Recognition of prior learning

The instruction belongs to the following themes

By selecting a degree programme you are able to see the general content as well as the possible degree programme-specific content. You do not have to select a degree programme to see the Open University's instructions.

Recognition refers to a procedure where previously acquired learning can be accepted as part of your studies. You can request the recognition of prior learning by submitting an application for substitution or inclusion. Please read these instructions carefully before submitting an application.

If you are pursuing doctoral studies, please follow the instructions for doctoral students on the recognition of prior learning.  

What does recognition mean, and what can be recognised as prior learning?

Recognition refers to a procedure where previously acquired learning can be accepted as part of your studies. You may have accumulated knowledge and skills by completing studies in another higher education institution, or through work experience and hobbies.

  • You can request the recognition of studies that you have completed at other higher education institutions in Finland (universities, the National Defence Universityuniversities of applied sciences) or abroad for your prospective degree. You must have received a passing grade on the studies to be recognised.
  • You can also request the recognition of learning acquired in, for example, professional life, elected positions or hobbies. Such cases constitute learning acquired in non-formal and informal education.

You can request the recognition of prior learning by submitting an application for either substitution or inclusion.

Substitution applications

When you wish to substitute a course or study module included in your degree with prior learning, submit a substitution application. For your substitution application to be accepted, you must have achieved the learning outcomes of the studies to be substituted.

Example: You have completed a course corresponding to a basic course included in your degree programme at another higher education institution. You can request the recognition of prior learning by submitting an application for substitution. If your application is accepted, a substitution entry will be added to your record of completed studies, and you do not have to complete that course again.

Inclusion applications

In the case of inclusion, previously acquired learning is incorporated into your degree. In other words, in the case of inclusion you are not applying for a specific course or study module to be recognised as prior learning. Instead, you are incorporating into your degree other learning which fulfils the degree requirements. The learning to be included in the degree must match the level of studies included in your degree programme and the degree learning outcomes. 

Example: You have completed studies during an exchange period which you wish to incorporate into your degree. The studies do not correspond to any of the courses or study modules included in your degree programme, but they can be included in your degree as elective studies. You can request the recognition of the studies by submitting an application for inclusion. If your application is accepted, the studies will be incorporated into your degree as such, and you can add them to your study plan. 

Recognition of learning acquired in non-formal and informal education

Prior learning acquired in contexts other than formal education refers to non-formal or informal learning. Non-formal learning may be acquired in, for example, continuing education, in-house training and adult education. Informal learning can be acquired in everyday situations such as work, hobbies and elected positions.

When applying for the recognition of non-formal or informal learning for your degree, you must evidence and document the learning in the manner agreed with the teacher and demonstrate that you satisfy the learning outcomes set for the studies to be recognised. It is possible that you must also take an examination, create a portfolio, write an essay or report, attend an interview or complete other work. Furthermore, you may be expected to complete separate learning assignments or other equivalent tasks.

Usually, the recognition of prior learning acquired in non-formal and informal education must be applied for by submitting an application for substitution or inclusion. You must attach to your application a description of how the learning corresponds to the learning outcomes of the studies whose recognition you are requesting. If you are applying for substitution, your learning will be assessed according to the assessment scale provided for the course to be substituted for in the curriculum.

Students’ digital skills, language and communication skills, pedagogical studies required of teachers

  • The three-credit Student’s Digital Skills course (or formerly, the ICT Driving Licence) completed at the University of Helsinki or its Open University fully substitutes for the equivalent requirement. If the Student’s Digital Skills course has already been incorporated into a study module or another degree awarded by the University of Helsinki, you can add the completed course to your study plan by submitting an inclusion application.
  • Language studies included in your prior higher education degree substitute as such for the language studies required by the Government Decree on University Degrees and Professional Specialisation Programmes, with the exception of the maturity test. If you have completed language studies as part of a degree previously completed at the University of Helsinki, please read the section Recognition of communication and language studies in these instructions (link to the section).
  • Please note that you can request the recognition of the pedagogical studies required of teachers for second-cycle (master’s) degrees only. Pedagogical studies cannot be recognised for first-cycle (bachelor’s) degrees, with the exception of the degree programmes in education and psychology, in which pedagogical studies for teachers can be distributed between the bachelor’s and master’s programme curricula.

