Adult Education

Completing secondary school on a vocational programme with full classes on a three-year curriculum provides a formal qualification for further studies. However, it may prove necessary to obtain post-secondary education before being admitted to a university, as the entrance examinations require a relatively high level of knowledge. Post-secondary education is provided by municipal schools or independent 'adult education centres', which can give either vocational education or teaching at comprehensive or upper secondary school levels. It is possible to obtain the matriculation diploma, or to better the comprehensive school grades, in these programmes. A new trade can also be learned by an adult at an adult education centre (aikuiskoulutuskeskus, vuxenutbildningscenter), for example, if structural change of the economy has made the old trade redundant.

In universities, the "Open University" (Finnish: Avoin yliopisto, Swedish: öppet universitet) programme enables people without student status to enroll in individual university courses. There are no requirements, but there is a modest tuition fee (e.g., 60 euros per course). Universities of applied sciences have their own similar programme (Finnish: Avoin ammattikorkeakoulu, Swedish: öppen högskola). While "Open University" students cannot pursue studies towards a degree, they may, after passing a sufficient number of separately determined courses with a sufficiently high grade point average, be eligible for transfer into an undergraduate degree program. Alternatively, a few institutions offer foreign qualifications, such as the private Helsinki School of Business, which offers the UK-accredited Higher National Diploma, enabling graduates to earn an undergraduate degree after completing a top-up year abroad.

A third branch of adult education is formed by the so-called vapaa sivistystyö, the "Free Education". This is formed by the partially state-funded, independent educational institutes offering diverse courses varying in length and academic level. The purpose of the "Free Education" is not to provide professional or degree-oriented education but to "support the multi-faceted development of personality, the ability to act in the community and to pursue the fulfilment of democracy, equality and diversity in the society." Historically, the "Free education" stems from the late 19th century efforts to educate the general populace with little previous academic experience.

The "Free Education" is offered by
206 kansalaisopisto or työväenopisto (Citizens' or Workers' Institutes)
88 kansanopisto (People's Institutes)
14 Sports' training centres (Finnish: liikunnan koulutuskeskus)
20 Summer universities (Finnish: kesäyliopisto)
11 Study Centres (Finnish: opintokeskus)

The most common type of "Free Education" is a kansalaisopisto, sometimes called työväenopisto for historical reasons. These are mostly evening-type municipal institutions offering language, handicraft and humanities courses. The academic level varies strongly, and many courses do not require any requisite knowledge. The kansanopistos, on the other hand, are boarding-schools, often maintained by associations with either a strong ideological or religious mission. Also here, the academic level varies strongly. In all these institutions, the courses carry a modest tuition. The Sports' training centers are institutions for the professional or semi-professional sportsmen's training, while Summer universities and study centers are auxiliary bodies for the organization of Free Education.