Higher Education

Higher Education

In the late 1980s, Finland's system of higher education consisted of ten universities--each with at least several different faculties--seven one-discipline institutions with such specialties as technology or business administration, and three art academies. The largest, the University of Helsinki, was founded in 1640. The remainder date from the twentieth century; the newest, the University of Lapland at Rovaniemi, from 1979. During the mid-1980s, there were about 90,000 students at institutions of higher education. Competition for acceptance for university-level study was intense, and fewer than one out of four applicants obtained a place. There were no private universities in Finland.

By the late 1980s, institutions of higher learning were granting three degrees: a master's degree that required from four to six years of study; a graduate degree, the licentiate, requiring another two years of study; and the doctorate, awarded usually after four years or so of graduate study. A candidate did not have to obtain the licentiate to be awarded the doctorate.

Like the country's primary and secondary schools, Finnish universities were free. To help with living expenses, however, students who were enrolled in secondary schools and at universities were entitled to financial aid by the Study Allowances Act of 1972. By the 1980s, more than half the student body at these institutions received aid in the form of allowances or low-interest loans.

Institutions of higher learning had about 7,000 instructors altogether in the 1980s. Academic freedom was ensured through a tenure system that protected most of this number from dismissal. The institutions themselves were under the overall direction of the Ministry of Education, but they enjoyed considerable internal autonomy. The autonomy of the University of Helsinki was even guaranteed by the Constitution of 1919. The trend toward greater internal democracy had also touched Finnish universities, and by the late 1980s professors were sharing much of their former power with other faculty members, university staff, and students.

An area of future growth in Finnish education was expected to be that of supplementary education at the university level. No degrees were to be granted, but much greater access to university resources was to be offered to those wishing to deepen their knowledge of a particular field either for professional reasons or for personal pleasure. It was estimated that, by the early 1990s, one-tenth of university teaching would occur in an openuniversity -like forum.


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