Category Archives: Academic and campus life

Studying the future to help organisations and the planet

As Study Advisory’s vision lies in helping future and current students to craft their own future, we decided to write a piece on future studies, which is, actually, a field in its own right.

Ever considered studying the future?

Future studies seek to explore potential options for the future, and also likely scenarios. Sometimes a normative method is also used: which scenario is to be chosen or favoured, and why? The Finland Futures research centre is one of the few of its kind in the world. Others like-minded centres include the research centre for future studies at the University (of Hawaii) at Manoa and the more recent Taiwanese Graduate Institute of Future Studies, at Tamkang university (where the whole university has “futurizing” as an essential part of its mission statement).

stuyding the future
Planning and creating the future is all about solid scenarios and picking the preferred outcomes among various future options

But back to Finland. The Finnish futures research centre boasts a long tradition for the field, with research on the future happening in Finland from the 1960s. The centre itself was founded in 1992 in a forward-looking moment for the world and for Finland. The Finnish futures research centres organises and a yearly conference that attracts specialists from around the globe. The 2017 conference will be about complexity with a focus on globalisation. Also, interestingly, the UN organisation Study Advisory gives money to thanks to students’ reviews, UNESCO, is the same one Finnish futures research Markku Wilenius was recently appointed to. Wilenius’s UNESCO professorship’s aim is to support futures studies in developing countries.

A unique doctoral programme in Turku

According to Dr Jari Kaivo-oja, research director at the Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC), the number of foreign students in both the master and PhD programme has risen in recent years, showing the global impact of a forerunner in this original, multidisciplinary subject. In Turku (the centre is hosted by the University’s School of Economics), the doctoral programme in futures studies is unique in Europe.

Master and PhD students of futures studies in Turku come from all walks of life: engineering, economics, business research, natural sciences… They have started a blog, Black Swans, inspired by a 2011 book by Nassim Taleb on highly improbable events.

studying the future
Highly improbable events can shake countries, organisations, individuals or even academic subjects.

Upon graduation, these Turku trained students set up their own companies, or work in bigger organisations, while some join family businesses. Often, fresh graduates find themselves using the skill set of future studies tools they have been trained in. Futures methods are valued by research centres across Finland, in particular, including for internships and research positions, and are of course valuable for PhD candidates.

The Finnish Futures research centre also has offices in Tampere and Helsinki.

A universal field with a wide range of potential implications

Future studies are increasingly attractive to Latin American and Chinese universities and research centre, though China has its own tradition that dates back to about 100 years ago. And the Finnish parliament has its own committee for the future, science and technology policy with 17 members of parliament advising the government on the foresight using a long view.

Many management methods can be used to conduct future studies. Foresight, network and decision-making analysis are usually steps that ensure all aspects are taken into account by the organisation seeking to get insight into its futures. As a holistic field, futures studies can encompass topics such as food, sustainability, or security.

studying the future
Sustainability in particular is at the core of the Finnish Futures Research centre’s values and projects. The creation of Sustainable Development Goals has led to a pioneering exercise in integrating strategic foresight to sustainability.

Futures studies and higher education

Asked what trends are the most disturbing in higher education at this point in time, Dr Kaivo-oja answered that students will need to learn to use big data in the coming years, and the upcoming generation of youngsters is already being redefined as ‘artificial intelligence natives’ (with the Internet of things) rather than ‘digital natives’. And it is true that many classrooms already use tablets, interactive polls and games (Kahoot, which Study Advisory uses too during high school visits). But currently, most university students might still be “good old” digital natives, so what is at stake?

For Dr Kaivo-oja, a future studies perspective on higher education also unravels two trends: which proportion of private vs public education do societies want for the next generations? (an open question which is central to many reforms in education these days), and a fact: more and more people need tertiary education. This is particularly true of ‘developing nations’, while some free, efficient university systems like Finland are at a crossroads, with the introduction of fees for international students next year.

Another take-home point from Study Advisory’s meeting with the Finnish Future research centre lies in the ‘weak signal’ (first sign of a trend) that cultural interaction is being transformed by artificial intelligence and that more and more people can, through the Internet, engage with others while using their own language. This hints at a post-globalised world in which (native and non native) English ‘was’ the common language.

studying the future
Has the Internet already caused a revolution in universities? Digital natives are co-creating their learning environment, and as digitalization has already reached a point of no return, languages can be seen as a factor in improved digitalization and online communication across cultures.

Trends and scenario analysis might not help us determine what tomorrow’s university will look like (will more students use MOOCs for their whole degrees, will we speak Mandarin instead of Chinese in international MBAs? Or even will future studies still attract master and PhD students?). But, in a world that seems to be changing at a faster pace than before, the long view of the discipline might be valuable to take hindsight and ponder what to keep and what to change from a current society or organisation. In this respect, making sense of the future proves crucial to predict – and then decide – what emerging needs a country or company ought to be prepared for.

