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This article concerns all degree students regardless of whether they are studying in the new degree programmes or according to the old degree structures. 

You will need appropriate language skills to succeed in your application for exchange studies and cope during the exchange. Find out about the language requirements and begin studying the relevant language as early as possible before you apply for exchange studies. These instructions will describe how you can demonstrate your language proficiency and what skill levels are required for different destinations and languages of study. Many target universities offer studies in the local language, but studies can also often be completed in other languages, such as English.

The demonstration of language skills depends on the language of study at your target university or the language used in the courses you plan to complete during your exchange. So find out in good time which languages you can use to study at your destination.

For Erasmus and Nordplus exchange programmes, language proficiency is assessed using the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), in which A1 is the lowest and C2 the highest level. For the level of each course according to the CEFR, see the University of Helsinki Language Centre’s course descriptions and registration information.

For exchange opportunities outside the EU/EEA area, check the instructions and requirements in the country-specific sections on this page and the instructions Exchange Destinations.

NB! The language skills required of applicants by the University of Helsinki may differ from those required by the target university, so check the language requirements of the target university. Successful applicants should prepare to demonstrate their language skills to the target university according to its instructions at a later stage. For more information, see "Acquisition of language certificates for the target university" by scrolling down.

The Language Centre offers a range of language learning opportunities, and some of its courses are geared precisely for students who are planning to participate in an exchange.  For information on the Language Centre’s courses search here

English as the language of study

To apply for exchange studies, University of Helsinki degree students need not separately demonstrate their proficiency in English.* Successful applicants should prepare to demonstrate their English skills to the target university at a later stage.

*Grounds: Results of Finnish university students in the European Commission’s monitoring

WHERE CAN I STUDY IN ENGLISH?

You can study in English in countries where English is the official language, but many other exchange destinations also offer study opportunities in English.

You should note that some of the English-language study opportunities available in non-English-speaking countries may be restricted. Extensive English-language programmes (e.g., Master’s programmes) are often tailored to international students who pay the tuition fees of the university in question. Because exchange students do not pay tuition fees, they cannot take such courses.

You can search for English-language exchange opportunities as follows:

If you are applying to the Erasmus or Nordplus programme

Find out the language of instruction at the target university by visiting its website. Most universities have instructions for prospective exchange students on their websites, where they also explain the required language skills.

The language of instruction may also be indicated in the Mobility Online application portal.

If you are applying for a destination outside the EU/EEA

You can study in English (without having proficiency in the language of the target country) in the following countries:

  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan
  • South Korea
  • India
  • South Africa
  • Zambia
  • Namibia
  • Israel
  • Egypt
  • Serbia
  • Georgia
  • Japan, mainland China and Russia (individual universities or programmes)

For detailed descriptions of the language of instruction, see the country-specific sections.

 

Swedish as the language of study

NB! To apply for exchange studies, degree students in a Swedish-language or bilingual degree programme at the University of Helsinki need not demonstrate their proficiency in Swedish.

Proficiency in Swedish can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  1. A University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating that the student has completed studies in Swedish (a course or other studies which have been recognised for the degree at level B1 or higher, or the course Toisen kotimaisen kielen kirjallinen ja suullinen taito, ruotsi)
  2. A Finnish matriculation examination certificate (copy) indicating that a) the student’s language of schooling was Swedish or b) the student received a grade of C or higher for the advanced syllabus in Swedish or a grade of L for the basic syllabus
  3. An equivalent certificate of language studies completed at another institution of higher education
  4. A language certificate provided by a Language Centre teacher

If you are selected for an exchange, prepare to demonstrate your Swedish proficiency to your target university according to its instructions at a later stage.

A language of study other than English or Swedish (Erasmus destinations)

Do you wish to study, for example, sociology in French or the natural sciences in Spanish?

NB! This section does not pertain to students who apply to study the language of the target country on a full-time basis (see paragraph Full-time language study during an exchange).

If you apply to a university to complete courses in the language of the target country which is not English or Swedish, the University of Helsinki requires that your proficiency in the language in question is at least at level B1. Because some target universities require a higher level of language skills, you should check your target university’s language requirements on its website. Your language skills must be at a level that allows you to study in the language of the target university. French-speaking universitiet in Quebec usually require language skills on B2 level.

Proficiency in the language of the target country can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  1. A University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating that the student has completed studies in the language of the target country (a course or other studies which have been recognised for the degree at level B1 or higher)
  2. A Finnish matriculation examination certificate (copy) indicating that the student received a grade of C or higher for the advanced syllabus in the language in question
  3. A certificate of language studies completed at another institution of higher education
  4. A language certificate provided by a Language Centre teacher

If you are selected for an exchange, prepare to demonstrate your relevant language proficiency to your target university according to its instructions at a later stage.

Exchange destinations in Russia and Ukraine

Proficiency in Russian 

With one exception, the exchange opportunities available in Russia require proficiency in Russian. The minimum requirement at the application stage is at least 10 credits worth of studies in Russian completed at the University of Helsinki or equivalent skills.

The minimum requirement can be proved with a certificate of studies indicating completed language courses, totalling 10 cr.

Exception: Applicants for English-language courses at the Higher School of Economics are not required to have proficiency in Russian. For instructions for demonstrating proficiency in English, see the section English as a language of study.

Proficiency in Russian can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  1. A University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating sufficient studies in Russian
  2. A Finnish matriculation examination certificate (copy) or equivalent certificate indicating that the student has completed at least the basic syllabus in Russian in (general) upper secondary school
  3. A certificate of language studies completed at another institution of higher education
  4. A language certificate provided by a Language Centre teacher or (in the case of students whose major subject is Russian) a language certificate provided by a teacher at the Department of Modern Languages. NB! Required only if neither of the above can be obtained.

Proficiency in Ukrainian 

Those applying for exchange studies in Ukraine must be proficient in Ukrainian. The minimum requirement for proficiency in Ukrainian pertains to both students applying to complete Ukranian as a second language courses during the exchange and students applying for English-language courses. The minimum requirement at the application stage is at least 8 credits worth of studies in Ukrainian completed at the University of Helsinki or equivalent skills.

Proficiency in Ukrainian can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  1. A University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating that the student has completed at least the minimum number of studies in Ukrainian
  2. A certificate provided by a teacher of Ukrainian. Required only if the former cannot be obtained.

Exchange destinations in Asia

Proficiency in English 

If you intend to study in English and your destination does not require proficiency in the local language, read the instructions for demonstrating proficiency in English in the paragraph "English as the language of study".

Proficiency in Japanese

With the exception of a few universities and study tracks, the University of Helsinki requires that applicants for exchange opportunities in Japan be proficient in Japanese. There are two requirement levels: the minimum level and the advanced level.

Minimum level:

The minimum requirement at the application stage is at least 10 credits worth of studies in Japanese completed at the University of Helsinki or equivalent skills.

The minimum level can be demonstrated with a transcript of studies.

This minimum requirement applies to the following destinations in Japan:

  • Kyoto University, KUINEP programme
  • Tokyo University, TYPE U programme
  • Kobe University
  • Osaka University
  • Doshisha University
  • Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto
  • Waseda University

Advanced level:

Some of the universities or study tracks require considerably more advanced skills in Japanese. This advanced requirement applies to the following destinations in Japan:

  • Hokkaido University, JLCS programme: at least JLPT 3 or equivalent skills
  • Kyoto University, Japanese-language teaching: JLPT 1
  • Tokyo University, Japanese-language teaching: JLPT 1
  • Osaka University: iExPO

Applicants must demonstrate the required JLPT level by passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) before the application stage.

Exception: The requirement of Hokkaido University’s JLCS programme concerning language proficiency equivalent to JLPT 3 can also be demonstrated with a University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating that the student has completed the Japanese 1 and Japanese 2 courses (total 20 cr) if the student is currently completing the Japanese 3 course. This exceptional arrangement has been separately made with Hokkaido University.

Proficiency in Chinese

If you are applying to complete English-language courses in China, proficiency in Chinese is not required.

If you are only applying to study Chinese as a foreign language, the minimum requirement at the application stage is at least 10 credits worth of studies in Chinese completed at the University of Helsinki or equivalent skills.

The minimum proficiency can be demonstrated with a transcript of studies.

Proficiency in Chinese can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  • A University of Helsinki transcript of studies (sufficient if the above criteria are met)
    or
  • A certificate or transcript of studies from another university indicating an equivalent number of university-level courses in Chinese
    or
  • A completed HSK test

Proficiency in Korean

If you are applying to complete English-language courses in Korea, proficiency in Korean is not required.

