Vocabulary for new students

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.

Are you confused by the new terms you have encountered at the beginning of studies? Do you know what a faculty is or how long a teaching period is? Whether you are a new or an old student, here you can find explanations for key terms related to academic studies and student life.

Have we missed something important? Send us a message at studentinfo@helsinki.fi!


Orientation week

Orientation week is the week immediately preceding the beginning of the academic year. Its purpose is to introduce you to your future studies. Keep your calendar as free as possible this week. Teaching is not usually scheduled for orientation week, which instead features faculty and degree programme specific events that provide students with practical information relevant, in particular, to the beginning of studies. These events are compulsory for new students. In addition, peer tutors may organise other events during orientation week, but participation in them is voluntary. Read more about orientation and see the schedule for your degree programme.

Peer tutor 

Peer tutors support new students at the beginning of studies. Peer tutors have completed training organised by the University and help new students settle in and feel welcome in the academic community. You can ask your peer tutor anything about studying and student life. They may not know all the answers, but they can tell you whom to contact and can support you in study-related matters.

In some degree programmes, teachers serving as tutors provide students with advice and guidance on the content of studies. Some of the Language Centre’s teachers also serve as tutors, helping students in their language studies. 

Fuksi, fresher, freshman

The Finnish word fuksi refers to a fresher or a freshman, i.e., a first-year student. 

Academic year

The academic year runs from 1 August to 31 July of the following year. The autumn term is from 1 August to 31 December, and the spring term from 1 January to 31 July. The academic year comprises four teaching periods as well as interim weeks devoted to independent study and examinations. (The degree programmes in medicine and dentistry have no teaching periods.) Studies can also be completed in the summer.

Teaching period

Courses are offered during seven-week teaching periods.  Each course usually lasts one teaching period, but courses may also extend over several periods. Teaching periods are followed by a week devoted to independent study and examinations, during which course teachers can administer end-of-course examinations. If a student has no examinations to take during the interim week, they can complete other assignments and prepare for the following teaching period.

Personal study plan (PSP)

The personal study plan (PSP, also known by its Finnish acronym HOPS) is a detailed plan that every student makes with the study planning tool Sisu. The PSP outlines the structure of your degree, the compulsory courses and modules required by your degree programme, and the timetable of your studies. The purpose of the PSP is to assist you in planning and promoting your studies and understanding the structure of your degree. 


Credits measure progress in studies. The number of credits earned depends on the scope and requirements of each course. One credit corresponds to approximately 27 hours of work. The scope of a bachelor’s degree is 180 credits, while the scope of a master’s degree is 120 credits. In total, the two degrees require the completion of 300 credits. When distributed over the target duration of five years, this means the completion of 60 credits per year. You can receive financial aid for all months in which you complete at least 5 credits.


Your degree consists of course units (e.g. HY-101), whose learning objectives and contents are defined in the curriculum. For one course unit, usually one or several implementations (e.g. lecture courses, exams, seminars) are held during the academic year. Once you have passed it, you have attained the course unit and are given a grade.

Study module

Course units form study modules, e.g. basic or intermediate studies. When you graduate, the individual courses you have completed are incorporated into a module. You will receive a single grade for the module as a whole. For information on the study modules required for your degree as well as the courses belonging to the modules, please see Sisu or the page Degree structure and scope of the degree. For more information on study modules, see Study modules and their compilation.

Optional studies

You can include optional studies from other degree programmes in your degree. See faculty-specific information on optional study modules available to students from other degree programmes.

Flexible Study Right Scheme (JOO) 

The Flexible Study Right Scheme (JOO) enables degree students to complete studies at other universities free of charge and to have the studies recognised for their degree at the home university. Students must be registered for attendance at their home university to apply for a flexible right to study and to complete studies at another university. A flexible right to study can be granted only for studies that are suitable for the student’s degree and that cannot be completed at the University of Helsinki. For information on the flexible studies available at various universities as well as application instructions and a link to the application system, see the JOOPAS wiki site.

Exchange studies abroad

Degree students at the University of Helsinki are offered a variety of student exchange opportunities. You should plan your exchange as early as possible, but cannot apply before you have completed at least 30 credits. Application dates vary by destination. 

General examination session

General examination sessions enable you to take book examinations as well as make-up and retake examinations associated with lecture-based courses. The dates of general examination sessions and information on the related courses can be found in the instructions issued by your degree programme, the course catalogue and/or Sisu. You must register for an examination in Sisu at least 10 days before the examination session. You can register for up to two examinations at a time. 