-Pauline Trabuc

Why studying the future may be valuable

  • You can work in many organizations, public or private, large and small
  • Your degree will be original yet traditional (research methods can be applied in other contexts), and you will have been taught original ways of thinking
  • A small but close-knit community of specialists around the world
  • A door to sustainability careers
  • A multidisciplinary cohort and impact, with a unique understanding of scenarios, including improbable futures.

More information

Finland Futures Research Centre

Note that future students at Turku also take part in an intensive short summer school in June, where they will hone their thinking about complexity and discuss the upcoming future studies conference.

Master’s degree in future studies and doctoral programme in future studies

University of Turku on Study Advisory (148 reviews, you can also rate)

University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, on Study Advisory (5 student reviews, you can also rate)

University of Tamkang on Study Advisory (be among the first ones to rate)

Strategic foresight and sustainability on Sitra, the Finnish innovation fund’s website

Attractive universities for businesses, with a touch of innovation

Have you heard of Universum’s rankings? This year, in Finland, Kone, Finnair, Google and Fazer rank first in terms of most attractive employers for corporate positions. For IT types, the ranking comes in a different shape and includes first Google, second Reaktor and third Supercell. Wait, you might think this has got nothing to do with education, attractive universities, and Study Advisory… But it does! In Finland like in the rest of the world, students get a higher education because, at the end of the day, they think these extra years after high school will land them a job close enough to their dream job.

attractive universities
Universum’s questions include the type of potential employer(s) you find most appealing or suited to your career goals and personality

While usually, at the end of high school, you might be too young to think of the company you would like to work at, you generally have a sense of what type of company or organisation would fit your values, or sell the sort of product you buy… And then, suddenly you turn 23, and if you are like the silent majority, you might regret not having known earlier where you absolutely wanted to (apply, and, hopefully) work. This suggests a missing link between the early stages of career planning and career starting.

In the meantime, the university you as a high school student are contemplating or you, university student, are attending might well be interesting to particular employers. Especially those surveyed for the French consultancy Emerging by the German firm Trendence. The tendency to start ranking universities not only for their academic strengths like publications, or mere employment ratios post graduation, but also with regards to actual attraction for a critical mass of global employers is worth noticing.

The latest Emerging-Trendence ranking, which surveyed almost 6000 employers in 20 countries of the world, presents a story rather diverging from the research focus. As Emerging explains the ranking only describes the ‘market’s viewpoint’, i.e. of recruitment and international specialists recruiting or managing a least 50 new young graduates per year, taken across major industries.

A German university in the top ten of higher education institutions’ employability ranking: TU Munich

Most top 10 finalists on the list are United States-based institutions, but not all. For instance, the Technical University of Munich (Technische Universität München) ranks 8th, just above Princeton. If you are studying a whole degree in Korea, there are 5 universities you can go on an exchange to TU München. If you are from France, TU München is a university you can go to as an exchange from the prestigious (and well-ranked) Ecole Polytechnique, but also the Ecole des Mines de Nantes, and Aix-Marseille University. So there is no need to pay high fees to study at a top institution in terms of employability.

But what does ’employability’ mean? Of course it is, first, getting a job. At a multinational or an SME, or one that you create in your own brand-new start up, whatever… The crux of the matter lies elsewhere: in the soft skills you get at university are also very valuable. Soft skills can be languages, but they can also include adaptability, emotional intelligence, or being capable of presenting well the result of your research on any given project. Among Finnish universities, the University of Helsinki ranks 72th on the Emerging global employability ranking.

attractive universities

But universities are not only good for employers or future employees, they are also valuable for society, which can be measured through innovations, in turn measured by patents’ number, quality, reach, and impact. This is where another ranking can be described as influential: the Reuters innovation ranking of European universities, which relies on publications and patents data gathered by Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property & Science.

Study Advisory’s partner university KU Leuven came first in 2016, followed by Imperial College London, Cambridge University (both in the United Kingdom), and the Swiss EPFL. The fifth most innovative university is perhaps well worth mentioning again (TU Munich), should one want to compile a personal ranking of valuable rankings… of the kind that would aggregate employability and innovation. Meanwhile, other Study Advisory’s partners are in the top 50 of innovative universities: Erasmus University Rotterdam and Vrije University of Brussels.

At the global level, the Reuters innovative university ranking shows an expected American dominance, but a little Asian surprise at the middle of the top 10, KAIST (profile of KAIST, Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology on Study Advisory). For Finnish or Finland-based students, KAIST is a potential exchange destination if you are enrolled at one of these two institutions: Helsinki Metropolia or Tampere University of Technology.

Yes, broadening your horizons can be as simple as an exchange…but, beyond that, innovation or career plans can stay at the back of your head, or maybe just the idea that you can factor in employability and innovation when choosing your university.

