Ammattikorkeakoulu, or yrkeshögskola in Swedish, abbreviated "amk", is a Finnish institution of higher education. The term means "School of Higher Vocational Education". In international operations, most ammattikorkeakoulus refer to themselves as Universities of Applied Sciences. Unlike universities, they focus on R&D by applying previous knowledge rather than producing new research, on the other hand they have a very clearly legislated objective in regional development. As such, keeping in mind that there is a mandatory five month practical training for all students, AMKs might prove to be a better platform than universities to pass the applied knowledge through the borders of higher education. Personal aim is vocational competence rather than higher scientific education. AMK's provide professionals for locally important purposes, and are governed by the city, although they receive most of the funding from the state. No tuition fees are collected.
AMK's have been until just recently granting only lower degrees (3-4 years) that are specialized to the particular vocations, which do not, as such, qualify for further studies at universities. AMK degrees are not considered university degrees per se in the Finnish system. Nevertheless, in the international perspective like in
Germany, similar degrees are called "Bachelor". Recently a "higher AMK" degree (which are translated to English as Master's degrees) has been introduced for holders of an AMK degree or a similar degree like Bachelors degree from a scientifically oriented university, to continue studies alongside working. AMK's do not grant the higher degrees of Licenciate and Doctor, unlike universities.
Finnish higher education has what is called a dual model, where universities (yliopisto; lit. "higher institute") focus on scientific Master's and higher degrees and AMKs mostly on Bachelor's-level vocational and practical education. The phrase "equal but different" was used in conjunction with the dual model, meaning that Finnish AMKs and universities serve different goals in the field of higher education and should not be combined on any level. The ongoing
Bologna process, however, has led to some reform, where, by complementing AMK studies with some theoretical studies, the route to higher degrees is open. Changes are described in detail in Education in Finland.
There are about 100,000 students in AMK's. Most notable field of education is
engineering, on which field the schools offer high level tuition starting from a broad base of mathematics and physics related to the field of study. Engineers graduating after minimum of four years and 240 ECTS credits are awarded the degree of insinööri (amk)/ ingenjör (YH), often compared to the foreign Bachelor of Engineering.
Other typical fields of tuition in an ammattikorkeakoulu are health care (
nursing), business and culture.
The term University of Applied Sciences was universally applied (
January 12006) to all Finnish ammattikorkeakoulus to give more correct impression of the level of education given. The term is borrowed from the German " Fachhochschule". The decision could be made by the ammattikorkeakoulus because there is no legislation concerning the translations of Finnish terms and they are financially independent of the Ministry of Education. The ministry, nonetheless, keeps referring to the institutions as polytechnics. The academic world, including Finnish Union of University Professors, is enraged of which it sees as an attempt of AMK's to disguise themselves as actual universities. Universities focus on research, while the main focus of the AMK's is to produce branch-specific professionals for the needs of the labour market. There has been even general concern that if the dual model is scrapped, the result is "good" and "bad" universities like it proved to be the case in the UK.
Traditionally, AMK degree does not qualify for further studies, as it is not intended for this purpose. Recently, however, the legislation has been changed. Bachelor's graduates from AMK's cannot enter universities for post-graduate studies leading to Master's degree with their AMK degree alone. Although it is not necessary to do a full lower university degree, theoretical studies of 60 ECTS points (about one year) are required.
Since 2005, Finnish Parliament has approved the creation of higher AMK degree, similar to Master's in universities. This has led to a small-scale kickoff of new degree programmes (limited fields of education), the extent of 60-90 ECTS credits. These will give similar qualifications as university Master's degree in same areas of education (but a minimum amount of 3 years of work experience gained after latest tertiary degree, is needed to qualify for AMK higher degree programme).
Recently there has been nationwide discussions about the overlarge amount of student places, especially in the fields of Engineering and Business. It is connected to a problem in funding - AMK's receive their funding quite extensively based on the amount of current students (this is changing to a more management by results -approach). This has led to an oversupply of AMK-educated people compared to the needs of the labour market — the unemployment of AMK graduates is 8%, on par with the general unemployment rate. Some cuts to the amount of student places are being issued by the Ministry of Education, starting with a nationwide cut of 10% applied to the new student intake in 2007 and 2008.
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