications at this time. 

26 Interesting Facts of Finnish Education System

Below here, we are giving you 26+ interesting facts about the education system of Finland

  1. According to the 2015 International Student Assessment (PISA) scores, Finland takes 5th place globally.

  2. The differences between the strongest and the weakest students are the smallest in the World

  3. Teachers are as respected as doctors or lawyers

  4. There is no merit pay for teachers

  5. High school teachers in Finland with 15 years of experience make 102% of what other university graduates make

  6. The teachers are selected from the top 10% of the nation’s graduates.

  7. All teachers must have a master’s degree (Fully subsidized by the government)

  8. Finland has the same amount of teachers as New York, but almost half the students.

  9. Finnish National Curriculum provides a broad guideline, not prescriptions. 

  10. Finland’s schools are 100% state-funded.

  11. There is no private school in Finland.

  12. Teachers spend only 4 hours a day in the classroom and are paid 2 hours a week for professional development.

  13. Finnish elementary students get almost three times more recess than US students.

  14. 43% of Finnish students go to vocational high schools.

  15. 93% of Finnish students graduate from high school.

  16. Science classrooms are capped at 16 students.

  17. 66Sixty-six percent of students go on to higher education.

  18. Finland spends 30% less per student than the US.

  19. Nearly 30% of children receive some kind of special help in their first nine years of school. 

  20. The children aren’t measured at all in their first six years of education.

  21. Children rarely or never take exams until they’re well into their teens.

  22. Finnish children don’t start with formal education until the age of 7.

  23. The Education System of Finland wants children to play. They rarely take exams or homework until they are teens.

  24. 20 Hours a Week School Time. Yes, Finnish believes that students can learn a lot in 20 hours a week of school time.

  25.  The average time spent on School Day is three to four hours.

  26. Every Finnish Student Speak More Than 2 Language

Check Why Finland before adding any more graphs from the below pdf link. 


Note: Though these documents are for Canadian Study permit application, you can get a gist of possible documents required for your student visa application. Customize these documents based on your own need.
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Cover Letter
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Forwarding Letter
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Student Financial Planning
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Explanation Letter of Source of Fund
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Explanation on previous Visa Rejection
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Source of Fund (For Businessperson as a sponsor)
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