Aiming for clear and smooth routes to studies, universities are developing certificate-based admission and entrance examinations

The universities will decide on the reform of the scoring model for certificate-based admission in 2023. The new model will be introduced in 2026. The aim is also to increase collaboration related to entrance examinations among universities.

Finnish universities have identified the need to develop their student admissions. The efforts are carried out in a project initiated by the vice-rectors for education of Universities Finland (UNIFI) and supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture, with certificate-based admission and entrance examinations chosen as development targets.

“Since certificate-based admission and entrance examinations affect most applicants to universities, we consider it important to examine these admission options as a whole. Our goal is to develop both certificate-based admission and entrance examinations so as to provide applicants with a complementary entity that opens up opportunities for them,” says Marja-Leena Laakso, chair of UNIFI’s meetings of vice-rectors for education.

Research-based knowledge utilised in the development of certificate-based admission

As of 2020, more than half of applicants admitted to Finnish universities underwent certificate-based admission. The introduction of the procedure has elicited public discussion as well as criticism. The latter has focused particularly on the scoring of various school subjects and the effect of certificate-based admission on the coping of general upper secondary school students. There is no extensive research-based knowledge available on the topic.

“We will carry out a study on the functioning of the scoring used in certificate-based admission and the factors that have elicited criticism. We will also consult general upper secondary schools and their pupils on certificate-based admission. On the basis of the findings, we will present the universities with a proposal on possible changes to the scoring of certificate-based admission,” Laakso says.

The project will also investigate the effect of scoring in certificate-based admission on, for example, the subject choices of general upper secondary school students as well as their success in the Finnish matriculation examination and retaking individual tests included in the examination. At the same time, the effect of different admission criteria on admission will be assessed, as will the academic performance of applicants admitted on the basis of their certificates.

Any changes to the scoring of certificate-based admission will take effect in the admissions of spring 2026, and information on the changes will be announced in 2023.

The study on certificate-based admission will be carried out by the VATT Institute for Economic Research together with the Labour Institute for Economic Research (Labore) as well as the Research Foundation for Studies and Education Otus. VATT and Labore have also conducted a follow-up study commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Culture on the student admission reform, which will be completed soon.

Applying to more degree programmes through the same entrance examination

In recent years, Finnish universities have successfully increased collaboration in the organisation of entrance examinations. An increasing number of fields have a joint entrance examination, in which applicants can apply to several universities and degree programmes. This collaboration has also enabled applicants to sit the entrance examination at the university closest to them.

The content of university entrance examinations will be extensively analysed in the project, identifying the knowhow measured in the entrance examinations of various fields. In addition, the views of educational fields on the role of entrance examinations now and in the future will be surveyed.

“The analysis is the first of its kind on this scale, and will serve as a basis for the development of entrance examination content. This will enable increasingly extensive cooperation with regard to entrance examinations,” Laakso says.

The study pertaining to entrance examinations will be carried out by the Research Foundation for Studies and Education Otus together with Labore. The goal is that, from 2025 onwards, applicants can apply through the same entrance examination to an increasing number of degree programmes without having to divide their preparation period between several entrance examinations.

“Our goal is to make it unnecessary for those admitted through the certificate-based admission procedure to prepare for entrance examinations from 2025 onwards. We are pursuing this goal by developing the content of entrance examinations and increasing entrance examination collaboration between universities and fields of education, as well as by making examinations digital.”