Greetings, fellow fans of Kimi Räikkönen, and welcome to our latest December series! Just before Christmas, the MASTER AND MORE editors would like to take you on a digital tour around Northern Europe – with the idea of getting to know more about the Nordic capitals and the Masters opportunities currently available there. Who knows – Christmas presents might come early for some of you this year, as Helsinki could easily become your next study destination after reading this article!
Located on the Gulf of Finland, in the most southern part of the country, Helsinki was established in the 16th century by King Gustav I Vasa. Nicknamed “the White City of the North” – due to the color of the granite seen within the local architecture – the capital saw a period of reconstruction during the 1800s. In a Neoclassical style envisioned by the German architect Carl Ludwig Engel, many city landmarks such as the Helsinki Cathedral and Helsinki University were brought to existence.
Nowadays, the capital is often ranked by a variety of sources as one of the best places to live, while it is also believed, that in certain aspects, the Finnish education is among the world-leading systems. Indeed, and it makes perfect sense to check this out. And by the way, in case you feel you would like to know more about the country, check out Masters in Finland. Here is a fun fact along the way: Did you know that Finns love saunas? That is probably because of the weather – Helsinki is among the coldest capitals on the planet, with average winter temperatures well below 0°C.
But back to our little research. The leading higher education institution present in the rankings of both Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings and QS Top Universities, for 2020, is the University of Helsinki, taking the 96th and 107th position, respectively. Next to this respectable listing, we can also add in Aalto University, ranked 184th and 134th, considering that it is part of the Greater Helsinki Metropolitan Area. And to further prove a point, you can see some other well-known universities in Helsinki that also deserve a place in our guide, especially for throwing more light into the diversity of each university in Finland:
In general, university Masters degrees require a 2-year period of study worth 120 ECTS credits to complete, while at universities of applied sciences, there are shorter courses between 12 and 18 months, or 60 - 90 ECTS. Moreover, many programmes are delivered in English only – while Finnish and Swedish can be also chosen as languages of instruction.
Within the Finnish higher education system, students who are citizens of EU/EEA countries or Switzerland, are not required to pay tuition fees at public universities in Finland! But wait, there is more – should you choose to apply for a Masters degree taught in Finnish/Swedish, you will also be exempt from paying for tuition within universities and universities of applied sciences that are funded by the state. Finally, depending on your given residence permit, you can also benefit from free access to public higher education in Finland. You can find more information about this at Studyinfo.fi, which is operated by the Finnish government.
You should note that there also exist student union fees, that range between EUR 80 – 100 per year. Upon payment and receiving your student card, you are entitled to a range of discounts and a deduction of cost for public transport in your area. Additionally, for students applying for a residence permit, it is required that you provide proof of sufficient funds for the period of your stay in Finland. Given that a Masters study often takes 2 years to complete, you would have to ensure that EUR 13,440 are at your disposal in order to cover living expenses each month. Given that you are also required to pay tuition fees in Finland, you would also have to present information about funding that can cover these costs as well. Check out the website of the Finnish Immigration Service for further details.
Last but not least, since there can be a situation where international students are obliged to pay tuition fees, there are suitable scholarship schemes at most of the universities in Helsinki. Starting with the University of Helsinki, there is the opportunity to apply for a grant, that can cover your tuition costs and award you with additional funds as well. And considering that fees for international students, at this university in Helsinki, are in the area of EUR 13,000 – 18,000 per annum, it definitely seems worthwhile to consider application, if possible.
In order to continue with some good examples, we have the University of the Arts in Helsinki, where for the academic year 2020/21, annual tuition fees for a Masters in English and for international students will amount EUR 5,000. This entire cost can be covered by the offered scholarship opportunity at this institution or, eventually, half of it. Alternatively, there is the Hanken School of Economics and a whole bunch of different scholarships that can also aid your budget in terms of living expenses. Or to sum up, it makes perfect sense to look for funding opportunities before completely scratching off chosen Masters programme possibilities not only for universities in Helsinki, but for higher education institutions in Finland as a whole.
First of all, one of the best aspects of Finnish higher education is that it can provide public accommodation! In fact, SOA, or the Finnish Associations of Student Housing Organisations, operate as the main body which provides information about housing providers. You can expect to mainly stumble upon shared student flats, with an average rent between EUR 160 and EUR 400 per month, for most universities in Finland.
For Helsinki exclusively, there is the organisation called HOAS, which you can make use of for application. It is mentioned as the housing provider for the capital region on the official websites of universities in Helsinki. Keep in mind that there is loads of information provided, including what rents include (and yes, not just utilities – but access to saunas as well), types of accommodation, how to apply, and much more.
In terms of private housing, the real estate market in Helsinki can offer a diversity of locations with different flats generally priced between EUR 500 - 700 monthly. Of course, here you can also benefit from more flexibility and suit your taste – but definitely at a much higher cost following the rule that private markets tend to be 20% to 30% more expensive.
Moving on to costs of living, we previously pointed out the residence permit requirement of handing in proof of funds that can cover your period of stay in Finland for daily expenditure. With the application of some quick maths, we get a monthly budget of EUR 560 given that we provide exactly EUR 13,440 for a 2-year Masters study. But would this be more than enough for the standard in Helsinki?
In all honesty, the answer mostly depends on the type of accommodation and respective amount of rent that you have to bear in mind each month. Still, we recommend that you are prepared with at least EUR 15,000 – 17,000 for a 2 years Masters studies in Helsinki. This makes even more sense when considering health insurance and travel costs, mainly for the public transport – which consists of buses, trams, ferries, metro and trains. Operated by the HSL (Helsinki Region Transport), you can get a 45% discount on adult rates in the capital as long as you are a full-time student for at least one academic year.