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 depending on the field of study and the courses taken. Usually no courses are organized during the summer months (June–August). However, some practical training may be possible during that time. UEF also organises Summer School in August.
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. Course descriptions and timetables of the courses (as soon as they have been confirmed by the Faculty, usually timetables are available at the beginning of the semester) can be found in WebOodi → Instructions and courses → Search for instruction. You can also browse all the courses available by faculty and department by choosing “Course catalogues” from the dropdown menu. More detailed information about courses can be obtained from the contact person or teacher of each course or from your International Academic Coordinator.
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. Ask questions to make sure that everything is clear to you.
Study tours, excursions and field courses
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, the Baltic States 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.
Most courses offered in English are lecture courses. Course participants are generally assessed by written work in the form of reports, research essays or examinations. 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.
Lectures usually begin a quarter past the hour (e.g. 8:15) excluding some group teaching and exams. In Finland these fifteen minutes are called “an academic quarter”. A lecture lasts for 45 minutes, but double lectures are very common (2 x 45 minutes). Attendance at lectures is usually optional, but often essential for passing the course successfully. Therefore, attending lectures is highly recommended. Most of the teaching is carried out in lecture form although in many fields practical training, laboratory work, exercises or group work play a central role. In these cases, attendance is mostly compulsory. Please make sure you know the requirements for each course, including which parts are compulsory and which are optional.
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. Confirm the schedule in WebOodi or from your International Academic Coordinator.
Please note, that members of the university staff have often allocated office hours during which you can visit them. You can also make an appointment either by phone or email. You can search for the contact information and office hours of any staff member in UEF Connect.