If you are interested in patents… as well as employability

Here is a table that gathers the top 15 European universities for employability and innovation:

Employability rankings (taken from Emerging Trendence world ranking) Innovation (retrieved from Reuters: Europe most innovative universities)
Cambridge University UK KU Leuven Belgium
Oxford UK Imperial College London UK
TU Munich Germany Cambridge University UK
Imperial College UK EPFL Lausanne Switzerland
HEC Paris France TU Munich Germany
Kings College London UK Erlangen University Nuremberg Germany
Manchester University UK Delft University of Technology Netherlands
IE University (Instituto de Empresa) Spain Oxford University UK
EM Lyon France University of Munich Germany
ETH Zurich Switzerland University of Zurich Switzerland
University of Munich Germany University of Copenhagen Denmark
University of Edinburgh Scotland, UK Technical university of Denmark Denmark
Ecole Normale Supérieure France ETH Zurich Switzerland
EPFL Switzerland Pierre et Marie Curie University Paris 6 France
Mines Paris Tech France Paris 11 Paris Sud France

At the end of the day, patents and publications of tomorrow’s graduates will differ from the 2016 rankings, but general trends last. University-business cooperation is strong in certain countries or at certain universities of applied sciences and this does not change year or year, it might rather depend on which European funding a group of researchers might secure for the coming years. Likewise, universities might help you find your job, but not to be successful at it.

attractive universities
Applications are not only about determination: an innovative approach will help, just like in the university world and to be good at any job in the long run.

Some universities think getting their graduates onto the job market means they have fulfilled their duty… But do graduates consistently satisfy employers, and do they satisfy them in the long run? According to the definition of employability given by surveyed employers in the Emerging study, there is a ‘professional know-how’ dimension that comes into play, in addition to the expertise required to get the position.

This is in line with what the vice-president for institutional advancement at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology told Times Higher Education: a university should help you make a good job after you have landed it. That is why being in contact with innovative researchers or conducting research for a company during your studies might be worthwhile. (In other words, do not focus solely on the first column of the table above!)

More information:

Universum’s ranking of most attractive employers in Finland

Emerging-Trendence: Global and German employability rankings

Reuters: world’s most innovative universities and Europe’s most innovative universities

Studying with a baby on board – combining studies and a child

Sometimes there are situations in life when you need to — or want to — combine different life phases, that are equally important to you. Combining studies and building a family might sound complex, but it can also give you the most precious memories of your life. Here are three different true stories told by anonymous people, two mothers and a father, who have experience in studying with a baby on their lap.

Studying with a baby
Building a family and finishing your studies are a combination that might sound messy. Read the true stories.

Language student reads epic poetry to the newborn

I am studying Finnish language in a humanistic faculty and am just about to graduate. I started my studies in the autumn 2011 and my daughter was born in December 2012. At the same time, I was still finishing my studies in the University of applied sciences. I didn’t have any maternity leave, but my husband was taking care of the baby, as I was attending to my exams. For a long time, I was not able to stay outside the house, only enough to write the examinations!

The best memories of those times came from the baby, of course! I realized I started to deal with my studies in much more relaxed way, as I noticed there was something even more special and valuable in my life. I was doing my literacy studies while my child was a newborn, so I read out loud some of my exam books, for example the Finnish epic poetry Kalevala. My life in general felt quite laid-back and carefree. I was doing as much studies as I could, and sniffing the baby’s pink smell.

Studying with a baby

The biggest challenge for me was to really get myself to the uni and to find time for the studies, since being a mother is quite holistic and all-encompassing. Usually I was trying to finish my exams before the baby would get hungry again, cause she wouldn’t eat from a bottle. I was always doing my study tasks while she was sleeping. Actually, I have done all my studies in the evenings, after she has fallen asleep — it can get quite tough! What I am looking forward to about my graduation, is that I am finally going to be able to have a moment in the evening when I don’t have to do anything.

Coffee and bun, makes a happy student-mom

My husband’s parents have been priceless help for us. They have been helping me the whole time and supporting me with my studies. It has been so lovely that every time after each of my exams, my husband’s father has served me with coffee and bun! Then we have discussed about the topics of my exam. I was also lucky that during my husband’s parental leave, I was able to attend to a few courses at the uni. There is also a very nice Children’s Stop at my university, where I could leave my baby, before she went to a proper daycare.

Studying with a baby

Journalist mother of two got strength and inspiration from her studies

I studied broadcasting journalism by the time my son was born, and I already had a daughter aged four. I wasn’t planning on having another baby, and the times were extremely hard. I had no maternity leave, I had to both study and work part time at the same time, when taking care of the kids. I was basically always the sole guardian. I don’t really even remember much of the times when my son was a baby; it’s all a blur and too traumatic to remember —  a black hole in my life.

Studying with a baby

The studies were a life-saver — both in a symbolic and practical meaning

I was extremely unhappy, but having a burn out or giving up was not even an option. My social life was somewhat non-existent, I had nothing of my own. I lived only hoping that once I pull through, I can one day build a life I can be happy with.

My studies were a gateway to another kind of life, to independence, to self-value. It was really important to study something I was so keen on, it gave me hope and meaning! Of course I didn’t really excel in my studies because of my situation, and I regret that. But for me, the most important thing was that my studies helped me to get there where I’m today professionally. I think being so young as I was helped me in a way, to manage the physical stress that the situation caused me.

Studying  — “the best possible investment in the future”

The children motivated me into working hard and developing my skills, so I could have a career and a job I actually like, or even love — a thing not many young, teenage and /or single mothers can achieve. At the moment, I enjoy my current professional status and the fact that my children are already in school age, getting more and more independent all the time. Other women of my age are starting to stress about having kids, but I can focus on my career and my own personal happiness.

Studying with a baby

Sometimes I do feel a bit saddened by it though: I never got to experience a maternity leave nor was I able to offer a prosperous start in life for my kids. And who can say where I’d be in my life — both professional and personal ways – without my kids. Then again, had I not had them that time, maybe I never would have experienced motherhood.

Studying was the best possible investment in the future —  both for me and my kids. The cost was my youth, but in situation I was in, it was the best thing to do.

Statistician father — the small things made the days

Studying with a baby and multitasking

When my son was born, I was finishing my university studies majoring in statistics. I was able to stay home for eight months after he was born, because I was writing my Masters’s theses. It was a great thing, that the theses were the last task for my study program, so I was able to study at home before I started to work.

The best memories of that time, were the moments when I got to see how my baby was developing every day and learning new things. The small things made my days — and they still do. For example the moments when I saw how the child was making contact with a lion toy. He was afraid but making contact at the same time! I also got a good buddy to join me with my hobbies.

Studying with a baby

The biggest struggle for me was to realize, how the feelings can change so rapidly. Especially when I was trying to get him to sleep and I was not succeeding — he struggle is real! What helped me the most, was to acknowledge that the baby is not doing things difficult just to piss you off, there is a true matter and need behind the behavior. It was also helpful to know that the baby-times are not going to last forever.

Studying with a babyIf you are planning to combine your studies with a baby, you should know that the graduation might take more time than the usual, but it is still possible to go on one step at a time.

4 Points business students should pay attention to

“Business” is one of the most common and popular study fields, but nevertheless, for some students it may be difficult to understand what they can achieve with their business degree. In this post, I am going to give four key points to help business students get the most out of their degree. These goals are achievable and measurable, and will help you pursue your studies further. You can try to change them into practical tasks and add them to your to-do list.

I am sure that by reading this, the business degree will become a bit more meaningful to all of you!

1. Pay attention to classes

Business students may want to achieve different goals in universities. Some may want to get a good grade so that they can be promoted to a better job. Some may want to receive tertiary education so they can be improved spiritually and knowledgeably. Some may want to try every new thing so they can develop their potential. Going to class, especially for the business students, would be the easiest way to accomplish the above-mentioned goals. Apart from learning hard facts from the books and PowerPoints, in class you will also get the chance to discuss with your fellow students. You can learn from other business students and review your own ideas. It is also a golden opportunity to develop your own network!

business students having lessons

2. Take part in different activities

If you are planning to achieve a business-related career, I would recommend you to join some business-related societies or consulting clubs. You can meet more students and professionals in different fields and you may also sniff some career information. If you dream of getting a work related to technology, it might be a wise idea to join some seminars about new technologies. This is an excellent way to learn more about the current trends. It’s good to always bear in mind that your current friends may become your colleagues one day.

business students having discussion

3. Don’t bound yourself

As a university student, you should keep an open mind to every new people, environment or study field. By going to different lectures, you can learn something completely new that you can possibly apply in your future projects. For example, marketing skills are essential to all the disciplines. I recommend all of you, no matter what is your major, should go to have some marketing lessons.

Furthermore, you can also join some sports club to keep yourself always energetic and your body in a good condition to accept different challenges. It would also be a great occasion for you to widen the social cycle. While exercising, you can share your innovative ideas to other outstanding students. A tip for you: Mark Zuckerberg loves playing tennis !

3rd point

4. Join more discussions

You can meet so many professors, staff members and experts in business when you have lectures or seminars. Grab the chance and rdon’t hesitate to ask any questions you have! I am sure that they would be pleased to share their knowledge, experiences and personal connections with you. These can certainly bring new insights to your academic research and future career path.
business students sharing ideas

I know all of you must share the same question right now. “How can we have so much time to achieve all four goals? I wish I could have 48 hours a day!” There is no doubt that we only have limited time while we have plenty of tasks needs to be done! However, as mature students, we should have the ability to prioritize the tasks according to their importance and emergency. It is reasonable that you focus on the tasks that you consider the key to your success! You may also check out our other blog posts about time management to utilize your time!

Written by Ching Fung Nicholas, Li

Volunteering at school – how can I benefit? 


Volunteering at university can benefit and enrich your life in many ways.  By volunteering we mean an altruistic activity done for the good of the society. It can be help to disabled people, caring about homeless animals, organising social events etc.

Students are offered plenty of possibilities for voluntary activities. However, some students ignore them because of lack of time or because they underestimate the perks such type of work can bring them.

Gain new competencies

Volunteering is doing new things in a fresh working environment. You learn general skills such as goal setting, planning, organising and team work, but also gain specific competencies, e.g how to encounter challenges and take responsibility. Your communication and social skills will be enhanced greatly. And who knows what kind of  hidden talents could be discovering then! You might even become so skilled that you will get some money compensation for your work.

Enhance your career

While volunteering, you build networks and communicate with people from different working environments and backgrounds. You get precious insights into a specific career. Volunteering at university stage benefits your life track and makes a good contribution also to your personal development. It enormously raises the chances of your employability: hiring managers prefer job applicants with a volunteer experience over those without it.

Expand new horizons

Volunteering opens new horizons as you might socialise with people from other cultures and explore new places and even get the possibility to travel. For international students it is a good possibility to fit in a local life style or learn a new language etc. Benefit from the deep immersion into new cultures!

Make difference

While working for your student union  you can make impact and  change something you feel unsatisfied with. It is your chance to take decisions and improve study environment around you!

Feel good

Those who do unpaid work gain a sense of satisfaction from their involvement. By helping others, you will get recharged by positive energy and maybe discover a new perspective of life. Make the best of your study time!

Where to find information about volunteering

Be open and active! There are multiple sources of information to get involved. The information about volunteering can be found on the webpages of universities and student unions. The higher education institutions might have special events for students interested in volunteering. E.g University of Eastern Finland (UEF) participated  in various campaigns and events with a goal to promote the integration of asylum seekers into Finnish society. (1)

Moreover, you can check the webpages of different  volunteering organizations. There are also internet platforms that connect people interested in volunteering worldwide . E.g Volunteer World  is the first independent platform that connects volunteers and social projects globally. This platform provides a community marketplace to present, discover, and apply to international volunteer options.  Volunteer World aims to provide cost and service transparency of volunteer programs as well as significantly facilitates the search and application process. The portal has more than 1000 registered users and offers about 600 programs in more than  70 countries.  You can easily compare the options based on cost, price and purpose.  In addition to valuable peers feedback, the website contains a lot of useful information you might need if you going work as a volunteer.


By Anna Korobova

Higher education tuition fees – marketised academic world?

From free to fees

Next year Finland, following its Scandinavian neighbours, is introducing tuition fees ranging all the way up to 25,000 euros for non-European Union (EU) and non-European Economic Area (EEA) students.

Finland is not the first nation to introduce tuition fees – and certainly will not be the last. Of the Nordic countries the only ones still offering tuition free education for international students are Iceland and Norway, both of whom have said that they highly doubt ever introducing any fees.

In general, Europe-wise, tuition free higher education is limited to the two Nordic countries of Iceland and Norway, as well as Germany and France. Globally, many other universities are only charging a registration fee, such as in Brazil and Argentina.

The effects of the change in Finland are still uncertain, but based on what came about in other Nordic countries, Denmark in 2006 and Sweden in 2011, the quantity of international applicants and students is likely to decrease – unless that is, the universities manage to maintain the student flows with effective marketing.

Milla Eronen, the head of communications at Aalto University, says: “We still aim to attract international students with our high-quality teaching and the variety of study choices. In the beginning, the adoption of tuition fees is certainly going to lower the number of international applicants. This has happened everywhere, and to tackle this some innovative actions are needed.”

In Sweden the number of international students has dropped from over 22,100 to 14,700[1] following the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students in 2011. However, the Swedish institutions have managed to change course and raise the number of non-EU/EEA students with a steady increase. The Swedish example illustrates the value of well sustained marketing and recruitment.[2]

By the rising of and introduction of tuition fees, universities are challenged even more in attracting overseas students and maintaining their internationality. Similarly to Finland, the second most important factor in deciding on a place to study for international students was the cost of their studies (previously free).[3]

The three most expensive countries for studying are still the UK, USA and Australia, all of which also have the most universities in the world’s top 100 ranking lists. (Though these lists are not extensive meters of student satisfaction, as our research has shown.)

“Of course, the introduction of tuition fees is going to bring some extra income to Aalto, but then again, improving the services and creating a scholarship system are going to produce some expenses. So, this practice evens out the profit making-aspect of the tuition fees – at least in the beginning”, Eronen continues.

Increasing the existing tuition fees

The British government has once again proposed to raise their tuition fee -ceiling from the current £9000. With only two weeks to go before the dreadful Brexit-vote, especially the students of the European Union are facing the chill of the winds of change.

When the United Kingdom introduced the maximum tuition fee of £9000 – which was almost thrice higher than it had been – it was noticeably visible in the applicant numbers, which dropped 12 % between 2011 and 2013. And not only does the rises in the fees dry out the applicant flows in the home countries of potential students – but it also drives students to look for alternatives abroad. Many applicants from the United Kingdom started to see other European countries as more attractive when that of their own homeland became increasingly expensive, and some fear that as a result, the fee cap is to be eventually removed altogether. [5]

The drop in only international applicant numbers rather than the general admissions of locals can be explained because international students and native students quite commonly pay different tuition fees. For example, in the University of Cambridge the tuition for overseas students can be up to £38 000[4], whereas the locals and EU-citizens pay only up to £9000 for their undergraduate degree.

