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Study in Helsinki in English: Local’s tips to Student Life in Finland

​*In commercial collaboration with Haaga-Helia, the business-orientated university of applied sciences in Helsinki. 

Can you study in English in Helsinki? What’s it like to study in Finland? What should you know about the application process?

This topic is huge, I know.

In this post, I share my thoughts about studying in Finland in general, and as the odds are that you might be interested in studying in Helsinki, I’ve included plenty of practical tips about that as well. 

In my opinion, the most important question is not “How can I get to study in Finland?”. The better question you need to ask is: “Is studying in Finland the right choice for me?”.

I hope my past experiences as a student of two universities and a course assistant working at a university, will help you better understand the Finnish education culture.

Note that you can apply with SAT test for bachelor’s programs right now! The application period is open until 8th April 2020. You can read more about here. 

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This is a long post, so grab your favorite beverage and let’s dive in!

First things first… Basics about Universities in Finland

Finland is known for its world-class higher education system. There are two types of higher education institutions here: universities and universities of applied sciences ((later referred to as UAS’s).

The difference between universities and universities of applied sciences in Finland is that UAS’s focus more on practical working life as opposed to universities, where research is the main thing. 

Also, almost all programs at UAS’s include practical training or work placements. 

I studied my Master’s degree at a university. Then, a couple of years ago, I wanted to grow as a business professional, so alongside my work I studied service design at Haaga-Helia UAS in Helsinki. 

The concept of lifelong learning is a big thing in Finland and studying can be very flexible. As you can see from my study path, you can mix your studies to make the perfect learning cocktail for yourself. 

Study in Finland in English

Yesss, great news! You certainly don’t need to speak Finnish to study in Finland. There’s a plethora of programs and courses offered in English.

There are excellent schools and national study sites that help you search for information, plan your studies and make your online application.

At first, the amount of information might seem overwhelming. 

There’s a reason for that. All education is transparent in Finland. 

That’s why sites have all the information you can imagine, from student admission criteria to a specific course syllabus. 

Your job is to search, analyze and make your decisions based on the given information. Consider this your first test to the independent style of academic life in Finland. 

What Can You Study in Finland in English?

There are five ways to become a part of the Finnish higher education system:

    • Study as an exchange student
    • Earn a Bachelor’s degree
    • Earn a Master’s degree
    • Earn a Doctoral degree
    • Enroll in Non-Degree studies (for example Open University or Summer School in English, like in Haaga-Helia)

How Much Does It Cost to Study in Finland?

I’d split the costs into tuition fees and general expenses. Living in Finland is not cheap and everyone must be able to support themselves while studying. But let’s first discuss the tuition fees. 

Tuition Fees in Finland

For example, when it comes to Master’s and Bachelor’s programs, you may have a tuition fee. That depends on your citizenship and/or residency.

For students who come from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland or who have, for example, permanent residence in Finland, studies are free of charge.

For most others, there’s a tuition fee. Usually a 4-5 digit number in euros per year. Remember to check if you’re eligible to receive a scholarship. 

How to study in Finland and apply to your dream study place! By Her Finland blog

General Expenses in Finland and in the Helsinki Area

It’s good to know that housing costs, meal plans and insurance are generally not included in the tuition fee. So, make sure you have enough financial means to pay your rent, personal expenses, transportation costs, meals, etc.

Finnish immigration service states that you must have at least 560 € at your disposal every month, to be able to pay for your general expenses. So, in addition to the tuition fee, you must have 6720 € per year, to be able to study and get your residence permit in Finland.

More information about income requirements for students is available at the Finnish immigration service´s website. 

Student discounts and benefits are quite good, but in my opinion, it’s wise to plan around 700 euros for monthly expenses. Also, please note that Helsinki is the most expensive region to live in. 

As a student, you are able to apply for affordable student housing. You’ll get inexpensive sports activities, as well as cheap and delicious meals on campus. 

Your student card gives you a discount in many places, for example on public transport all around Finland.

Because of the weather, note that you’ll need to invest in warm, insulated and preferably waterproof outerwear.

