Finland National Overview

Updated in November 2016 by Tuovi Martinsen, Head of International Relations at the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki.

Overview of Higher Music Education System

In Finland, professional music training is organised in two educational levels:

  1. In vocational education (conservatoires)
  2. In higher education in two sectors: universities and polytechnics universities of applied sciences

The vocational study programmes take three years to complete. They are designed either for secondary education or for high school graduates and lead to basic vocational qualifications. All three-year study programmes provide eligibility to continue studies in institutions of higher education. There are ten conservatoires in Finland that offer vocational training in music.
The Finnish higher education system consists of two parallel sectors: universities and universities of applied science. The fundamental mission of universities is to carry out research and provide education based on it. The universities of applied sciences are more practically oriented, training professionals for expert and development posts in the working life. The higher education system in Finland is developed as a whole comprising the two sectors in which universities and polytechnics complement each other. The system of higher education degrees will be developed to correspond to the needs of working life and also with regard to the international developments of degree structures.
In the field of music, the professional music training in higher education is organised in both universities of applied sciences and in the universities. There is only one music specific university, Sibelius Academy, but two other multi-faculty universities offer music teacher education. The total number of universities of applied sciences giving music training is eight.
Finland has developed its higher education’s structure in accordance with the principles of the Bologna principles. The structure has been in use since 2005.

Total number of institutions
One University (+two multi-faculty universities in Oulu and Jyväskylä offering music education), 8 Polytechnics, 10 Conservatoires (vocational, post comprehensive education).
Total number of music students
  • Sibelius Academy:

Bachelor level: 581 students (present 532, absent 49)
Master’s level: 631 students (present 564, absent 67)
Doctoral level: 156 students (present 150, absent 6)
Absent: maternity leave, military service, sick leave, studies abroad, etc.

  • Polytechnics: 1400 +
  • Conservatoires: 730 +
Funding All Finnish universities are funded by the state. Each university and the Ministry of Education conclude a four-year agreement on target outcome to determine the operational principles. The government allocates core funding (i.e. the direct government funding) to the universities and UAS’s . The core funding covers about 88 % of universities of applied sciences’ budgets. Public research funding is a separate part of the budget.
Fixed formula for core funding was implemented in 2014 as part of the reform. Performance indicators cover the pillars education (85%), research (15%), and strategic development. Indicators relate to degrees conferred, student progress, research productivity, external research funding (including by the Academy of Sciences and TEKES, a research council), contract income, and internationalisation (student mobility).
Finnish universities of applied science are also expected to raise external funding. The Ministry of Education and each polytechnic conclude a four-year agreement on target outcome to determine the objectives, intakes, and project and performance-based funding. The selected funding criteria should contribute to the achievement of the topical policy objectives set for higher education.
Vocational education and training is co-financed by the government and the local authorities.
Curricula The underlying principle in higher education is the freedom of research and institutional autonomy, which gives the universities and polytechnics extensive latitude for independent decisions.
The Finnish universities are very independent in their decision-making because they enjoy large autonomy and freedom of research. They organise their own internal administration independently, guided by the Universities Act.
The most important legislation governing the universities are the Universities Act and Decree, the Universities of Applied Sciences Act and Decree, the Decree on the Higher Education Degree System and field-specific Decrees, which lay down, among other things, the responsibility for education in a given discipline, degree titles, and the structure, extent, objectives and content of education.
We feel that genre-oriented thinking is maybe not representing today’s education. Finnish universities offer wide range of educational programs from early childhood education to instrumental pedagogy, music education, music technology, pop and rock, jazz, classical music, global music, folk music, Arts Management, etc.
2-cycle system

