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Study shows that student admissions became more efficient following the student admissions reform in higher education – further research and development still needed

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 3.6.2022 9.01 | Published in English on 3.6.2022 at 10.35
Press release

Following the student admissions reform, which was launched in 2018-2020 during the previous government term, most higher education students are now being admitted based on their matriculation examination certificate and vocational education and training grades. In the follow-up study published on 3 June, the researchers concluded that the extensive student admissions reform achieved its key objectives and did not cause any unwanted repercussions in the student admissions of higher education institutions.

The student admissions reform aimed to streamline the transition to higher education and to improve the allocation of student places. Entrance examinations were also restructured as part of the reform. Universities of applied sciences introduced a joint digital entrance exam and universities have also devised joint exams for different disciplines.

In the study commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Culture, researchers from the Labour Institute for Economic Research LABORE and VATT Institute for Economic Research examined whether the reform succeeded in its objectives. 

The results of the study show that, as a result of the reform, the percentage of students who took the matriculation examination in the spring of the same year increased among applicants who were admitted into a higher education institution and accepted the student place. The reform also improved applicant behaviour in the process, so that applicants entered several choices in their applications and also chose study places located further afield from their municipality of residence.

On the other hand, the reform did not bring any changes to the gender distribution, basic education or socioeconomic background of students who were admitted and accepted a student place. In other words, the reform does not seem to have affected student mobility in society. Even after the reform, there is a strong tendency in Finland for higher education to be passed down from one generation to the next.

“I am pleased that a follow-up study was launched right away on this big reform. The first results show that the reform appears to have reached its objectives regarding more effective student admissions. However, it is too early to assess the wider effects of the reform. More research and further development of student admissions are needed,” says Minister of Science and Culture Petri Honkonen.

Student admissions in higher education institutions affect the whole education system. In particular, the points awarded for the matriculation examination in certificate-based admissions by universities have sparked public debate, where the points awarded for different subjects are based on the number of general upper secondary courses in the subject in question.

“I receive a lot of messages saying that the scoring used in higher education admissions puts pressure on general upper secondary school students and has too much of a bearing on the subject choices made by general upper secondary school students. In addition to the research project that has now ended, we have launched a study that will examine extensively the effects the reforms have on general upper secondary schools. We must not compromise the general educational mission of general upper secondary education. I find it particularly important that prospective students have many different channels for applying to higher education,” says Minister of Education Li Andersson.

Universities are now preparing to reform the entrance exams and to examine the points scoring of the matriculation examination used in certificate-based admissions. 

“From here on, it would be good if admissions criteria were to be revised on the basis of evidence-based knowledge at a moderate pace. When introducing reforms, we must take account of the significant role that admissions criteria play in the whole education system,” says Minister of Science and Culture Honkonen.

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Ilmari Hyvönen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 330 117