What is known as the domino effect in this matter is that, while the tuition fees are first introduced only to the international students of Finland, later on it might change to apply to even the local students. And even though the fees are introduced in response to cost cuts, for example in Denmark the same amount that is acquired from the tuition fees is now used for talented students’ scholarships. Thus with the fundamental shift towards non-free education, in a marketised academic world it is becoming increasingly important for universities to amp up their marketing strategies. Something that Study Advisory can certainly help with.

[1] Sweden on the rebound from tuition fee fallout, accessed 11/6

[2] Sweden’s international student numbers up for the first time since 2011


[4] International fees and costs

[5] UK university fees to be linked to quality of ‘student experience’ 

Am I too old to study? Studying as a mature student

Mature student

Who is a mature student?

What is considered a “mature student” varies throughout the world – whereas in Finland it’s a normality to start university when aged over 20, but in the UK, you are already considered a mature student if you are aged 21 or older.

In general, the age of graduating classes is decreasing. When comparing the years 2005 and 2011, the age of acquiring a first degree has dropped from 25.2 to 24.7 years and older students are respectively graduating almost a year earlier, aged on average 27.9. (OECD Indicators, 2013)  Also, in the UK, the statistics of 2014 shows a drastic drop in the number of mature applicants – which was highly criticised by the government, as education is meant for everyone and it is clear if the ever-increasing fees is making it just that much harder for less well-off people to enrol into higher education.

The benefits of studying at an older age are, nevertheless, easy to point out. Many mature students are more motivated in their studies than others: they have had the time to decide what they want and now they are going for it – all out.

This is not always the case with younger students, who are afraid
of getting left behind if they take too long dwelling on decision-making. That is why the older students should embrace their age rather than be embarrassed about it.

It is not a hindrance to be older and in higher education – on the contrary. Those people sitting in the front row of the lecture hall, those who have the courage to stand up and ask for more clarifying answers when something is unclear, those people looking like they could be your parents – they are often the most mature students.

Why are they sometimes having more of an advantage than the youngsters?

Because they have passed the phase of “oh my god I have no idea what this means, but if I ask the tutor, everyone is going to look at me and think I am dumb”. Most of 18-year-olds nowadays think that is it stupid to ask how to print a document. But for someone aged around 40, with three children, coming back to education after a working career, it is a completely relevant question that they are not afraid to ask.

I was 22-years old when I started my bachelors degree. My peers were mostly 18-year-olds or some of them even 17. I was told multiple times that I was too old for starting my studies, that I should already be graduating. And every time I had this conversation with someone, I wondered if they were right.

I had no children nor was I that much older than the others, but it was surprising how much more “mature” I had become from the age of 18, within those few unplanned gap years that I took.

It sometimes seemed like there was this huge Grand Canyon between me and the other students celebrating their 18th birthday, coming up to the lectures looking like the night had ended up rolling in the bushes. Those moments I felt the most happy I had spent my night in bed catching up with HIMYM.

They recently raised the age of retiring here in Finland to 65. So with my math skills, even if I graduate at the age of 28 with my master’s papers, I have 37 full working years ahead of me. It makes me feel astounded to say the least. It is a long time. I sometimes feel tired already now, after my 7 years of mostly part-time working.

And for some, it is not the first higher education degree that they start as a mature student. Many realise after getting the diploma that the job is not for them. It is amazing how full of possibilities world is, even if you decide to change your mind!

So don’t be afraid of taking a gap year or even another, because you have time. It is more important to study something you feel motivated about, something that teaches you things  you need not only in an exam, but you are actually interested in.

by Suvi Loponen

TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC – the language test monsters measuring your English skills

These language test tongue-twisters may lurk in the dark for you until one day you get the opportunity or idea of studying in English. Most universities that offer teaching in English require you to take one of these tests in order to prove your proficiency in the language. You wish the acronyms would be the most complex part of them– but they are not. The tests vary in how they are composed and what they emphasise on, but also in their grading scale. And in Finland for example, you can only sit the IELTS in the capital city.


The Test Of English as Foreign Language is the most common requirement for entering American universities as a non-native English speaker, taken already by over 30 million people in the world. TOEFL is possible to take in two formats: paper (PBT) or internet (iBT). These two are executed in slightly different formats and also produce a different grade. The four sections (listening, reading, speaking, and writing) will take about 4,5 hours in total, and despite it being an internet based test, you need to take it in a test centre. [1] The paper version takes about the same amount of time but excludes the speaking section, focusing more heavily on writing performance. [2]The PBT is scored on a range between 310-677, writing given a separate grade and iBT out of 120.

The cost of the TOEFL is about $160 (145€).