How long can studies be recognised?

  • You cannot have studies completed more than 10 years ago recognised and incorporated into your degree. The expiry date is calculated from the date the studies were completed. For study modules, this is counted from the date on which the last course in the module was completed. Courses and modules are valid until the end of the term on which the expiry date falls. Degree programmes may also implement their own rules limiting the validity of old credits to a period shorter than 10 years.
  • The provision on the expiry of studies does not apply to learning acquired in non-formal and informal education.
  • Further information is available in the instructions on the expiry of studies.

Planning and recognition of studies

The University does not have deadlines for recognition applications, but you should bring up the matter at the beginning of your studies when preparing your study plan. Your supervisor will instruct you in general questions pertaining to recognition. In questions pertaining to the recognition of a specific course or study module, you can contact the relevant course or module coordinator. The application is submitted via the student information system Sisu.

Before submitting your recognition application, you should consider the structure of your degree or studies. Since recognised learning will be incorporated into your degree, there must be room for it in your study plan. If you identify prior learning that matches the requirements of your studies or degree to be completed, you should apply for its recognition to accelerate your progress and avoid restudying content in which you are already proficient.

When planning to have prior learning recognised, please take into consideration that you cannot exceed the scope of your degree by more than 10%, in addition to which the credits can be rounded up to the next number which is evenly divisible by five. In other words, the maximum scope of a bachelor’s degree (180 credits) is 200 credits, and the maximum scope of a master’s degree (120 credits) is 135 credits. Recognition applications that exceed the maximum scope of the applicant’s degree will not be processed. However, this does not apply to those students who began their studies before 1 August 2017 and whose degree is not limited in scope.

The calculation of the maximum number of recognised credits that would fit in your degree takes into account all of your credits that count towards your degree and have been registered by the date of review (including any credits earned that you do not intend to incorporate into your degree) as well as any compulsory courses you have not yet completed.

When can applications be submitted?

  • You can have prior learning recognised if you hold the right to study in a degree programme at the University of Helsinki, and if your registration as an attending student pertains to the studies associated with the right to study for which you wish to have prior learning recognised. Recognition is also possible when completing professional specialisation education or specialist training in medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine, or corresponding education or training.
  • You can also apply for the recognition of studies for any Open University courses or non-degree studies for which you have been granted the right to study. If you are applying for the recognition of prior learning from the Open University, please read the Open University’s instructions on the matter.
  • When recognising prior learning, the studies to be substituted must be included in your study plan. This does not yet apply to students of the Open University who do not have access to a study plan.
  • If you are about to go on an international exchange, you must first draw up a study plan and agree preliminarily on the recognition of the exchange studies with a representative of your degree programme. You should submit a recognition application as soon as possible after the exchange.

What learning can be recognised from a prior degree?

If you wish to have studies included in a previous degree recognised, the scope of the studies that can be recognised is limited:

  • You can have up to 90 credits of studies included in your prior higher education degree recognised for a first-cycle (bachelor’s) degree.
  • You can have up to 60 credits of studies included in your prior higher education degree recognised for a second-cycle (master’s) degree.
  • You can have up to 150 credits of studies included in your prior higher education degree recognised for a degree you are pursuing in the Degree Programme in Medicine or Dentistry.
  • If you have been granted the right to study through the transfer application procedure, your previously completed studies will, however, be recognised fully, since the duration of your completed studies will be subtracted from the validity of your current right to study.

