Study practices

Studying in a Finnish university might differ quite a lot from what you are used to. Below we have collected information explaining some of the central issues and characteristics of studying at the University of Tampere.

Degree structure

Finnish university degrees are
  • the first cycle Bachelor’s degree (180 credits),
  • second cycle Master’s degree (120 credits) and
  • third cycle Doctor’s degree (240 credits).
In most fields students can also take a Licentiate’s degree before the Doctor’s degree.

    Academic culture

    In Finnish universities the hierarchy is usually low. Titles are not used in discussions and most teachers and other staff can be called by their first name.

    From the beginning of their studies, students are considered to be full members of the UTA community, with the rights and responsibilities related to their position. According to UTA guidelines, students pursue their studies in order to acquire the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed in life and future duties. They also study to progress in and complete their degrees. The key objective of studies at university level is to develop good learners who are able to solve problems using scientific and critical thinking.

    Students are also entitled to support from their teachers. Teachers are obligated to inspire and support students and to promote their studies, learning and growth into an expert by applying teaching methods that serve students with learning disabilities and by giving feedback that motivates students to learn new things. All teachers provide academic advice as a part of the teaching. Students must be treated equally, supportively and respectfully. Teachers must take part in developing their own work community and skills.

    All members of the academic community are expected to comply with good scientific practices and the ethical principles of studies and research, and can expect that from the others as well.

    More information on academic ethics at UTA

    Freedom and responsibility in studies

    The Finnish system of academic education gives students a lot of freedom in planning and scheduling their studies. This freedom also requires independence and responsibility from the student as choosing subjects and course units, avoiding overlapping courses and keeping the schedule balanced throughout the academic year may sometimes be difficult and time-consuming.

    Structure and content of studies in a particular degree programme are outlined in the Curricula guide. The curriculum lists the obligatory courses that the student needs to take in order to graduate, and might include a recommended order for the courses.

    In addition to the obligatory courses, all UTA degree programmes contain a number of credits of free choice studies, which might also be from another degree programme. 

    All degree students make a personal study plan called HOPS with their supervisor. The study plan supports students in planning and making choices on their studies and in developing and growing into and as an academic professional. The HOPS is updated during the studies when needed.

    Exchange students plan the courses they intend to take at UTA when they are doing their Learning agreement.

    More information on planning of studies

    See also the sections on orientation and tutoring below.

    Workload and credits

    One Finnish credit is equivalent to one ECTS credit.

    Full workload for one academic year is 60 credits or 1600 working hours. This means that one credit consists about 27 hours of work. This includes not only lectures, but also student's independent work, such as reading, writing essays or papers, and preparation for the exam. 


    Example workload of a course:
    Introduction to subject x, 5 credits
    Course requirements: participation in lectures, and an essay based on the lectures and additional reading
    Lectures: 24 h
    Estimated time for independent work: 111 h

    Depending on how familiar with the topic the student is, or how fast they are in searching for information and writing an essay, the actual number of hours spent in the coursework might be more or less than the estimation. However, the estimated workload gives a broad idea of how much work one course might entail.


    The grading scale 1–5 used at UTA is convertible into ECTS grades A–E as follows:

    ECTS grade University of Tampere grade Definition
    A 5 EXCELLENT in Finnish erinomainen
    B 4 VERY GOOD in Finnish kiitettävä
    C 3 GOOD in Finnish hyvä
    D 2 SATISFACTORY in Finnish tyydyttävä
    E 1 SUFFICIENT in Finnish välttävä

    In addition, the dichotomy pass/fail (HYV/HYL) is sometimes used in course evaluation to indicate that the student has/has not fulfilled the requirements of a course mentioned in the curriculum. The grading scale of theses and dissertations may be different and depends on the school.

    Forms of Instruction

    Studies at the University of Tampere consist of several types of work. The most typical teaching methods are lectures, seminars, and exercises in small groups.
    • Lecture courses normally include 2-4 hours of lectures per week with a written examination on the contents of the course at the end of the course. There is no separate exam period at UTA, exams are arranged at the end of the course, which might be even at the middle of a semester.
    • Seminars are common especially in Master-level courses. Attending the weekly sessions and writing an essay and/or giving a presentation in class complete seminars.
    • In language studies the most typical teaching method is working in small groups. There is normally a test at the end of the course.

    It is also possible to complete courses by independent study. Independent studies include, for example, independent reading of literature included in the course unit requirements followed by an exam on set books. Such exams are taken as electronic exams on the day chosen by the student, or on examination days usually arranged once a month. Writing an essay on the topics defined by the lecturer may also suffice to complete some courses.

    For further information on course completion, see the Study Guide.

    Academic calendar

    The academic year at UTA starts in August/September. It is divided into two semesters each consisting of two periods. The first two periods constitute the autumn semester. The spring semester, which starts in January, is composed of the third and the fourth period.

    There is a Christmas vacation of two weeks after the second period. The summer vacation runs from the end of the fourth period until the start of the new academic year.

    The four-period system does not apply to the School of Medicine, in which teaching is structured on a two-semester system.

    Academic calendar 2017-2018
    Autumn semester 2017 Spring semester 2018
    Period I: 4 Sep - 22 Oct Period III: 8 Jan - 4 March
    Period II: 23 Oct - 15 Dec

    Period IV: 5 March - 27 May

    Teaching in the Spring Semester 2018 begins 8 January and ends by the end of May 2018. However, the academic year continues until 31 July 2018.

    Academic calendar 2018-2019
    Autumn semester 2018 Spring semester 2019
    Period I: 27 Aug - 21 Oct Period III: 7 Jan - 3 March
    Period II: 22 Oct - 14 Dec

    Period IV: 4 March - 26 May

    Teaching in the Spring Semester 2019 begins 7 January and ends by the end of May 2019. However, the academic year continues until 31 July 2019.

    Orientation course

    An Orientation Course for new international students is arranged twice a year, in the beginning of the autumn semester in August, and in the beginning of the spring semester in January. During the Orientation Course students get information on the system of study, student life in Tampere, Finnish language courses, and library and computer services at the University. In addition, a bus tour around the city will be offered.

    The Orientation Course is compulsory to all new international students. The course is free of charge.


    The University appoints a tutor to every incoming international student. The tutor is a fellow student, usually from the same field of study as the new students.  They have volunteered to help new international students in the beginning of their studies.

    The tutor will contact the student by e-mail during the summer. If agreed in advance, the tutor will meet the student at the railway or bus station in Tampere at arrival. The tutor is not, however, required to pick up the student from the airport. The student can also meet their tutor at the University when they come to pick up the registration papers from the International Office.

    For more information on tutoring, please see information for admitted students.

    Language of instruction

    The official language of instruction at the University of Tampere is Finnish, except for the international degree programmes taught in English. In addition, independent study modules and individual courses within other degree programmes are offered in English. These are often open for degree students and UTA exchange students.

    The University Language Centre offers Finnish language courses, which are taught in English. These courses range from the elementary to advanced level and are open to all degree students as well as to international exchange of the University. These courses are meant to be taken alongside the course units in the major subject, they do not serve as preparatory courses for a degree programme taught in Finnish.

    If you plan to apply for a degree programme given in Finnish, you must acquire your knowledge of Finnish before applying for the programme. An excellent knowledge of Finnish language is a requirement for admission to all degree programmes taught in Finnish.