Academic freedom is one of the basic values of the Finnish university system. It emphasises independent study and opens up many possibilities to students. In most cases, students can basically choose what to study and when to study. Some lectures, for example, may not be compulsory. However, the practical sessions are usually always obligatory. Academic freedom goes hand in hand with academic responsibility – it is up to students themselves to plan, schedule and complete their studies.
Courses can last for one semester or they may start and finish at any time of the semester. Some courses are intensive with up to six hours of lectures and/or laboratory exercises per day. The other courses are less intensive with only a couple of hours a week. So the duration of a course may vary from a few days to several months.
Course descriptions describe the teaching methods and specify what a student must do in order to earn credits from a course. The course requirements are often listed in the course descriptions. Courses may include lectures and/or small-group teaching, written assignments, examinations, practical exercises, classroom discussions, group work, on-line discussions/exercises, lab work/reports, course diaries, term papers, oral presentations, or a combination of these.
In most study fields the courses form larger modules at 3 levels: basic/introductory studies, subject/intermediate studies and advanced studies.
Some courses may have a range of credits possible to earn based on a combination of course options. For some courses, especially those in which reading assignments in English substitute lectures given in Finnish, students may be required to pass an examination on the required course literature.
Please make sure you always attend the first meeting of the course because the first meeting is always the best possibility to ask about the course requirements, the credits and grading and everything else concerning the course.
In some study programmes study tours, excursions, and field courses offer an opportunity for the students to visit and experience various sites in the nearby area, other locations around Finland, and even Russia. Fieldwork usually involves gaining practical experience through field exercises, some formal lectures, and group work. Additional costs may apply to field courses, excursions, and study tours. The contact persons for these courses can provide more information and answer questions.
Course literature is often specified in the course description. This literature is usually available to be borrowed from and/or read only in the University Library. In some cases students may obtain assigned literature from the office of the faculty organising the course. The number of copies of course literature available is limited so you may have to make a reservation. If a student wishes to purchase textbooks published abroad, it is recommended that he or she do so before arriving in Finland since prices, especially for imported textbooks, are higher. Some reading materials are distributed during courses. Questions about specific course literature should be directed to the contact person of the course.
Some courses can also be completed as independent study. In the case of independent study, reading assignments are given in English and students complete work under the supervision of an instructor. Independent studies in some subjects can be completed by taking examinations on specified books. Examinations based on reading assignments are organised on general examination days scheduled by the faculty responsible for the course. The schedules for the examination dates for specific independent study courses are available from the faculty arranging the courses and in most cases on WebOodi. Some independent study courses have multiple examination dates each semester or year; others may be scheduled for only one day a year.