An extensive evaluation of four fields of study has been completed: higher education graduates enter working life with a high level of competence

Higher education Mirella Nordblad


PRESS RELEASE Higher education in the fields of humanities, business, social sciences and technology has been evaluated. The knowledge and skills provided by these fields of study are well in line with the needs of working life, however more attention should be given to multicultural competences and sustainable development. The needs for continuous learning also challenge higher education institutions to develop new operating models and contents in collaboration with working life.

The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) has produced an overview of the current state of the educational provision and the competence-base and working life relevance of degrees in four fields of study. In the evaluation, the strengths and development needs of these fields of study were examined as well as their ability to develop the educational provision by taking into account the competence requirements of working life. The evaluations also included the continuous learning offered and implemented by the fields of study. Almost all Finnish higher education institutions and a total of 680 degree programmes from the four fields in question participated in the evaluation.


The field of humanities produces wide-ranging competence – employability must be improved

The evaluation of the field of humanities showed that students’ substance knowledge is strong and their ability to grasp complex entities and think critically is good.

Graduates in the field of humanities can be proud of their competence, as the education provides versatile and broad-based knowledge and skills giving flexibility required in constantly changing circumstances in working life, says Professor Riitta Pyykkö, the chair of the evaluation team.

However, the links between the education and working life need to be further developed. The requirements of working life must be better taken into account in the planning of the education and in the guidance given to students. For example, the employment rate of graduates in humanities is about 10 per cent lower than that of graduates from the fields of technology and business. From the beginning of their studies, students should systematically get practice in identifying and verbalising their own competences.

The digitalisation competences need to be improved. In addition, more attention should be paid to the internationalisation of the education, says Pyykkö.

There are also many opportunities for developing the continuous learning offered. Diverse language skills, multicultural competence and an understanding of societal changes and history will be required in the future.


Business graduates are successful in finding employment – however, cooperation between the two higher education sectors should be intensified

Higher education in business produces both general working life skills and competence related to the content of the field. The working life relevance of the degrees is good and graduates are successful in finding employment. The educational provision of higher education institutions is broad, and the evaluation team does not consider it necessary to expand it further.

In business, cooperation between universities and universities of applied sciences must be strengthened and systematised at the national level, says Professor Emeritus Jyrki Wallenius, the chair of the evaluation team.

Higher education institutions providing education in this field of study must engage in a closer dialogue with businesses from the perspective of continuous learning. At the same time, the educational provision should better meet the needs for continuous learning, for example by responding to the competence challenges arising in working life as a result of digitalisation.

Wallenius also emphasises the need for internationalisation and multicultural competence as working life is becoming increasingly globalised:

Although internationalisation undoubtedly has diverse and significant impacts on the educational provision in this field, it is necessary to broaden international competence towards multicultural competence. International higher education networks and partnerships should also be strengthened and courage to experiment with new operating methods should be found.


Technology graduates have high earnings and their employability is good – weak appeal of higher education in technology is a national problem  

The strength of higher education in the field of technology is the added value it provides for students. This is visible as particularly good employability and good earnings. Higher education communities in the field of technology are also international. They offer an opportunity for Finland to serve as a pathway for the immigration of qualified workforce.

Our evaluation showed that higher education institutions in technology are drivers that build society. They have the ability and willingness to reform working life and renew themselves, says Anneli Pirttilä, the chair of the evaluation team.

However, sufficient educational profiling has not been carried out in higher education in the field of technology, and there is no clear shared vision of the strategic direction or leadership in its implementation at the national level. Incentives for cooperation and specialisation should be created for the steering of the higher education institutions.

According to the evaluation, the weak appeal of higher education in technology is a national problem. The level of availability of competent workforce with a background in technology already restricts growth opportunities.

Measures must be taken urgently to solve the problem related to the employment mismatch. The results of the joint application process for higher education in spring 2019 reveal the severity of the situation: in one in five degree programmes in technology, fewer than one applicant per study place had the degree programme as their first choice, says Pirttilä.


Working life skills provided by the degree education in social sciences meet employers’ wishes – students would like a stronger link between their studies and working life

The general abilities provided by the studies, such as wide-ranging competence, analytical and problem-solving skills and critical thinking, are well in line with the employers’ wishes.

Social scientists are regarded as competent employees who meet well the requirements of working life and have the skills required in multidisciplinary and international work communities and in the constantly changing working life, summarises Professor Jussi Kivistö, the chair of the evaluation team.

However, students of social sciences have challenges in seeing the working life relevance of the degrees and identifying their own competence. They would like their studies to have a more practical approach and a stronger link with working life. In the studies, the competence provided to the student by the degree programme needs to be clarified and students’ ability to identify their own competences should be better supported.

Degree education and continuous learning should be looked at as one entity when it concerns the anticipation of education needs. This integration would make it easier to develop the division of roles and responsibilities between degree education and continuous learning as well as the modes of implementation, says Kivistö.

Little profiling in education –
 the basic funding model does not encourage cooperation between higher education institutions or strong profiling of education

There has been little profiling in education in any of the evaluated fields of study. One of the reasons is the basic funding model for higher education institutions in Finland, which does not encourage HEIs to cooperate or to make strategic choices of stronger profiling. Indeed, higher education institutions have been cautious in taking measures that would mean discontinuing the educational provision in some fields of study or moving it to another higher education institution. The impact of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s steering measures was considered in the evaluation to be strong, but not always appropriate.

Cooperation between higher education institutions should be increased in order to develop the educational provision in the different fields of study. The development should be aimed at better utilisation of the existing networks, increasing the networking of teaching staff and the facilitation of online teaching, cross-institutional studies and cooperation between minor subjects.


Inquiries and requests for interviews

Chair of the steering group:
Professor Riitta Pyykkö, tel. +358 50 430 4845,

Humanities: Professor Riitta Pyykkö, chair of the evaluation team, tel. + 358 50 430 4845, and Senior Advisor Mira Huusko, tel. +358 29 533 5565,

: Professor Emeritus Jyrki Wallenius, chair of the evaluation team, tel. +358 40 3538 100, and Senior Advisor Kirsi Mustonen, tel. +358 29 533 5515,

: Anneli Pirttilä, D.Sc. (Tech.), chair of the evaluation team, tel. +358 40 766 4807, and Senior Advisor Otto Leppänen, tel. +358 29 533 5573,

Social sciences:
Professor Jussi Kivistö, chair of the evaluation team, tel. + 358 50 4211 070, and Senior Advisor Mirella Nordblad, tel. + 358 29 533 5541, 


(The evaluation reports include abstracts in English.)