Sibelius Academy is the only music specific university in Finland offering degrees in all three cycles. On Bachelor and Master level, its degree programmes cover the entire field of music, aiming at the degrees of Bachelor of Music (120 ECTS) or Master of Music (180 ECTS). Doctoral Degree is called Doctor of Music (240 ECTS).
The universities of applied sciences offer two different degree programmes in the 1st cycle, namely Music Pedagogue and Musician (both 180 credits), with many different specialisation areas. As the universities of applied sciences have a pedagogical orientation, a vast majority of the students are studying in the Music Pedagogue study option. This programme includes a compulsory teacher education module (60 credits), conducted in cooperation with teacher training colleges and leading to a qualified teacher status.
At the moment three Universities of Applied Sciences offer a degree programme in the 2nd cycle. It is focused on responding to the development needs coming from the working field of the musicians and music pedagogues. Therefore, students are required to have 3 years of working experience after the 1st cycle degree, and part of the studies are conducted in cooperation with their employers.
In addition to these 1st and 2nd cycle programmes, universities of applied sciences offer specialisation studies (30 credits) for graduates.

At the Sibelius Academy:

  • 1st cycle: 3 years
  • 2nd cycle: 2,5 years
  • 3rd cycle: appr. 4 years
At Universities of Applied Sciences:
  • 1st cycle: 4,5 years
  • 2nd cycle: 1,5 years (requires 3 years of working experience)
Qualifications Sibelius Academy: Bachelor of Music, BMus; Master of Music, Mmus, Doctor of Music, DMus
Polytechnics: Bachelor of Culture and Arts, Master of Music
Entry requirements 1st cycle

Sibelius Academy: The 5.5-year programme leading both to a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree (3 yr + 2.5 yr) is intended for applicants who have completed the Finnish matriculation examination or have a corresponding qualification. The criteria for eligibility are stated in the Admissions Guide. The Admissions Guide will be published annually.

Application guidelines for Universities of Applied Sciences are published in each institution’s web-pages.

Entry requirements 2nd cycle
Those students coming from the university of applied sciences or outside Sibelius Academy will have to take part in the entrance examinations, which are given yearly. For students continuing to the 2nd cycle from the Bachelor’s degree within their own study programme in the Sibelius Academy, no additional entrance examination is required.
In the Universities of Applied Sciences 2nd cycle students are required a Bachelor degree in music as well as 3 years of working experience after the 1st cycle degree.
% of students who continue with 2nd cycle About 95% of the students in 1st cycle continue to the Master’s Degree in the Sibelius Academy (not including so-called ‘dropouts’). In the polytechnics about 10% of the students continue in the Polytechnic 2nd cycle, and approximately 5% continue their studies at the Sibelius Academy (estimation).
3rd cycle
The Sibelius Academy third cycle, leading to the degrees Licentiate and Doctor of Music, is organized in three programmes. In the Artistic Study Programme, a student qualifies through five public recitals and/or 2 CD-recordings; an additional theoretical work of varying length is produced as a supplement to the artistic work. This is evaluated as a project in itself but is not a formal part of what is assessed for the doctorate. In the Research Programme a student qualifies by writing a conventional PhD thesis. In the Developmental Study Programme various combinations of the two approaches are used to underpin the production of new artistic, pedagogical, technological or corresponding ideas or artefacts. The programmes support research in all departments: jazz, ethnomusicology, music technology, music theory & composition, performance, church music, etc.
Only at the Sibelius Academy:
  • Licentiate of Music, MLic, 100 credits
  • Doctor of Music, DMus, 160 credits
Areas of specialisation:
  • Developmental Study Programme
  • Artistic Study Programme
  • Research Study Programme
Credit point system
Being one of the biggest higher education institutions in the field of music in Europe, Sibelius Academy is very active internationally. With its extensive network over the world (appr. 150 agreements), also its active participation in Erasmus+ program’s Strategic partnership projects (involved in three), with its global approach (GLOMUS network and Erasmus Global Mobility) and its mobility actions, Sibelius Academy belongs to the most international music academies in the world.
  • Erasmus agreements in 2016: 115
  • Incoming applications for 2016-2017: 205 (approximately 50% accepted)
  • Offered exchange study place for 105 students, of which 76 accepted the study place offered.
  • Outgoing applications 80 (each student applied min. to three institutions, meaning that there were appr. 250 applications to handle)
  • Outgoing students appr. 58
Sibelius Academy is active in AEC and participates in many of its working groups, its Council andsends representatives into annual meetings
According to the strategy, each student has a right to include internationalization period into his/her studies. We can say, that internationalization is embedded into our curriculum.
Quality assurance
The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) is the national quality assurance agency responsible for evaluations of higher education in Finland. FINEEC is a full member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and is included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).
An audit is an independent and systematic external evaluation. It assesses whether the quality system of a higher education institution is fit for purpose and functioning and whether it complies with the agreed criteria. HEIs can choose a foreign agency, as regulated by the Universities Act and Polytechnic Act. So far all the Audits have been conducted by FINEEC.
Employability The network of music schools all over the country forms one of the most important employers for musicians and music educators. A Bachelor’s Degree in music from a Polytechnic or a Master’s degree from the university is usually required for the teaching posts in music schools. The employer is encouraged by the legislation to pay attention to suitability, in addition to the qualification. To be able to work in conservatoires (post comprehensive education) or in polytechnics, the required qualification is Master’s degree including pedagogical studies. Orchestras recruit musicians mainly on artistic grounds, but in practice most of the musicians have a master’s degree in music. The music sector and musician’s profession is changing rapidly. More and more musicians compose their own careers, including versatile activities from perfoming, to teaching, composing, media etc.
Academic Year Academic year: August to July. Tuition: September to May.
Overview of the Pre-College Music Training System
There are several possibilities in Finland to be musically trained prior to entering higher education.