The International English Language Testing System is the second most common language test required by higher education institutions. It consists of four units:

  1. Listening includes 4 sections, has 40 questions and you have 30 minutes time to tackle it.
  2. Speaking is measured in an interview which takes 15 minutes.
  3. The reading part is different for Academic or General Training; it consists of 3 sections having 40 questions. You have 60 minutes to finish this.
  4. Writing part is also different for Academic and General Training but it requires you to do 2 pieces of writing in 60 minutes (talk about tough).

You get scored on a scale from 1 to 9. Half points are possible, i.e. 6.5. All the units are taken into account when calculating your overall score, meaning the average of all components.[3]

The test is costly; hence you probably want to nail it on the first try. The price is over 200€ (£150-200, $ 200).

The Cambridge English Exam

Wait, no acronym? Oh there is. The Cambridge English Exam is a kind of mother of all language tests. The first CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) was sat by three candidates (all of whom failed [4]) already back in 1913. It was a test ‘for Foreign Students who desire a satisfactory proof of their knowledge of the language with a view on teaching it in foreign schools.’ So not that much has changed in the purpose of it – except that it’s not only required from teachers today and it does not cost £3 anymore.

From 1913 onward, the tests produced in the University of Cambridge Language Assessment have boomed. IELTS is one of the tests produced under this branch and CAE (Cambridge English: Advanced) is recognised by most higher education institutes and companies for the proof of excellent English proficiency. You get scored from 180 to 230 or from C1 to A.

The cost of CAE is around 150€ ($160).


The Test of English for International Communication is used primarily for businesses, yet it is a very common language test, taken by about 7 million people in the world, and also accepted by some universities. The test has two parts; reading and listening and speaking and writing. The reading and listening part is divided into two sections, in both of which you are required to answer 100 multiple choice questions. The total time this takes is about 2 and a half hours. The second part, speaking and writing, you’ll have a 20-minute speaking section with 11 questions, followed by writing answers for 8 questions, taking up to 60 minutes. Compared to IELTS,

TOEIC’s price is around $ 170 (145€) [5].

IELTS language test

Written by Suvi Loponen






Research: Students don’t look at academic rankings when choosing a university

According to our new international survey, more than three out of four students think that academic rankings had no influence when choosing a university.

The research was carried out in order to better understand and compare student satisfaction and traditional academic rankings. A global survey compiled statistics on the satisfaction of 2049 student respondents, representing 77 different nationalities.

Choosing a university: Academic performance… or maybe student services?

These student respondents rated their universities on the following six categories: Teaching, Campus, Student Services, Internationality, Value for Money and Security. The ratings of these categories were then combined and evaluated to create a “Satisfaction Index” for the 231 participating universities of 54 different countries. These categories are the same Study Advisory uses on their popularity rating on our website.

Choosing university: Satisfaction Index measured (1) teaching, (2) campus, (3) student services, (4) internationality, (5) value for money and (6) security.

The student respondents rated an overwhelming 86% of their universities “Good” to “Very Good” overall on the “Satisfaction Index”. However, only 28,6% of these universities was listed in any of the top rankings of the four leading academic ranking platforms that were used for comparison.

Choosing university: 86% of students were quite satisfied with their institution, only 28,6% of these institutions were listed on top academic rankings

Academic rankings may not measure relevant factors for student audiences

In fact, when asked outright: “Did any traditional rankings of this university influence your decision to study at this university?” 77% of the student respondents answered “No”.

We are starting to see a trend that many students are still quite satisfied with their place of studies, even if it doesn’t currently shine on any of the traditional academic rankings. Academic rankings still have value to some, but many are looking for a place to study based on other very important elements instead.

Choosing university: 77% of students didn't look for academic rankings when choosing their higher education

Stay tuned for the final results

The final results of the research will be published as a bachelor’s degree thesis in August of 2016. To get the latest updates, follow Study Advisory on our social media platforms: FacebookTwitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

A real-life example

The survey was conducted by Melissa Demel, a US citizen completing her second higher education degree in Finland. The survey was carried out together with Study Advisory.

I am currently completing my studies at Savonia University of Applied Sciences. As it is a university of applied sciences, my institution is naturally not performing very well in academic rankings. Nevertheless, they offered me an excellent education, and a good start for my future career. Melissa explains.

– I ended up in Finland, firstly in Kajaani, by chance; in the US I could never have received such a good quality education without an enormous student loan. Young people need a way to find affordable and qualified smaller universities on a global level, and Study Advisory offers a solution to this.

A bridge between every university and every student

The Study Advisory Popularity rating aims to complement traditional academic rankings by bringing a whole new social aspect into ranking universities. We are offering a new alternative for everyone around the world to find the perfect university, based majorly on the satisfaction ratings of our peers. Study Advisory is also offering every university around the world a chance to showcase their value with the help of reviews from their satisfied students.

There is already a bridge between highly ranked universities and the small amount of students who have the ability to study there. This research proved something Study Advisory was fundamentally founded for: students need a bridge between every university in the world, and everyone looking for a higher education.

