General upper secondary education

YlioppilaslakkiGeneral upper secondary education and the matriculation examination taken at the end of it make it possible to apply for studies in higher education institutions. The unit of the scope of studies is a credit. The target completion time for studies is three years, and the scope of studies is 150 credits for young people and 88 credits for adults.


General upper secondary education provides students with the skills and knowledge for studies in higher education institutions. At the end of general upper secondary education, students take a school-leaving examination known as the matriculation examination. Completing the matriculation examination makes it possible to apply for studies in higher education institutions.

Authorisation to provide education

The Ministry of Education and Culture grants the authorisation to provide education. Each education provider needs to be authorised before it can operate. The authorisation specifies which municipalities provide the education, the languages of instruction, any specific educational mission, the right of the education provider to organise boarding school-based education and other necessary conditions relating to providing the education.

Education providers decide which general upper secondary schools provide the education, unless otherwise provided in the authorisation. The authorisation can be granted by application to local authorities, joint municipal authorities, registered associations or foundations. The Ministry can also grant the authorisation for education provided abroad. Education can also be provided in educational institutions run by the State.

Scope and structure of studies

For the syllabuses and the studies included in them, the unit of scope is a credit. The scope of the general upper secondary education syllabus is 150 credits for young people and 88 credits for adults.

Students have the right to be given instruction and guidance for studies. Instruction is given for an average of 14 hours and 15 minutes per credit in education intended for young people and 9 hours and 20 minutes per credit in education for adults. The studies include a certain amount of independent work that is deemed necessary for meeting the objectives and providing the content of the studies and considered reasonable for the student.

The units of scope in the studies for the syllabus for young people are based on full-time studying and those for the syllabus for adults are based on part-time studying. The syllabus for young people has 18 compulsory subjects. The syllabus may also include thematic studies that develop broad-based competence and sets of study units that provide evidence of special competence and leisure activities in subject groups or subjects (general upper secondary school diploma).

The Finnish National Agency for Education determines the objectives and key contents of general upper secondary education in the national core curriculum, which is drawn up separately for the syllabus for young people and the syllabus for adults.

Based on the national core curriculum, each education provider draws up a local curriculum that determines the implementation of teaching, guidance for studies and learning support, the study units available to students and the completed study units required to participate in them, and the specific objectives and content of instruction. Education providers decide on their curricula on the basis of the core curriculum. 

The target completion time for the general upper secondary syllabus is three years, but students have the right to take up to four years to complete the syllabus. Education providers may also grant students additional time to complete their studies due to illness, disability or some other special reason.

Instruction and guidance for studies need to be organised in such a way that students can choose individual studies at their own educational institution and make use of the education organised by other educational institutions, higher education institutions and other education providers belonging to the education provider. Education provides need to organise some studies in cooperation with one or more higher education institutions. Studies belonging to the syllabus need to be organised in such a way that students can develop their international competence and skills for working life and entrepreneurship.

To support their progress in general upper secondary studies and transition to further studies and working life, students need to draw up a personal study plan that includes a plan for studies, a plan for the matriculation examination, a plan for further studies and a career plan. Students draw up the plan with the teaching staff’s support.

Based on their needs, students have the right to regularly receive personal and other guidance for their studies and for applying for further studies.

Student admission

Applicants for general upper secondary education have the right to apply to an educational institution of their choice. Education providers use a joint application system for young people applying for general upper secondary education.

Education providers decide on the admission of students subject to the relevant legal provisions. Decisions on student admissions need to be made on equal grounds.

A person may be admitted into education if they have completed the Finnish primary and lower secondary education syllabus, an equivalent earlier syllabus, or foreign education which in the country in question qualifies for studies equivalent to general upper secondary education. In this case, the education provider must assess the applicant's command of the language of instruction and other prerequisites for completing general upper secondary education. An applicant cannot be admitted as a student unless they have sufficient knowledge of the study programme’s language of instruction, including both spoken and written language usage and understanding.

Compulsory education and financing of general upper secondary education

Provisions on general upper secondary education as the means to complete compulsory education are laid down in the Act on Compulsory Education. For students within the scope of compulsory education, instruction is free of charge, including the necessary learning materials and equipment. Students may be entitled to financial aid for full-time studies and school journeys.

Central and local government contribute to the operating costs of general upper secondary education. Financing is allocated on an imputed basis according to the number of students and a unit price determined per student.

Statues and regulations:

Contact information

Petri Lempinen, Director General 
Ministry of Education and Culture, Lukiokoulutuksen ja ammatillisen koulutuksen osasto (LAMOS), Ylijohtaja Telephone:0295330180   Email Address:

Heikki Blom, opetusneuvos 
Ministry of Education and Culture, Lukiokoulutuksen ja ammatillisen koulutuksen osasto (LAMOS), Koulutuksen vastuualue Telephone:0295330074   Email Address: