Learning has left the classroom (a long time ago)

The recent debate around learning has shown that the mission of universities of applied sciences, studying and learning in universities of applied sciences and the related pedagogy are not known very well.

Valokuva opiskelijoista
News article


The purpose of universities of applied sciences is "to provide higher education for professional expert tasks and duties based on the requirements of the world of work and its development and on the premises of academic research and academic and artistic education and to support the professional growth of students" (Universities of Applied Sciences Act 932/2014).

The Act also assigns universities of applied sciences the task of cooperating with business and industry and other sectors of the labour market – a task that universities do not have. Thus, the pedagogy of UAS is linked to the world of work in ways that give students a wide range of learning opportunities – both in their own work and leisure activities, and in the course assignments with companies and other business representatives during their studies.

From a learner's – and pedagogical – point of view, the learning methods that are linked to the world of work include the recognition of prior learning (at work or in studies), work-based learning and course-related assignments and projects with businesses. Research, development and innovation in universities of applied sciences are also integrated into learning in many ways. In addition, the legislator requires that UAS degrees include at least 30 credits of work placement promoting professional competence (Government Decree on Universities of Applied Sciences 1129/2014), which corresponds to about six months of work placement, for which students typically receive a trainee's salary. The conditions of the work placement are agreed between the employer and the student. There are sectoral differences in the way work placements are organised.

Regardless of the competences that students at universities of applied sciences acquire in their work-related learning, there are always theoretical and reflective components included. For example, work-based learning is learning that is embedded in students' own work or project so that it becomes part of the competences required for the degree. For work-based learning, it is not enough that students work and learn at the same time, but an essential part of the learning process is students' own reflection on the development of their skills. Also the theoretical basis is taken into account.

Real-life projects are motivating for students, almost without exception. Some of the projects and learning modules are carried out in multidisciplinary cooperation, involving students from several fields. As part of their professional growth, students also learn very essential workplace skills. Teachers also gain new perspectives on their work through work-life cooperation, although working in projects that bring varying situations can be demanding for the supervisor (Virtanen;Tynjälä;Virolainen;& Heikkinen, 2022).

Companies that cooperate with universities of applied sciences also understand that projects and assignments involve students who are not yet full professionals. In the midst of learning, things happen, because one cannot know everything yet. On the other hand, the open-mindedness of young students and their ability to innovate often surprise the client in a positive way.

As a university of applied sciences, we are happy to be able to offer students a wide range of learning experiences in a very practical format. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive from students, businesses and teachers alike.

Salla Huttunen
Vice President

Katja Komulainen
Vice President


  • Universities of Applied Sciences Act 932/2014.
  • Government Decree on Universities of Applied Sciences 1129/2014.
  • Virtanen, A., Tynjälä, P., Virolainen, M., & Heikkinen, H. L. (2022). Opiskelijan oppiminen työelämäyhteistyössä - pedagoginen näkökulma. Published in K. Mäki, & L. Vanhanen-Nuutinen 2022. Korkeakoulupedagogiikka – Ajat, paikat ja tulkinnat (pp. 172-191). Helsinki: Haaga-Helia publications.
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