Types of Pre-College Education

Music PlaySchool (Musiikkileikkikoulu)
Music playschools provide education for children under school age. There are 25,000 children involved. Music playschools can be part of a music school, but are also run by parishes, civic colleges and peoples’ institutes. Attending music playschool does not automatically guarantee entry to a music school. Approximately 39% of those applying for music schools are admitted.
Music School (Musiikkiopisto)
Music schools offer goal-oriented studies with examinations at various levels to measure progress. Music schools offer two different curricula: a General Curriculum and an Extended Curriculum, both starting at around the age of seven and usually completed by the age of fifteen. The General Curriculum studies can be entered by all students without auditions (in some exceptional cases, schools may use entrance examinations); it focuses on amateur training.
The Extended Curriculum studies focus on talented students, so auditions are being used to select students. The Extended Curriculum is again divided into two levels: the Basic Level and the Institute Level. Completion of a level earns a student a certificate. The Basic Level should be finished around the age of fifteen. Graduates can audition to try to enter the Institute Level, which lasts about three years and focuses on preparing students for the entrance examinations of higher music education. After completing the Basic Level, students could also choose to audition for Secondary Level Professional Training, as provided by Conservatoires.
The emergence and development of music schools has been enabled by the financial contributions of local authorities and the Government. Of the funding of music schools belonging to the Association of Finnish Music Schools, government contributions cover 44%, local authority contributions 38%, and student fees 18%.
Conservatoire (Konservatorio)
Finland has fourteen conservatoires. They are institutes that include music schools and provide secondary level professional training (in 10 conservatoires) as well. Music schools within conservatoires provide exactly the same type of training as other Music S=schools, as they fall under the same music school law (Act on Basic Arts Education).
Secondary Level Professional Training is a type of vocational training meant for talented students from 15 years of age, which prepares them for the entrance examinations of higher music education. Students need to audition to enter Secondary Level Professional Training. It takes place outside of the general education system, but Conservatoires do work together with gymnasia were students can take their regular education. After graduation, students are able to study any subject in higher education, not only music.
Junior Academy (Nuoriso-osasto)
The Sibelius Academy is the only higher music education institution in Finland that has a Junior Academy. It caters for about 100 talented young students. These students come from all around Finland, and their teaching thus takes mainly place at weekends. This means they go to comprehensive schools or gymnasiums at their hometown.
Private Music School (Yksityinen musiikkikoulu)
There are more than 40 private music schools that do not belong to any association; they have an estimated total of 6.000 students. Private music schools have qualified teachers and are mainly hobby orientated. They do not receive state funding.
Peoples’ institutes (Kansalais-/työväen opistot) Peoples’ institutes provide all kinds of hobby courses, like in art and languages. They also give music lessons to around 60,000 people and therefore form an important part of the Finnish music life. Peoples’ institutes are different from music schools because they offer tuition to students of all stages, children as well as adults, and focus on amateur training. They receive state funding.
Private tuition Qualified teachers provide instrumental and vocal tuition, outside of any institutes or general education systems. Private tuition is not very popular in Finland.

