Open University – your window to study opportunities in Finland

The many opportunities of Open Universities, including flexible study methods, enhancing one’s own competence, and getting acquainted with higher education studies are already widely recognized among Finnish speakers. Expanding the English-language course selection provides similar opportunities for individuals whose first language is not Finnish.

The University of Eastern Finland (UEF) has expanded its English-language course selection in Open University. There are currently over a hundred English-language courses covering various disciplines. Starting from autumn 2023, individuals who are not Finnish speakers can apply for degree studies in the Open University by completing Open University studies (the Open University route). Study opportunities in English have reached a growing number of students, but the proportion of non-native Finnish speakers among Open University students remains relatively small.  We at UEF’s Centre for Continuous Learning aim to increase awareness about study possibilities and make them more accessible.

What’s in it for you?

1. Exploring Your Interest and Capabilities in Higher Education

Whether you currently reside in Finland or not, the Open University provides a unique chance to test studying in a higher education institution. If you find yourself intrigued by a specific field and are thinking of applying as a degree student, why not kickstart your studies flexibly through the Open University? The Open University offers the same courses taken by degree students to a wider public – with no age limits or prerequisites for your educational background. Accessible to everyone for a fee, these studies provide a gateway to diverse learning experiences.

Finnish students engaging in Open University studies often discover that it offers an excellent opportunity to assess their motivation for a particular study subject. If the subject proves to be as captivating as anticipated, studying at the Open University can serve as a motivational boost on the path toward degree studies. Conversely, if you realize that the subject isn’t as enjoyable as initially thought, it may guide you to redirect your interests elsewhere. For those residing abroad with an interest in Finland’s study opportunities, the Open University provides a flexible way to explore studying in Finland from the comfort of your home country. You can, for instance, delve into studying Finnish before arriving in Finland.

2. Gaining a Head Start in Your Degree

If after studying at an Open University you decide to apply as a degree student, one of the most rewarding outcomes is that you’ll have a part of your degree studies completed before officially starting as a degree student. This provides you with a valuable head start, offering advantages in terms of both orientation and motivation compared to your peers. Orientating to a different country, culture, people and studying all at once can be stressful: Having a foundational understanding of study basics can significantly ease the start of your degree studies, making the transition into your academic journey here much smoother.

3. Applying as a Student Through the Open University Route

Open University also offers an alternative route to apply as a degree student. While the Open University route to degree studies has been a longstanding option, the first English-language Open University route to degree studies has been opened as of autumn 2023. In a nutshell, the Open University route means that you complete a specific set of studies granting you eligibility to apply for admission as a degree student. The studies that are required for admission become a part of your degree if you are admitted as a student. This unique opportunity offers a flexible and accessible route for individuals seeking to pursue degree studies in English at our university.

4. Opening doors to career development and strengthening your employment prospects in Finland

Do you already live in Finland and wish to find a job better suited to your abilities?  Finding employment as a highly educated immigrant in your own field can sometimes be challenging. Some end up pursuing a new degree at the secondary or tertiary level, but another – more flexible- option is to boost your professional skills through Open University studies, increasing your chances of finding a suitable job in Finland.

Through Open University studies, you can efficiently update your skills and build professional networks. Imagine tailor-made language courses or current affairs studies that enhance your expertise in sustainable development or workplace readiness. You may, of course, also study Finnish language which is an invaluable asset when it comes to landing job offers here. In the end of this post, you can find some examples of our broad selection of courses.

5. And last but not least – studying for your own pleasure

Open University is a great way of educating yourself on various themes. Studying what you’re interested in just for the joy of it can boost your brainpower, help you relax, and make you more confident. You get a lively learning experience, and understand more about the world, making your life more interesting and helping you grow, both personally and professionally.

Regardless of your situation, you can contact our student guidance counselors to talk about study opportunities in the Open University for you. Our guidance services are free of charge and are available in Finnish, English and Russian. You can start by browsing our broad study selection in over 20 academic subjects or guidance services on our website.