If you are only applying to study Korean as a foreign language, the minimum requirement at the application stage is at least 10 credits worth of studies in Korean completed at the University of Helsinki (e.g., Korean 1) or equivalent skills.

The minimum proficiency can be demonstrated at the application stage with a University of Helsinki transcript of studies.

NB! For restrictions on the selection of language courses, see the exchange opportunities available in Korea.

Exchange destinations in the Middle East and Africa

Proficiency in English 

If you intend to study in English and your destination does not require proficiency in the local language, read the instructions for demonstrating proficiency in English in the section "English as the language of study".

Proficiency in Hebrew 

Applicants wishing to participate in normal Hebrew-language teaching at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are required at least Dalet-level proficiency in modern Hebrew. You can demonstrate proficiency in Hebrew at the application stage with a certificate provided by a teacher of Hebrew.

If you wish to participate at your own expense in a 1–2 month Ulpan language course in Israel prior to beginning your exchange so as to improve your language skills from Gimel level to Dalet level, you can demonstrate sufficient proficiency with a certificate provided by a University of Helsinki teacher which indicates that your proficiency is at Gimel level at the application stage. If you do not wish to complete an Ulpan course, your proficiency in modern Hebrew must be at Dalet level at the application stage.

Applicants for English-language teaching are not required to have proficiency in modern Hebrew.

Proficiency in Arabic

Proficiency in Arabic is required when applying for an exchange in Jordan and Palestine. The minimum requirement at the application stage is at least 10 credits worth of studies in Arabic completed at the University of Helsinki or equivalent skills.

The minimum requirement can be proved with a certificate of studies indicating completed language courses (e.g., courses completed at the Language Centre or the Bachelor's or Master's programme in Languages totalling 10 cr).

Proficiency in Arabic can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  1. A University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating sufficient studies in Arabic
  2. A certificate of language studies completed at another institution of higher education
  3. A language certificate provided by a teacher of Arabic at the University of Helsinki or another institution of higher education. NB! Required only if neither of the above can be obtained

Proficiency in French

Students interested in exchange opportunities in Africa can study in French at the University of Antananarivo (Madagascar).

Proficiency in French can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  1. A University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating that the student has completed the language studies required for the degree (a course or other studies which have been recognised for the degree at level B1 or higher)
  2. A Finnish matriculation examination certificate (copy) indicating that the student received a grade of C or higher for the advanced syllabus in French
  3. A certificate of language studies completed at another institution of higher education
  4. A language certificate provided by a Language Centre teacher

Canada (Quebec)

Proficiency in French 

The French-language destinations in Quebec require proficiency in French. For instructions on demonstrating proficiency in French, see the paragraph "A language of study other than English or Swedish (Erasmus destinations)". The above instructions also apply to the French-language destinations in Canada. French-speaking universities in Quebec usually require skills on B2 level.

Exception: For instructions for demonstrating proficiency in English for the English-language destinations in Quebec, see the paragraph "English as a language of study".

Mexico and Latin America

Proficiency in Spanish 

Proficiency in Spanish is required to apply for exchange opportunities in Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Columbia and Peru. The minimum requirement at the application stage is at least 12 credits worth of studies in Spanish (introductory and intermediate courses 1 and 2) completed at the University of Helsinki or at least 10 credits worth of studies in Spanish philology.

Proficiency in Spanish can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  1. A University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating sufficient studies in Spanish
  2. A certificate of language studies completed at another institution of higher education
  3. A language certificate provided by a Language Centre teacher

Proficiency in Portugese

Proficiency in Portuguese is required to apply for exchange opportunities in Brazil. The minimum requirement at the application stage is at least 12 credits worth of studies in Portuguese (introductory and intermediate courses 1 and 2) completed at the University of Helsinki or at least 10 credits worth of studies in Portuguese philology.

Proficiency in Portuguese can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  1. A University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating sufficient studies in Portuguese
  2. A certificate of language studies completed at another institution of higher education
  3. A language certificate provided by a Language Centre teacher
Information on language skills at different universities Mexico and Latin America
Mexico

  • UNAM

    • Good language skills
Latin America
Argentina

  • Universidad de Mendoza

    •  Spanish B1 (CEFR)
Brazil

  • PUC-Rio

    • Portuguese B1 (CEFR). All exchange students must take a placement test in order to confirm his/her knowledge of Portuguese, on the first day of classes.
    • English. No English level is required to attend the courses taught in English. Although it is recommendable an intermediate level B1 (CEFR) or upper proficiency.
  • UNESP                           
    • Portuguese B1 (CEFR)
  • USP    
    • Portuguese B1 (CEFR)
Chile                  

