Studying for a PhD in Finland

     
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Ask any teacher about countries well-known for having an excellent education system, and Finland will always be one of the first mentioned. Its innovative K-12 education is world-renowned, and its universities benefit from the good results achieved.

Like many other European countries, Finland has two types of universities: applied sciences institutions (AMKs) that focus on higher education in areas such as engineering, and universities (yliopisto) that offer degrees in the arts and sciences with a strong theoretical rather than practical base. Only the latter offer PhDs. Teaching on almost all programmes in is English.

Opportunities

For would-be PhD students considering their choices, one powerful factor in favour of Finland is price. PhDs are tuition-free, and PhD students receive a stipend to cover their living costs. Although the number of universities is small (14) and each offers a limited selection of doctorates, all have areas of specialism, such as the University of Helsinki’s geosciences programme, that punch well above their weight.

Admissions

In keeping with the two-tier system, admission to PhD programmes in Finland is generally only open to applicants who have a Masters from a university that fits the Finnish yliopisto model. There is, however, some possibility for those whose degree is seen as being from a polytechnic of doing a  bridging course. Applicants should make sure to submit their qualifications in advance.

Admissions decisions are made by the faculty of the programme you apply to. You will need to make direct contact with faculty members (or a postgraduate study coordinator) at the institution you are interested in attending, and discuss your programme of study in advance. If they agree in principle to take you on, only then should you fill in a PhD registration form. This isn’t the end of the process: your official registration triggers a formal faculty review, and you will be informed of whether you have been accepted to begin. As part of acceptance, the faculty will draw up a programme of study with you.

Alternatively, students can apply for an advertised PhD place—this is the most typical route, and brings certainty in terms of funding.

External funding

Students who make a direct application rather than responding to an advertised PhD post may need to organise their own funding. A variety of sources are available via EU programmes, such as Erasmus, via scholarship and grant programmes offered by your own country, and by applying for direct state or university funding.

Student life

Finnish universities tout the flexibility of PhD student schedules and study plans as a major advantage. Postgrads are expected to be self-managers, and that means you can find time in your research career for fun. In Finland, which does feature long winters, that can range from indoor and outdoor sport to long sessions in student bars. Universities and their student unions offer a wide range of activities, and those studying in major cities like Helsinki can access plenty of big-city culture.

Resources

This site features links to Finnish universities and general information about PhD programme admissions.

EURAXESS is an initiative of the European Commission and 40 of its member countries that provides help through its Website and service centres to facilitate researcher mobility.

Analogous to the UK Research Councils, the Academy of Finland promotes and funds research careers and projects.

This site carries listings for doctoral posts in all Finnish universities.

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