Concepts and definitions

Educational structure of the population

Educational structure of the population describes distribution of the population aged 15 and over to attainers of primary, secondary and tertiary level qualifications and degrees. Attainers of tertiary degrees are further divided into attainers of lowest level tertiary, lower university level, higher university level and doctorate level degrees.

Educational system

The Finnish educational system is comprised of the following:

Pre-primary education is provided in Finland to 6-year-old children, usually at children's day care homes. Some 6-year-old children receive pre-primary education in comprehensive schools. Attendance of pre-primary education has been compulsory since 2015.

Comprehensive school education is general knowledge education provided for entire age cohorts. All children permanently resident in Finland must attend compulsory education. Compulsory education starts in the year of the child's seventh birthday.

Compulsory education finishes when the syllabus of comprehensives school education has been completed (9-year comprehensive school), or 10 years from the start of compulsory education. In exceptional cases compulsory education may start already at the age of six and last 11 years due to a disability or illness. A student who has received a leaving certificate from comprehensive school in the same year or in the year before it may continue to attend optional additional education (10th grade).

Post-comprehensive school education, or upper secondary general education and vocational education represent secondary level of education. Upper secondary general school education is education leading to a matriculation examination. Its scope is three years and it gives general eligibility to further education. Vocational education can be either educational institution-based or apprenticeship training. In apprenticeship training, most of the studying is comprised of learning through practical work tasks at a workplace. The qualifications are initial vocational qualifications attained in three years, which also give general eligibility to further polytechnic or university studies.

Further and specialist vocational qualifications represent further vocational education. They, as well as initial vocational qualifications can be attained in a skills examination that can be taken irrespective of the way of acquisition of professional skills, and in which skills can be proven on the basis of preparatory education for a skills examination or work experience.

Attainment of university of applied sciences degrees takes 3.5 to 4.5 years and higher university of applied sciences degrees requiring work practice 1-1.5 years. Attainment of lower university degrees takes three years while higher university degrees take two years longer. Attainers of higher level university degrees may continue their studies to licentiate and doctorate level degrees.

Level of education

In the statistics on the educational structure of the population, the population's level of education is measured with the average length of the highest level of completed education per capita. For example, level of education indicator 246 means that the theoretic duration of education per capita is 2.5 years after completion of comprehensive school education. The population's level of education is calculated from the population aged 20 and over. This is because many under the age of 20 have not yet completed their studies. The measure of level of education allows easy comparisons between regions in levels of education and monitoring of temporal changes.

Up to the end of 1997, the population's level of education was calculated from the levels of educational qualifications and degrees attained by the population aged 15 and over. The indicator of level of education can range from 150 to 800. The higher the indicator figure, the higher the level of education. In the group with level of education indicator 150, everybody has completed only elementary school, middle school or comprehensive school, whereas in the group with level of education indicator 800, everyone holds a licentiate or doctorate level degree.


An urban settlement is a cluster of dwellings with at least 200 inhabitants. The delimitation is based on the population information of the previous year. Urban settlements are defined and delimited in co-operation with the Finnish Environment Institute using geographic information methods that utilise the building and population data of Statistics Finland's 250 m x 250 m grid data. The population size of grids containing buildings and their neighbouring grids, as well as the number of buildings and their floor area, are reviewed in the definition. From the uniform clusters of dwellings generated in the defining stage, the ones with at least 200 inhabitants are selected.


The resident population of Finland on 31 December is derived from the Population Information System maintained by the Population Register Centre. Since the data for 1993, Statistics Finland and the Population Register Centre have had the same reference period, the turn of the year at midnight, which means that the number of population has been the same.


In statistics on the educational structure of the population, transition form school to further education and work and progress of studies attainers of qualifications or degrees refer to completers of matriculation examination, international matriculation examinations (IB, Reifeprüfung or Gymnasieexamen examination), and attainers of vocational qualifications, university of applied sciences degrees, higher university of applied sciences degrees or university degrees by the end of the statistical reference year. Attainers of qualifications or degrees also include attainers of qualifications or degrees in the armed services, frontier guard service or abroad. One qualification or degree per person is included in statistics: vocational qualification attained at the highest level of education/most recently attained.

The data are obtained from Statistics Finland's Register of Completed Education and Degrees. Data can only be entered into the Register for persons who have a Finnish personal ID number. For this reason data on the qualifications or degrees of persons without a personal ID number, e.g. many foreign persons, are missing from the Register.

Tertiary degree

In the statistics on the educational structure of the population, tertiary degrees comprise all lower, higher and doctorate level tertiary degrees.

Up to the end of 2001, only degrees obtained at universities and experimental or permanent university of applied sciences in accordance with the decree on universities (464/1998) were included in tertiary degrees.

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Educational structure of population [e-publication].
ISSN=2242-2919. Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 17.10.2021].
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