Education in Helsinki

School system in Helsinki

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Basic education is a nine-year general education. Basic education is free and gives everyone who completes it the same right to further education. The purpose of basic education is to give the pupils knowledge and skills necessary in life, and to give everyone an equal educational foundation. Other goals include supporting the development of pupils as human beings, and their growth into ethically responsible members of society, and the promotion of learning and equality in society.

Generally, compulsory education is provided in primary schools. Primary school comprises years 1-9 and is intended for the whole age group (7-16 years old). During the first six years the education is provided   by the class teacher, who teaches all or most subjects. During the last three years separate subjects are usually taught by different subject teachers. Basic education is also available for adults, and is provided by general upper secondary schools for adults and adult education centers.

All children living permanently in Finland are legally obligated to complete the compulsory education syllabus. The syllabus can be completed by either participating in basic education or by acquiring a corresponding education through some other means. Therefore, there is no compulsory school attendance in Finland . Generally, local authorities are responsible for providing basic education. Local authorities assign pupils a place in a local school, but pupils are free to enroll in some other school if it has places available

Compulsory education starts during the year when the child turns seven years old, and ends when the basic education syllabus is completed or when ten years have elapsed from the start of compulsory education. The guardian of a child of compulsory education age is responsible for ensuring that the pupil's compulsory education is completed. Almost all children (99.7%) complete the basic education syllabus. Education and teaching aids are provided to children free of charge. In addition, students receive a free meal at school every day. As a rule, if the distance to the school is over five kilometers, the education provider will pay for and arrange the transportation. Private schools also receive a statutory government transfer, and they very rarely charge for tuition.

The core subjects taught to all pupils in the basic education syllabus are the mother tongue and literature (Finnish or Swedish), the other official language, one foreign language, environmental studies, health education, religion or ethics, history, social studies, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, physical education, music, art and crafts, and home economics. Guidance counseling must also be provided for students. In addition, optional subjects are taught, which are determined locally by local authorities and schools. Education providers draw up local municipality-specific or school-specific curricula based on the guidelines for the national core curriculum and legislation. The curriculum guides the school's practical teaching and educational work. Parents have the opportunity to participate in drawing up the school's curriculum and in determining educational objectives.

Education in Helsinki

Helsinki has 190 comprehensive schools, 41 upper secondary schools and 15 vocational institutes. Half of the 41 upper secondary schools are private or state-owned, the other half municipal. Higher level education is given in nine universities and three polytechnics, listed below.


  • University of Helsinki
  • Helsinki University of Technology (located in neighboring Espoo)
  • Helsinki School of Economics
  • Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration
  • Academy of Fine Arts
  • Sibelius Academy
  • Theatre Academy
  • University of Art and Design Helsinki
  • National Defence College


  • Helsinki Polytechnic Stadia
  • Helsinki Polytechnic Arcada
  • Helsinki Business Polytechnic (Helia)

European Union Lifelong Learning Program  

The Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) is a European funding program which supports education and training across Europe. The LLP provides funding for all stages of lifelong learning; for activities at school, at college, at university, in the workplace and in the community. The LLP is made up of several different programs offering a variety of opportunities, including Erasmus. 

What is Erasmus?

In 2007 the new Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013 replaced the existing Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci, and eLearning programs which expired at the end of 2006. Erasmus is one of the four sectoral programs supported under the Lifelong Learning Programme.  

2007 - The Erasmus Program Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

The Erasmus program was launched in June 1987 and 3244 people participated in its first academic year. Now, more than 150,000 people benefit each year from the program. The Commission and the 31 participating countries celebrated its 20th anniversary throughout the year 2007.

The participating countries in Erasmus are:

  • The 27 Member States of the European Union
  • The 3 European Economic Area countries ( Iceland , Liechtenstein and Norway )
  • The candidate country (Turkey).

The Erasmus program encourages student and teacher mobility, and promotes transnational cooperation projects among universities across Europe. The scheme currently covers nine out of every ten European higher education establishments. It was named after Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466 - 1536), who was a Dutch humanist and theologian.

Erasmus has developed beyond just being an educational program. It gives many European university students the chance of living for the first time in a foreign country, and it has reached the status of a social and cultural phenomenon. Well over 1.5 million students have so far benefited from Erasmus grants, and the European Commission hopes to reach a total of 3 million by 2012.

Useful Addresses

For more information, see our page on Erasmus, in this section.

Summer Universities in Finland

There are 21 summer universities throughout Finland . Summer universities give an opportunity for both personal and professional development. Courses are open to everyone regardless of age or prior education. The language of instruction is mainly Finnish but some courses are taught in English. The fees usually vary from 70 Euros to 170 Euros.


The Association of Summer Universities in Finland
Rautatienkatu 26 A 4, FI-33100 TAMPERE
ph: +358 (0)3 214 7626 fax: +358 (0)3 214 7629

For those who already have a university degree, and would like to study a single subject in an international setting, the Helsinki Summer School is an excellent program. The program admits students from around the world. It is conducted during in English during August of each year, and provides accommodation and course credit for participants, as well as limited scholarship funds. 

Helsinki Summer School
P.O. Box 3
University of Helsinki
VISITING ADDRESS:  Fabianinkatu 33, 2nd floor
TEL:+358 (0)9 191 23661 or +358 (0)9 191 23662
FAX:  +358 (0)9 191 22291

Recognition of Foreign University/College Degrees in Finland

If you obtained a degree outside Finland you can request recognition (tunnustaminen) of the degree from the National Board of Education.

Useful Addresses

Update 21/05/2008


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