The Finnish education system consists of
1 year of compulsory pre-primary education
9 years of basic education (comprehensive school)
upper secondary education, which consists of general and vocational education
higher education, provided by universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS)
The Finnish education system has no dead-ends. Learners can always continue their studies on a higher level of education, whatever choices they make in between. Both general and vocational upper secondary certificates provide eligibility for further studies. The practice of recognition of prior learning has been developed in order to avoid unnecessary overlapping of studies.
Both higher education sectors have their own profiles. The mission of universities is to conduct scientific research and provide instruction and postgraduate education based on it. Polytechnic / UAS education is professionally oriented higher education. Polytechnics / UAS train professionals in response to labor market need and conduct R&D (research and development) which supports instruction and promotes regional development.
Higher education in Finland has a dual structure. Higher education is provided by universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS). Both sectors have their own profiles. Universities emphasize scientific research and instruction, whereas universities of applied sciences adopt a more practical approach. Higher education institutions are very autonomous in organizing their instruction and academic year.
There is restricted entry to all fields of study. The applicant volumes outweigh the number of places available. Therefore universities and UAS use different kinds of student selection criteria. Most commonly these include success in matriculation examination and entrance tests.
Equal access to higher education is ensured by the wide institutional network, free education, student financial aid as well as the flexible pathways to higher education. Efforts have also been made to lower the threshold to apply to higher education by developing an online joint application system.