  • Universidad de Chile

    • Spanish B1 (CEFR)
  • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
    • Spanish B2 (CEFR)
Colombia

  • Universidad de los Andes

    • Spanish B2 (CEFR)
  • Universidad Externado de Colombia
    • Spanish B2 (CEFR)
    • Also, it is also possible to accept students with proficiency B1 and they will have to pass an interview via Skype for applying.
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia 
    • Spanish B1 (CEFR)
  • Pontificia Universidad Javeriana
    • Spanish B1 (CEFR)
Costa Rica        

  • Universidad de  Costa Rica

    • Spanish B2 (CEFR)
Ecuador

  • Universidad San Francisco de Quito

    • At least B1 (CEFR), preferably B2 (CEFR)
Peru                  

  • Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

    • Spanish B2 (CEFR)

Full-time language study during an exchange

Are you planning to study, for example, Turkish in Turkey?

Several target universities offer opportunities for full-time study of the local language as a foreign language. Check your target university’s website to find out whether such full-time studies are available for exchange students. Students who study the target country’s language as a foreign language on a full-time basis during their exchange must have completed by the application stage at least 10 credits worth of studies in the language in question, or otherwise have acquired the same skills.

Proficiency in the language of the target country can be demonstrated at the application stage with one of the following documents:

  1. A University of Helsinki transcript of studies indicating that the student has completed at least 10 credits of studies in the language of the target country at the University of Helsinki
  2. A certificate of language studies completed at another institution of higher education

NB! Exchange opportunities outside the EU and EEA: see instructions above for each region.

If the language requirement is not fully met during the application period

If you have not acquired the required language proficiency by the application stage, a conditional decision on selection may in some cases be made.

The requirement is that you must have realistic opportunities to acquire the necessary language skills prior to your departure. For example, if your target university requires proficiency in French at level C1 or above and you have reached level B1 by the application stage, you can describe in the letter of motivation attached to your exchange application how the language courses you are currently completing or will complete in the following academic year will enable you to achieve level C1 prior to your departure.

Acquisition of language certificates for the target university

After University of Helsinki has selected you as an exchange student, you may need a language certificate for your target university.

Erasmus+ and Nordplus student exchange: your host university’s instructions about proving your language skills can be found in the host university’s application instructions. Please see your host university’s instructions for how to prove your language skills. If you are unsure about your host university’s instructions, send a link to the host university’s instructions about proving your language skills to International Exchange Services at studentexchange@helsinki.fi so that we can check the exchange agreement’s paragraph about language requirements.

Usually, the language proficiency (English, Scandinavian languages) required for the Nordic Nordplus/Nordlys does not need to be demonstrated. However, check your host university’s website just in case.

Exchange programmes outside EU: after University of Helsinki has selected you as an exchange student, International Exchange Services will send you an e-mail with application instructions for your host university.  The e-mail is sent by studentexchange@helsinki.fi and its title is Application instructions. Please check this e-mail for instructions on how to prove your language skills. The instructions can differ from the instructions on your host university’s website, if, for example, University of Helsinki and your host university have agreed on specific arrangements for applicants from University of Helsinki.

 

How to get a language certificate

If your host university will accept a certificate from the Language Centre, the Language Centre can provide you with a no-fee certificate for your target university. The Language Centre has designed a form that its teachers can use. For instructions on requesting a certificate please click here and notice that you need to contact the Language Centre well in advance.

The Language Centre does not give language certificates to students doing their major in the Bachelor’s/Master’s programme in Languages. Students with a study right in English Philology/Bachelor's programme in Languages: Study track, English at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Arts can contact their Personal Study Plan advisors or eng-hops@helsinki.fi to get approval for their Learning Agreement and a language certificate. NB! You must request them at least three weeks before the application deadline!

Tests with a fee

If your target university requires you to take a fee-based TOEFL or IELTS test, you will have to pay the fee and complete the test after the University of Helsinki has selected you as an exchange student. The waiting lists for TOEFL and IELTS tests are long, so book your test in good time. Read the instructions on the TOEFL and IELTS websites. For the IELTS test, select the academic version. You will receive the test results for IELTS faster than for the TOEFL test. Please ask for the test results to be sent to you directly, so that you know when the official test results have been published.