Examples of interesting possibilities:

  • Career Planning self-study course
  • Job Seeking self-study course
  • Basics of Finnish Working Life self-study course
  • Finnish Education and Society

Further information from:

Sanna Vikla works at UEF’s Centre for Continuous Learning as an open university coordinator of Language and Communication studies and the Basic Studies in Lifelong Learning and Sustainable Development.

Heli Kaarniemi works as coordinator, student counsellor and project manager in UEF`s Centre for Continuous Learning. She has practical experience in social integration, employment and qualification of immigrants.

Finding Home in Eastern Finland

The first time I heard the sentence ”Everyone says they’ll stay at first, but they all leave” was during my first month in Finland. I had just arrived in Joensuu as an international student in English Language and Culture master’s program, eager to experience the beautiful nature and unique culture of this country. As I spoke with a kind Finnish woman who helps international students find accommodations, I expressed my love for the city and my hope to stay for a while. But her words left me with a feeling of uncertainty and doubt. 

As I continued my studies, I met many international students who left immediately after graduation, confirming that woman’s words. At the time, my only concern was that it was difficult to form lasting friendships since everyone seemed to leave as soon as they graduated. 

However, soon it was my turn to face the harsh reality of the job market in Joensuu. I applied for internships and summer jobs to gain experience and develop my Finnish language skills. But all the replies were rejections, with the reason being that they needed an employee fluent in Finnish. I was disappointed, but I knew it would be difficult to find internships in Joensuu and I didn’t have high expectations. 

It was then that I decided to speak with my professor about the matter and seek his advice. He suggested that I look for internships outside of Finland, which was not what I wanted to hear. I had just arrived and wanted to learn about the country’s work culture and the way things were done. If I had to leave without any work experience in Finland, what was the point of coming here? 

My professor reassured me that there was still hope, so I clung to that hope. Eventually, I found a summer job at a café in Koli national park that helped me with my Finnish language learning and formed a sense of belonging to the country and its people. The owners of the café are a local couple that had difficulty finding workers, so they broadened their search and interviewed the international students as well. Although there were a few challenges in the beginning, everyone found a way to effectively communicate with each other and it resulted in one of the best work communities I have had the opportunity to be part of. Some of us have even stayed close after the summer and found friendship within the work community but many of my friends were not as lucky and had to leave the country to find work.  

At gatherings with my university friends, the main topic is where to go next. Some of the people who arrived with me in Joensuu have already left, even though there is still one more semester left in their studies. Some have already planned for internships and jobs outside of Finland. The feeling of hopelessness and disappointment can be overwhelming, causing many to leave before they even get the chance to experience all that Finland has to offer.  Despite all a few of us are still planning to stay in the region. 

The University of Eastern Finland offers a limited number of traineeship positions specifically for international students. UEF Trainee Programme has been organized three times, and while the number of trainee positions has remained the same, the number of applicants has tripled. As a result, in 2022, it took a surprisingly long time to process the applications. 

Although I was fortunate enough to get a trainee position, many of my friends and capable students did not and for most of us this was the only chance we got in finding an internship without being fluent in the Finnish Language. 

Despite the challenges and uncertainties, a great deal has changed in the past year. Through my traineeship at the Center for Continuous Learning at UEF, I learned about an important project they are working on. Talent Hub Eastern Finland project aims to identify the skills of international students, recognize their past experiences, and help them find internships and employment in the region where there will be a shortage of workers in the near future. 

Although the application process is still underway, just knowing that a group of people has put all their energy into helping international students find work and make a home in this beautiful place is heartwarming.  

My journey has been full of challenges and doubts, but I am grateful for the people who have helped me along the way. I have learned that finding a home is not just about a physical place but also about the people and the sense of belonging they provide and the way they welcome you into their communities. I may not know what the future holds, but I am optimistic that it will be better as long as there are people who care about beautiful eastern Finland and people who want to make a home in it. 

Shima Garousi  
UEF Trainee at the Center for Continuous Learning