The following cannot be recognised as prior learning:

  • In the case of a second-cycle (master’s) degree pursued at the University of Helsinki, studies included in a previous first-cycle (bachelor’s) degree completed at a university or a first-cycle degree completed at a university of applied sciences
  • In the case of a third-cycle (postgraduate) degree pursued at the University of Helsinki, studies included in a previous first- or second-cycle degree completed at a university or a first- or second-cycle degree completed at a university of applied sciences
  • Theses, maturity tests or doctoral theses included in higher education degrees

Recognition of communication and language studies

Further information is available in the Language Centre’s instructions on the recognition of prior learning when you wish to do the following:

  • Have compulsory communication and language studies substituted for your bachelor’s degree. These include compulsory studies in a foreign language (4 cr), studies in the second national language of Finland (3 cr) and communication studies in the native language (3 cr).
  • Have language studies completed at other Finnish or international universities recognised as part of language study modules at the Language Centre 
  • Include in your degree KiVAKO courses completed elsewhere 

If your degree includes not only the above, but also other compulsory language studies, please submit a recognition application in Sisu:

  • Complete a substitution application if you intend to substitute one of the alternative courses in the degree structure (e.g., in the Master’s Programme in Forest Sciences), or an inclusion application if your degree programme enables you to select language studies more freely from several options (e.g., in the Master’s Programme in Law). 
  • If you wish to include optional language studies in your degree, apply for their recognition by completing an inclusion application in Sisu.

Recognition of communication and language studies incorporated into another degree at the University of Helsinki

  • You can add previously completed communication and language studies to your study plan by marking the course “Studies included in a previous degree at the University of Helsinki” as equivalent on the Substitutions tab of the course brochure. The exact name of the course depends on the studies you wish to transfer. Then fill in a substitution application which you can find on the same tab under Credit transfer. For more information, see the Language Centre's instructions.

Recognition of studies completed during a student exchange

  • If you intend to participate in a student exchange programme, you should schedule the exchange and plan the studies to be completed during the exchange well in advance. Make a preliminary agreement on the recognition of your exchange studies with your degree programme. Click here for Sisu instructions concerning student exchange.  
  • If you have completed a compulsory course during your student exchange, you can apply for its recognition in accordance with the Sisu substitution instructions.
  • If you have completed an optional module or separate optional courses during your student exchange, you can apply for their recognition in accordance with the Sisu inclusion instructions

Conversion of credits completed abroad into ECTS credits

  • Information on the duration of terms and the workload associated with credits at the University of Helsinki’s partner universities outside the EU/EEA can be found under each target university at Exchange opportunities around the world. The recommended coefficient for converting credits can be found under each destination. 
  • See also the instructions for converting credits into ECTS credits
  • If you wish to include a Language Centre language study module in your degree, you can also use language studies completed during your student exchange for this module. 

Recognition of studies incorporated into a degree or study module completed at the University of Helsinki

As a rule, studies completed at the University of Helsinki need not be recognised, except if you wish to incorporate into your degree or study plan studies which have previously been incorporated into another degree or study module completed at the University of Helsinki. In such cases, you must submit an inclusion application in accordance with the instructions for inclusion applications, writing in the additional information field of the application that the recognition pertains to studies completed at the University of Helsinki. In such cases, the inclusion application is used instead of a substitution application, since in Sisu studies cannot be simultaneously incorporated into two degrees or study modules.

If you wish to have language studies previously completed at the University of Helsinki recognised for your degree, read the instructions under Recognition of communication and language studies.

Please note that, as a rule, you cannot have the same course or study module incorporated twice into the same (e.g., bachelor’s) degree. Also take into consideration the other restrictions to and principles of recognition above.

Student’s digital skills

The three-credit Student’s Digital Skills course (or formerly, the ICT Driving Licence) completed at the University of Helsinki or its Open University fully substitutes for the equivalent requirement. If the Student’s Digital Skills course has already been incorporated into a study module or another degree awarded by the University of Helsinki, you can add the completed course to your study plan by submitting an inclusion application in accordance with the instructions for inclusion applications. Please write in the additional information field of the application that the recognition pertains to digital skills studies completed at the University of Helsinki.

