Students have a number of options available when it comes to getting support for living costs associated with getting a graduate or postgraduate degree. Scholarship opportunities are also available but because students do not have to pay tuition fees these are limited in number.
Most financial support offered to students in Finland comes from Kela. It is a Finnish government agency that looks after social security. There are a number of options including study grants, housing allowances and loans. The study grant is designed to help with general living costs. It is means tested so the amount awarded depends on the individual circumstances of the student. The maximum award is about 335€ but it can be substantially less than this in some cases.
The housing allowance, or housing supplement, is also paid monthly. It is for support with rent payments. The amount varies depending on the cost of the student's rent. The maximum allowance is 201.60€ per month.
The final category of support offered by Kela is loans although they do not offer the loans directly. Instead they guarantee loans that are given to students by banks. This means the student does not have to worry about having their loan application turned down. The amount that can be borrowed depends on the age of the student and where they are studying. A typical graduate or postgraduate student at a university in Finland can expect to get about 400€ a month.
The other main sources of grants are the universities. They each have their own programmes and grant schemes targeted at particular areas of study or type of student. The value of each award varies.
To qualify for support from Kela a student must meet residency requirements in Finland. This does not exclude international students but the support is much harder to get unless the student is from Finland. Most support from Kela is also means tested so is awarded on the basis of financial need. And the student has to be in full-time study. The housing allowance has additional requirements mostly around the ownership of the property the student is living in: for example, a student cannot claim support to help pay rent on a property owned by their parents.
The qualifying criteria for grants awarded by universities is different and it varies from institution to institution. Academic record is often a consideration along with financial need.
Like local students, foreign students do not have to pay tuition fees in order to study at a Finnish university. Additionally, international students can get grants through schemes run by the universities. They cannot qualify for the government-funded support awarded through Kela, though. The exception to this is if they can prove permanent residence in Finland unconnected to their studies. Another option is to seek funding through CIMO. It awards scholarships to international students, primarily those studying for a PhD.
Grants from universities vary but awards of 1,000€ to 2,000€ are common. The government-backed Kela awards are usually paid monthly. Typical Finnish students on a degree course can get up to 335€ a month in the form of a study grant from the agency. They can also get a housing supplement worth up to 201€. And they can get a loan worth up to 400€ per month. This totals 936€ a month but not all students will get this amount as it depends on their financial circumstances.