Can you study in Helsinki in English? By Her Finland blog

How to Work in Finland during or after Studies?

You can work during your studies, but how much can vary. It depends on your residency and permits.

When it comes to working in Finland, here are some useful things to know: 

  • Practical training or work placements may lead to paid work opportunities. You may also get a small salary when working as a trainee.
  • Summer jobs and your thesis are both great ways to get working for a Finnish company.
  • Although Finland isn’t the country for small talk and networking, your social network can help you seek out job opportunities. Get connected with Finns through hobbies and in your classrooms. Read more here about how to befriend a Finn
  • Speaking Finnish is a valuable asset. Nobody expects you to be fluent in a heartbeat, but you can start today by enrolling in my free Finnish class called Spark Your Finnish. 
  • Even if Finnish feels impossible, don’t be discouraged. Keep your head up and continue your studies. Just imagine where you’ll be in six months. Your attitude, ability to learn and social skills, are the biggest factors in scoring a job.


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What You Need to Know about Applying

#1 Think of the application process as your first academic assignment.

Higher education studies are all about collecting enough information and making an analysis based on it.

If you don’t have the patience to read through the school site, and are immediately tempted to write the school a “How can I get in?!?” email, this isn’t a good sign for your academic success.

#2: Check the application period and start early.

There’s a lot of information to go through. is the official and up-to-date website with all the information about study programmes leading to a degree in Finland.

You’ll have to make important decisions when you are selecting the university you’d like to attend, as you need to compare possible tuition fees, school profiles and check all the other requirements.

#3 No application fees

Applying for higher education degree studies in Finland is done online at Applying is always free of charge. Everything is designed so that you can do the application by yourself. 

#4 Attach before you submit

Make sure you attached all the required documents to your application so that the university is able to process it. For example, copies of your high school diploma or SAT test result are often required.

Take your time, proofread and preferably ask someone to comment on your application before you press submit.

#5 Most schools offer scholarships.

A scholarship may sound hard to get but, in most cases, it is not. The requirements are clearly stated by the school, because as I told you, all education is transparent in Finland. Finns always play by the book.

Most schools have their scholarships connected with the advancement of studies.

Some schools require a prior history of excellent grades. Other schools automatically give a scholarship to the first-year students. In many schools, you need to show progress in your studies (usually 55 credits), to get the scholarship for the following year. 

#6 Think about what you can do in your country to increase your chances of getting accepted.

Many schools require a CV. Volunteer or work in your desired field. In your application letter, make sure you have examples showing that you are a motivated, proactive and an intelligent person.

#7 A Finnish school may hold an entrance exam in your country.

In some cases, you don’t even have to travel to Finland for your exam. The exam locations of each institution are clearly stated at

#8 Remember that in the exam, you may have questions with more than one right answer.

For example, they can ask about your motivation. Or, you might be asked to read an article and reflect. In that case, don’t make a summary of the article, but rather show your thinking.

Study in Helsinki in English

When studying in Haaga-Helia, I really enjoyed the learning style which included group work, presentations and the combination of research with practical business life. 

I think that studying is a fantastic gateway to Finnish business life for both Finnish and foreign students alike. In my classes, I made a lot of new acquaintances and many of us have continued to benefit from those connections in our jobs too. 

Haaga-Helia offers degree programs in tourism & hospitality, sports and different business topics in English. All Master’s degree programs and the Bachelor’s degree in International Business have evening classes so they are perfect if you’re working. Check out all the programs available in English here.

What You Need to Know about Student Life

In the first paragraph of this post, I asked: “Is studying in Finland the right choice for you?”. If it is, you’ll thrive. And that’s what I hope for all the international students in Finland. 

In my opinion, the two main ingredients for a successful Finnish student life are:

A) The Finnish way of studying suits your learning style

B) You feel happy with the Finnish lifestyle

Summer study in Helsinki

Finnish Way of Studying

If you are looking for an elementary school feel, in which the whole class advances as a team, Finland might not be the right place for your higher education studies. Studying here is very independent.

If you are looking for debates between the professor and students, arguing their points and learning through the collective discussion, Finland might not be your place either.