Additional Information

All pre-college education can prepare students for HME. In particular, this is the aim at the Junior Academy of the Sibelius Academy.

Music and Arts in General Education
Music and Arts education are embedded in normal curriculum studies in general education. The number of hours per week vary by the grade and by the curriculum of each school. In Finnish schools interdisciplinary is highly valued and this approach can increase the arts studies in the school.
Students entering Higher Music Education
Most students come from music schools. Many students come from Conservatoires (Secondary Level Professional Training). Some students come from the Junior Academy, private lessons or private music schools.
Special Facilities for Talented Students at Pre-College Level
There are many special facilities for talented students, such as youth orchestras, competitions, festivals and funds. In Finnish school system, there are so called “music classes” for those students, who wish to have more music in their curriculum as in so called “normal classes”.

Overview of Music Teacher Education System

The structure of the Finnish Teacher Training System has been developed according to the Bologna Declaration. And is fully implemented now.
The teacher training system in Finland consists of 3 types of education:

  • Music Subject Teacher (general education music teacher), available at the Sibelius Academy and Universities of Oulu and Jyväskylä. Music teachers work in kindergarten, primary and secondary level educational institutions (schools), high schools as part of the national general educational systems.
  • Music Pedagogues (instrumental/vocal teacher), available at Universities of Applied Sciences. Music pedagogues are active in music schools, private teaching practices, conservatoires and higher music education institutions.
  • Music Performer (instrumental/vocal teacher), available at the Sibelius Academy. Music performers can teach in conservatoires and at the Sibelius Academy; but also in music schools if they choose pedagogy as an additional subject in their education.

Instrumental/Vocal Music Teacher Education

Instrumental/vocal music teachers receive their education at various higher music education institutions, including Sibelius Academy and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
Structure and Curriculum
The education consists of 2 cycles:
  • 1st cycle: Bachelor (4.5 years)
  • 2nd cycle: Master (2,5 years) – provided for classical as well as pop and jazz music.
The teacher training starts at the first or second year depending on the choice the student has made. The students are taught in basic musical studies and also receive training in their main instrument. The pedagogic field includes practical lessons, where the student has teaches a pupil one-to-one with an instructor as supervisor. The level of this education may vary from the big cities to the countryside. The teaching languages are Finnish, Swedish and English
The same answer as previously. This is quite uncomfortable, since we try not to focus on genres as such. We offer pedagogical studies in almost all fields (not in Arts Management) and thus, all genres are included into the pedagogical studies as well.
The same internationalization aims apply for the teacher training as to every other music programs.
Employability No information available
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
No information available

Training for Music Teacher in General Education (primary and secondary school)

General teacher training is accessible at The Sibelius Academy, the University of Oulu and the University of Jyväskylä and lasts 5,5 years. The content consists of a broad music experience, with training in pedagogy and how to teach children and young people. Students will have a good level of instrumental playing when entering in the program. The students choose a main instrument (classical or e.g. pop) and will be taught in addition in voice (if that is not a main instrument) and keyboard harmony as a part of their teaching tools. In addition to these instruments, students study also band instruments (basics of electric guitar, electric bass and drum kit). Studies include pop/rock ensemble playing and improvisation, also choir and orchestral conducting, in addition to many other courses focusing e.g. in global music, etc. In the end of studies, students write a theses. Studies include also didactical and pedagogical studies, also practical traing in school. These studies are organized in cooperation with Educational University due to the current requirements of the teacher’s qualifications.
The education and accomplished degree give the students qualification to teach in kindergarten, elementary school and high school and it can be combined with other subjects after finishing the 5,5 years of music training. In that case, it will be possible to get credit transfer and the education will be shorter. Classes are primarily conducted in Finnish, but are also provided in Swedish at the Sibelius Academy.