Transcript of studies

A transcript of studies is a certificate of the studies you have completed at the University of Helsinki. You may need the transcript to apply for a grant, scholarship, job or the right to complete other studies. See instructions on how to request a transcript of studies.

Certificate of student status

A certificate of student status is a free-of-charge certificate of attendance or non-attendance available to all students completing a degree at the University of Helsinki. The certificate serves as proof that you are a student at the University of Helsinki if a student ID card or transcript of studies is considered insufficient. See instructions on how to request a certificate of student status.

Academic quarter

The tradition of the academic quarter means that a lecture or event begins at a quarter past the hour. In other words, if a course timetable says that a lecture begins at 14 (or 2 pm), this usually means that the lecture actually begins at 14.15. However, nowadays the academic quarter is usually already included in the course schedules. Practices may vary at different universities and faculties. 


Undergraduate student

You are an undergraduate student of the University of Helsinki if you have been granted the right to complete a first-cycle (bachelor’s), second-cycle (master’s) or both a first- and a second-cycle degree at the University of Helsinki.

Bachelor’s degree 

A bachelor’s degree is a first-cycle degree with a scope of 180 credits. You must complete a bachelor’s degree before going on to pursue master’s studies and postgraduate studies. The target duration for completing a bachelor’s degree is three years.

Bachelor’s thesis 

A bachelor’s thesis is an academic thesis with a scope of six credits, in which you demonstrate your ability in academic thinking and writing as well as knowledge of your discipline. You must complete a maturity test in conjunction with the bachelor’s thesis.

Master’s degree 

A master’s degree is a second-cycle degree that can be completed after a bachelor’s degree. It has a scope of 120 credits and includes a master’s thesis. Students who have completed a master’s degree can apply to complete a licentiate or doctoral degree.

Master’s thesis

A master’s thesis is a written scholarly work required for a master’s degree. It has a scope of 30 credits. In the thesis, you demonstrate knowledge of your discipline and thesis topic as well as your ability in academic thinking and the use of research methods and academic language. If you haven't completed a maturity test for your bachelor's degree, you must complete a maturity test in conjunction with the master’s thesis.

Maturity test

The maturity test has the status of an independent course or examination, but does not yield credits. The maturity test demonstrates your conversance with the topic of your thesis and proficiency in Finnish or Swedish. The maturity test may consist of a section of your thesis, the thesis abstract or other written work. The maturity test is assessed on a pass/fail basis.


Students usually attend a seminar when working on their bachelor’s and master’s theses. A seminar is a course in which the participants prepare a thesis with a fixed length and discuss each other’s theses together. All participants contribute to the discussion and also provide feedback on each other’s work. Each participant may be assigned an opponent who offers constructive criticism of the thesis. A degree may also include other seminar-based courses, and these are sometimes called practicums

Doctoral degree

A doctoral degree consists of a doctoral dissertation and 40 credits worth of compulsory studies that support research work and the development of expertise. The doctoral degree focuses on research. Before completing a doctoral degree, students can complete a licentiate degree, but in many fields they can also proceed directly to a doctoral degree after completing a master’s degree. 

Doctoral dissertation

A doctoral dissertation is a coherent academic thesis that is logically constructed and based on the author’s independent research, and provides new knowledge about the author’s discipline.

Education reform 

The University of Helsinki implemented a comprehensive education reform on 1 August 2017 by restructuring degrees and introducing new degree programmes. In the new system, those who received the right to complete a degree in or prior to 2016 are considered old students, while those who received the right to complete a degree and began to study on or after 1 August 2017 are deemed new students. Old students can complete their degree in accordance with the previous degree structures prior to the conclusion of a transition period on 18 December 2020. After that date, all students will be transferred to the new degree programmes. Old students can also choose to transfer to a new degree programme prior to the conclusion of the transition period.

Support for studying

Student Services  

You have access to guidance and advice through Student Services on all campuses. You can contact Student Services to request official transcripts of studies, certificates of studies, certificates for the purchase of student tickets and information on the benefits available to students. Student Services also provides advice on registering for the academic year or changing your name and address in the University records as well as general advice on the grants available from University of Helsinki Funds and information on enrolment and the right to study.

Counselling psychologists 

Counselling psychologists offer individual and small-group guidance to the University of Helsinki’s undergraduate students who need support with issues involving study skills, motivation, time management, coping skills, anxiety or thesis work. More information on the services provided by counselling psychologists.

