Table of Contents

Lifelong Learning in Finland

Lifelong learning is a term coined to describe the ongoing pursuit of knowledge, skills, and qualifications for personal or professional reasons. This kind of self-development not only ensures an individual’s employability and competitiveness but also often enhances, for example, social inclusion. 

It’s no surprise that a country known for its world-class education system, Finland, is one of the top performers in the field of lifelong learning. This can be attributed to many features of the Finnish education system. In this article, I will explain why lifelong learning is so important and go over some of those features of Finnish education.


In a contemporary global world, the nature of work and the skills required are constantly changing. To keep up with the demand and ensure one’s employability and competitiveness, it’s essential never to stop learning. To acquire new knowledge, skills, and qualifications, one might consider undertaking new degrees or perhaps continuing their studies from a bachelor’s to a master’s degree.

It’s never too late to learn. Did you know that the oldest student in our pathway program has been over 60 years old!

Arcada university students chatting

In addition, acquiring new talents via formal education certainly amplifies the sense of social inclusion and belonging. It is a well-known fact that there’s a positive correlation between active citizenship and, for example, mental health. As individuals undertake new studies, they showcase that activity and build social connections and networks.

Another thing to consider is the fact that exercising the brain makes it also function better. Learning new ways to think and to do–and not being stuck in old ones–arguably boosts an individual’s capability and intelligence as well. After all, as the world constantly progresses, why not progress with it?


The education system in Finland supports lifelong learning in multiple ways. Most importantly, there are virtually no dead-ends in the Finnish education system, which means that a student with a vocational education background can still pursue an academic career and vice versa. Even within higher education, students from more job-oriented universities of applied sciences may apply for PhD studies in a research-oriented university. 

As for university studies, there’s no age limit. As said, the oldest student to progress into a Finnish university through our preparatory program was over 60 years old. There’s no limitation on the gap years, so that one might become a student even after a long break from formal education. The education network in Finland has been designed to support the ability to learn at every stage of an individual’s life, as there are also well-recognized folk high schools as well. The possibilities to educate oneself are versatile.


Next, let’s look at the most common options for lifelong learning in Finland. At the end, I will also briefly mention what could be the best option for an international student considering a new degree.


In-service education is for those who have already completed a higher education degree and are currently in working life. Almost every university and university of applied sciences in Finland offers in-service education, not to mention private businesses. With in-service education, you can keep your professional skills up to date and supplement the shortage in your basic education.

The training can be a one-day intensive short course or seminar. Specialist training programs, however, can last for a semester or even longer. Depending on the program, the training can be open for all willing participants, or it can be organized by the employer company for its employees. In-service education also functions as labor force training for unemployed persons.


Folk high school (both kansanopisto and kansalaisopisto in Finnish) is a secondary education institution comparable to a community college. They provide tuition-based education that offers general education and sometimes vocational degrees. Depending on the choice, one may study individual courses, preparatory programs, and full-time studies lasting for approximately a year. 

As with in-service education, folk high schools offer education that enables students to update their professional skills. In addition, many Finns like to study shorter courses and programs in a folk high school to broaden their general knowledge or learn a new language. It is a valid option for many as it’s always essential to keep one’s skills up to date, and it’s never too late to learn new things.


Many Finns have studied at Open University to develop themselves both professionally and personally to broaden their know-how for working life, for the degree they are planning to study later, or just for the fun of it. Open University also serves as a way to progress into degree studies.

In Finland, Open Universities are not individual operators but are facilitated by regular universities, such as the University of Helsinki or Metropolia UAS, enabling anyone to partake in studies related to degrees offered by the particular university. As the name suggests, Open Universities are indeed open for everyone despite their earlier educational background.

At Open University, one may study individual courses and larger study modules. The courses can be organized both online and on-site. The classes usually take place in the evenings and over weekends due to many Open University students doing their studies alongside their working life.

Keep in mind that Open University studies do not lead to a degree independently, and they are not full-time. However, the studies taken at Open University can be recognized as part of degree studies later if that alternative is pursued. Open University is an excellent way for an individual in Finland to find the right career choice.


Lastly, I want to talk about Edunation’s Pathway to Finland. It’s a preparatory program that enables international students straightforward access to Finnish higher education studies. It is also a global opportunity contributing to lifelong learning. A global world needs global professionals. 

By completing the pathway studies, the student will progress into their pre-selected higher education program in a Finnish university. We offer a range of both bachelor’s and master’s degree studies through our partner university network. Whether one is looking to further their qualifications, change their field, or wants a fresh start abroad, this might be an excellent choice to consider. 

After completing their studies in a Finnish university, the residence permit allows the student to stay in Finland for two years to find a job or establish a business. This gives every international student a proper chance to find their new roots and make a decent life in Finland. To learn more about Pathway to Finland, click here

About the writer

Jonne is an education expert from Finland who is passionate about teaching, learning, and global opportunities. He’s been teaching and tutoring at Edunation for two semesters already.

Read more:

Table of Contents