The 2049 reviews left by the student respondents of the research have already been published to the participating university profiles, giving these universities a head start on the nearly 12000 universities already listed in the Study Advisory platform.

Study Hacks from a Global Citizen

study hacks
Follow these hacks from a global citizen to fast-track your studies to success!

A successful university or college student is a multi-tasker who needs to absorb useful study hacks in order to achieve their grades and minimise their stress. And let’s face it, whether you like it or not, the modern globalised world requires global citizens who understand cultural differences, and most importantly, have the ability to work with an international team. Ask any current or previous exchange student: interacting with a very different culture can give you some extremely valuable skills to exploit in the future!

Feel free to put on your cultural stereotype goggles and learn these study hacks from different angles of the world and boost your study routines. You may even get a hint for your next study exchange destination!

Check out a few other useful things you can learn while studying abroad: 7 Things I Learned While Studying Abroad

Manage your study group meetings like the Spanish

The first thing that may pop up into one’s mind when thinking about the Spanish studying or working culture might be the siesta: the culmination of their relaxed attitude when tackling daily routines. However, considering their bubbling speech and passionate way of communicating, I have noticed that Spanish people are extremely efficient in their study group meetings. The thing is, it’s perfectly normal for multiple persons to talk at once!

To some foreigners this may seem exactly as chaotic as it sounds (in written and in practice) and one could wonder how to divide attention to multiple sources at the same time. What I’ve learnt is that Spanish people are masters of listening and able to paint the big picture of different subjects handled simultaneously – you can always concentrate on the missed details afterwards. Once you learn their trick, you are able to handle enormous masses of information in shorter periods of time.

Interested in gaining a better understanding of those highly structured meetings? Fun fact: among the Spanish universities, University of Alicante has the highest Study Advisory Rating!

Speak up like an American

I really admire the way Americans are able to speak their mind. It’s not just their linguistic advantage when speaking English; they are verbally very quick-witted and confident. One way they are able to make a study group meeting flow effortlessly is that they speak their mind, not only about their ideas, but they are also comfortable with expressing open criticism. One could say they respond quickly with their honest feelings.

Don’t get insulted or shut completely down when facing their comments: it can be educating to hear constructive criticism. For you it is also a perfect opportunity to work on your negotiation skills.

See a list of universities, academies and colleges in United States here.

Beast-mode on like a Hong Kong native

One might think they are fully capable of handling study-stress and upcoming finals like a boss, but then there are always the students from Hong Kong. Emerging from one of the world’s top economic hot spots in Southern China, Hong Kong natives have learned to work hard towards excellence in order to stand out from the crowd.

The local studying culture is extremely competitive, and the amount of effort they put forth during their studies is something one can see only in top universities of the Western world. Student hostels can be noisy long after midnight, and 24/7 learning spaces full until 4am. All-nighters are common before big presentations or finals.

Therefore, when you really need to meet all those deadlines, Hong Kong natives prove it: you can pull it off a whole lot in a very short period of time. Watching them work this hard tells that you can do it too, especially when you are young, confident and capable!

Feeling competitive yet? Hong Kong has nine universities to choose from, the Chinese University of Hong Kong having the largest number of student ratings on Study Advisory.

Learn to be as efficient as a Finn

Once you engage in a study group with a Finn, you can always count on them to deliver. They are humble, conscientious and respect efficiency. As a legacy of former Nokia engineer inspired work culture, what they don’t appreciate is meaningless dabbling that brings on little results. In general that keeps meetings with Finns short and productive. Killing the brainstorming and free-flow of ideas? Maybe. However, every once in a while keeping it short and simple is what guides you and your study mates through a fully booked week.

The best thing about working with Finns is that the next time you meet with your Finnish group, everyone has done exactly what they promised to do in the last meeting– and they expect you to do the same. Engage in a group work with a Finn if you need good results efficiently. Maybe even bring along those Spanish classmates as well in order to mix things up a little!

Study Advisory has a great deal of highly rated places of learning in Finland. Go and check them out.

Handle pressure like a Colombian

One of my friends did a volunteering job in Colombia, South America. While she had some difficulties with local habits, (such as the more relaxed perception of time and scheduling) she noticed that they were able to handle stress and pressure extremely well.

They can manage to keep it together even in situations where they are expected to perform and they have nothing ready to be presented. Panicking is unnecessary and it usually just stops development short. The key is to always be able to act, and finally, to be happy with the final result. Trust yourself: you did the best you could in the given situation.

Do you have great experiences from a Colombian university and local student life? Be the first one and rate your university on Study Advisory, and be sure to share your own study hacks.

Ready to make your own experiences?

Take the biggest leap forward in educating yourself and start building your own future abroad. Keep these study hacks handy to help you maximise your studies! Use Study Advisory’s search tool and find the best choice for you among nearly 12,000 universities in our database!

Written by Nelli Koutaniemi