Career Services 

Career Services provides career guidance and advice on traineeships, and organises events related to job-seeking and career opportunities. On matters related to careers and employment, see the Work and Career theme. For information focusing on traineeships, see the Traineeships instructions.

International Exchange Services

International Exchange Services is responsible for matters related to exchange opportunities and international traineeships as well as the Flexible Study Right Scheme (JOO)

Digital learning environments 

The University of Helsinki offers several digital learning environments and services to support your studies. Read more on digital learning environments.

Learning facilities

The University has learning facilities on all its campuses for you to use during your studies. More information on learning facilities.

  • The Helsinki University Library operates on all four campuses. Each campus has a library branch that offers course literature in your discipline as well as other scholarly literature.
  • The Main Library on the City Centre Campus is located in Kaisa House.
  • See the locations of other university libraries. You can also visit the library's own website.
  • The library’s Helka database is an easy-to-use tool to search for books, journals or articles.
  • The City Centre Campus has two learning centres targeted at students: Aleksandria and Minerva. Both have facilities for independent and group work alike. Aleksandria also has some 300 computers, of which 70 are available for quick use. Students can request a key with which they can access Aleksandria almost around the clock. 


Degree programme

A degree programme is an extensive degree process into which you have been admitted for completion at the University. You can get acquainted with the degree structure of your degree program in the Sisu -system. The Degree Structure works as the basis when you plan your studies in Sisu. A study track is an option to be selected within a degree programme. It guides the content of your studies and may affect compulsory courses.


The University of Helsinki has eleven faculties. Each faculty serves as an umbrella organisation for the degree programmes it coordinates as well as the other academic units that operate under it. A faculty is led by a dean, who is selected for a term of four years. The dean chairs the faculty council, the faculty’s multimember administrative body.

The faculties of the University of Helsinki:


The University of Helsinki has four campuses and also operates in nine other locations.

The campuses located in Helsinki:

The faculties operate on different campuses, which also accommodate other University units as well as research institutes, libraries and learning centres. Each campus features teaching facilities and other premises and resources needed for studying.

Open University 

The Open University offers courses and study modules that conform to the University of Helsinki degree programmes to all those interested. Studies are organized throughout the year in the form of contact teaching and web-based learning. Summer studies are free of charge to the University of Helsinki’s undergraduate students.

Language Centre

The Language Centre is an independent institute of the University of Helsinki that organises the language studies included in undergraduate degrees. At the Language Centre, you can complete both your compulsory language studies and other language studies that you wish to include in your degree. Registration for language courses offered by the Language Centre is done through Sisu. More information on language education at the Language Centre.

Student activities

Student organisation

Your degree programme or study track may have its own student organisation (ainejärjestö in Finnish). Such organisations are usually of particular importance to students, as they are responsible for promoting student interests and communicating with the staff of the relevant discipline. They can also organise informal events and activities for students. The purpose of the organisations is to promote and maintain a sense of community. Such organisations provide a low-threshold venue to getting acquainted with other students in one’s discipline, having fun experiences and receiving peer support for studies.

University of Helsinki Student Union (HYY) 

The University of Helsinki Student Union (HYY) enables students to influence on the University’s administration. All attending undergraduate students are members of the University of Helsinki Student Union (HYY) and subject to the HYY membership fee. HYY lobbies for students’ interests. The student representatives of HYY influence the University’s decision-making through their membership in the University’s administrative bodies.

Student nation 

Student nations (osakunta in Finnish) are interdisciplinary student associations whose members are often from the same geographical area of Finland. However, students can join a nation regardless of their place of birth, field of study, lifestyle and political or religious affiliation.


All graduates, exchange students and staff of the University of Helsinki are considered its alumni. As an alumnus or alumna, you can keep in contact with the University after your graduation, receive invitations to events and participate in special alumni activities. More information on alumni activities and registration as an alumnus or alumna.

Other useful information

Foundation for Student Housing in the Helsinki Region (HOAS)

The Foundation for Student Housing in the Helsinki Region (HOAS) offers affordable housing to students of institutions of higher education. You can apply for a room in a shared apartment, a studio apartment, a two-room apartment or a family apartment in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS) 

The Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS) offers general, oral and mental health services to the University of Helsinki’s undergraduate students. The FSHS healthcare fee is included in the Student Union membership fee, which is compulsory for undergraduate students. 


UniSport offers reasonably priced sports and wellbeing services to students. 


UniCafe cafeterias on all campuses provide inexpensive meals to attending undergraduate students.


The Nyyti association promotes and supports the mental wellbeing of students as well as their life management and study skills. Nyyti activities and services are intended for all University students.