Recognition of studies completed at the Open University of the University of Helsinki

As a rule, you need not apply for the recognition of studies completed at the Open University of the University of Helsinki. Instead, you can add them to the appropriate section in your study plan by choosing the relevant course from the course brochure on the Substitutions tab.

However, if your studies completed at the Open University have been compiled into a study module, you cannot employ this method to choose them. In such cases, submit an inclusion application. After your application has been accepted, it is often necessary to submit an application for content that deviates from the predetermined structure to add the studies appropriately to your study plan.

If you wish to incorporate your studies at the University of Helsinki’s Open University into a degree to be completed at the University of Helsinki at a later stage, you should not compile them into a study module.

Submission and processing of recognition applications

If you wish to have prior learning recognised for a degree, you must submit an application and evidence your learning. Apply for the recognition of prior learning in accordance with the Sisu instructions by submitting the relevant application together with a transcript of the studies you have completed outside the University of Helsinki. Also attach to your application a description of the completed course.

If you are applying for the recognition of non-formal or informal learning, you must also attach to your application a description of how the learning corresponds to the learning outcomes of the studies whose substitution you are requesting. 

You need not submit original certificates, but rather can attach them to your application digitally. However, be prepared to make the original certificates available for viewing if requested. 

Substitution applications

  1. Review the structure of your degree and your study plan in the beginning of and during your studies. You can use the learning outcomes included in course descriptions to check whether you already have the knowledge and skills provided by a course or study module. You can also discuss applying for the substitution of prior learning with your PSP supervisor.
  2. Read the instructions on recognition. 
  3. Submit a substitution application in Sisu in accordance with the relevant instructions. 
  4. An administrative official from Student Services begins to process the application in Sisu and sends it to the course coordinator for assessment. 
  5. The course coordinator assesses the completed studies and sends information on whether the application is accepted or rejected to the administrative official for registration in Sisu. 
  6. You will receive information on the decision in Sisu within 30 days. In the case of applications submitted in the summer, from 1 June to 31 August, the processing can take longer. If your application is accepted, the substitution will be included in your completed studies.
  7. If your application is rejected, you can appeal the decision in accordance with the Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki.

Inclusion applications

  1. Explore the degree structure and curriculum of your degree programme. If you have acquired learning that fulfils the requirements of your degree at another higher education institution or during a student exchange, you can apply for its inclusion in your degree. You can also discuss inclusion of prior learning with your PSP supervisor.
  2. Read the instructions on recognition. 
  3. Submit an inclusion application in Sisu in accordance with the relevant instructions.
  4. An administrative official processes the application in Sisu and either accepts or rejects the inclusion of the studies.  
  5. You will receive information on the decision in Sisu within 30 days. In the case of applications submitted in the summer, from 1 June to 31 August, the processing can take longer. If your application is accepted, the included studies will be recorded as completed studies.
  6. If your application is rejected, you can appeal the decision in accordance with the Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki.

Grading of recognised studies

Studies to be recognised are assigned the original grade only if they were evaluated using the same grading scales as those used at the University of Helsinki. The grading scales include 0–5, pass–fail and, for proficiency in writing and speaking the official language of Finland that is not the student’s native language (Finnish/Swedish), good–satisfactory–fail. Otherwise the grade will be entered as pass.

Guidance and advice

Guidance and advice in matters related to the recognition of prior learning is provided by your faculty’s Student Services. If your application is particularly urgent, please notify your faculty’s Student Services. Also reach out to Student Services if you are unable to use the electronic application form. If you are unable to submit your application through Sisu due to the accessibility deficiencies associated with the system, you can contact the University’s accessibility liaisons. Further information is available on the instruction page for special arrangements.

The Language Centre processes and provides advice relating to recognition applications concerning compulsory communication and language studies required for degrees, recognition applications concerning the Language Centre’s language study modules to be used for degrees, and inclusion applications concerning KiVAKO courses. Recognition applications concerning other language studies are sent to your faculty’s Student Services for processing.