Not all classes are mandatory to attend. I didn’t participate in all of my lectures. If you have a job, you’re able to do both. 

If you are looking for long essays, Finland is not a great fit. We use multi-method learning and a variety of techniques (group work, presentations, case competitions, etc.) in the courses.

In my studies in Haaga-Helia, I loved that our class had students with various backgrounds and I enjoyed listening to all their different perspectives. It not only gave me great contacts, but also a lot of fresh ideas. Find out more about Haaga-Helia for international students. 

If you are looking for a nine to five schedule, it’s rare. You may have three days of school a week, a bunch of independent work and a big group assignment which you’ll have to plan and schedule for yourself.

How to study in Finland in English? Here are practical tips by a local! Her Finland blog

To be more specific, your advancement is unique. Because of a thing called recognizing of prior learning, you can test your way through many courses if you already have the skills.

For example, I passed my French, German, Swedish, and English courses by showing the teacher my knowledge through an interview and then taking the final course exam. 12 credits in my pocket in one week.

Lastly, teachers truly evaluate you based on your know-how in Finland. Their salary doesn’t depend on the advancement of their students.

The Finnish Way of life

Here on my blog, you can investigate the Finnish lifestyle.

Get to know the finns

Join my free cultural class and avoid the culture shock when you are in Finland. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Check out these posts:

Wow, such a long post! I hope it is helpful for you.

What else would you like to know about studying in Helsinki or in Finland? Please comment below and let me know.

About Varpu
I’m the founder of Her Finland. I love cultural tidbits, aha moments, Finnish folklore, and cinnamon buns. My newest interest is learning bird songs. Read more about me..

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Sunday 26th of April 2020


Thank you for the information. This website is very useful and informative. I am intersted in studying in Finland. There are some questions I have. Could a foreing student work while studying (is it doable)? If so, is a part-time job enough to cover the living expenses in Helshinki?

Thank in advance Varpu

Varpu Pöyry

Tuesday 28th of April 2020

Hei Rachel! Thank you so much, I'm so happy you like my site. That's a great question and it depends, of course, about what's your field and how much you are able to work alongside your studies. I do think it's possible to work so much that they cover living expenses, but then one doesn't have time for anything else and you would have to work and study night shifts and evenings too. Hope this helps!


Thursday 20th of February 2020

i like this idea. i will come back here soon.

Varpu Pöyry

Sunday 23rd of February 2020

Thank you so much, happy to hear that!

Nadia Gabriela

Sunday 24th of November 2019

Hei Varpu!,

Thank you very much for this article, I went through all the process to be part of a Master program and your information is super accurate. Also, all the additional information you sent me by email has been extremely useful!

I would like to add: prepare in advance, prepare WELL in advance!, that will make a whole difference since there are many different aspects to take care of above all, in my experience, international students who need an English proficiency test and are liable to pay tuition fees.

Thank for all you do in you blog, your bringing Finland to our hearts and hands, or at least, to mine ;) <3

Warm regards from Mexico,


Varpu Pöyry

Tuesday 7th of January 2020

Hei Nadia! I'm so so happy to hear all that. Kiitos for commenting, you made my day! <3


Monday 5th of August 2019

Hi Varpu, Thanks for the information. It's surely going to help the newbies. However I would like to know the difference between a university and university of applied science.

Regards, Ekansh

Varpu Pöyry

Thursday 8th of August 2019

Hei Ekansh! You are very welcome! The difference between universities and universities of applied sciences in Finland is that UAS's focus more on practical working life as opposed to universities where research is a huge thing. Also, almost all programs at UAS include practical training or work placements. Uni doesn't. Hope that helped!

Remo Tomasi

Wednesday 10th of October 2018

Hi, I think it's a very useful article and a lot of info are interesting to me! Unfortunately I'm no longer a young student, but it could important to know if there's some program to collaborate as researcher or software developer worker. Thanks in advance Varpu!

Varpu Pöyry

Wednesday 10th of October 2018

Hi Remo! Thank you so much for letting me know! Also, I feel that IT sector is always looking for more professionals to hire!

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