Why are universities holding on-location entrance examinations during the pandemic?
After carrying out careful assessment and risk analyses, Finnish universities have concluded that holding entrance examinations which require applicants’ physical presence and also involve careful safety arrangements is the best way to implement a fair student admission procedure that takes into account subject-specific special requirements and treats all applicants equally.
In spring 2020 universities also held on-location entrance examinations that complied with detailed safety regulations. There have been no reports of exposure to coronavirus or chains of infection resulting from these previous examinations.
For spring 2021, the safety regulations have been revised so that, for example, the precautionary distance has been increased from last year. Information on the transmission and infectiousness of the virus has increased, and so it is possible to effectively make the examination arrangements.
The universities also ensure that it is known who took the examination in which room, meaning that any chains of infection can be effectively traced.
Entrance examinations are not classified as public events and are therefore not subject to the general restrictions on public gatherings.
For arts subjects, entrance examinations are being held both remotely and on location. Programmes that have already announced that they will hold entrance examinations remotely (for example, University of the Arts Helsinki programmes that include international applicants) will carry out their examinations as planned.
Is participation in entrance examinations safe?
All arrangements pertaining to arriving at the examination location and taking the examination itself aim at an examination process that is as safe as possible for both applicants and invigilators.
The safety arrangements include receiving applicants in outdoor areas, escorting them to the examination room, using protective equipment and maintaining sufficient distance between applicants.
Universities recommend that applicants avoid close contact with others for two weeks prior to the examination and during the examination itself. Applicants are invited to familiarise themselves well in advance with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) guidelines on coronavirus transmission and protecting oneself: Transmission and protection – coronavirus (THL).
Should applicants wear a face mask during the examination?
Universities require the wearing of a face mask during entrance examinations and offer all applicants masks in accordance with the recommendations currently in force. You can also wear your own face mask during the examination.
If applicants have a health-related reason for not wearing a mask, they must contact in advance the admission services of the university organising the examination. Further information on the THL recommendation on masks
Applicants who do not want/agree to wear a mask during the examination will take the examination in a separate space intended for those not wearing a mask.
I’m worried about the coronavirus situation. What should I do?
Applicants are invited to familiarise themselves well in advance with the THL guidelines on coronavirus transmission and protecting oneself: Transmission and protection – coronavirus (THL).
What should I do if I get ill before the entrance examination?
Those in isolation or in official quarantine or self-quarantine are not permitted to take the entrance examination. The coronavirus situation requires responsible behaviour from everyone in accordance with the instructions issued by THL and the local authorities. Taking care of both your own health and that of others must be a priority.
If an applicant has symptoms of a coronavirus infection, they must follow the instructions of the public healthcare system in their area and get tested for coronavirus. Those waiting to take a test or to receive the results should stay at home and avoid close contact with others, and thus they are not allowed to take an entrance examination.
If an applicant travels to Finland from a country subject to travel restrictions due to the coronavirus situation, THL recommends that the applicant self-quarantine at home (THL instructions on travelling during the coronavirus epidemic). Those in self-quarantine should not take an entrance examination.
It is not possible to make special arrangements for applicants to take an entrance examination if they have been assigned to isolation or are in quarantine.
You can read more about the joint university safety guidelines for all applicants on the Unifi website or on the websites of universities and the joint application system.
Why can’t an examination room be arranged for those in quarantine?
Those in quarantine are subject to the Communicable Diseases Act (1227/2016). When you are in official quarantine or self-quarantine, you must avoid close contact with people outside your own household, in accordance with the THL instructions.
Those in quarantine are not allowed to enter university premises, and as it is not possible to take an entrance examination without coming into close contact with others, those in quarantine cannot take an entrance examination. Entrance examinations are held according to the timetable provided and no additional examinations are arranged.
Why can’t I take a remote examination if I’m quarantined? After all, the universities organised remote examinations last spring.
Entrance examinations must be carried out using uniform arrangements for all applicants in order to ensure equal treatment. It is therefore not possible to organise entrance examinations separately for those in quarantine or those assigned to isolation.
In order to effectively avoid exposure before entrance examinations, applicants are encouraged to avoid close contact with others for two weeks prior to the entrance examination and during the examination itself.
What if physical entrance examinations cannot be arranged?
The method of carrying out the entrance examinations will only be changed if regulations by authorities so require. Ensuring equal treatment and trust in the application system is essential in student admissions. Remote, online examinations that are not invigilated involve obvious legal risks and challenges. We consider non-invigilated remote examinations to be an alternative that should be used only as a last resort.
Questions added on 22 March 2021
Why cannot those in quarantine be offered the opportunity to take a remote examination or complete the exam at another time?
In the student selection process, all applicants must be guaranteed similar conditions to take an examination. It is therefore not possible to offer those in official or self-quarantine, or those in isolation the opportunity to take examinations at a later date or through remote access.
Organising an examination at a different time would require a different test to be prepared for the candidate, and the candidate taking the examination at a later date would be able to prepare for the test for a longer period of time. This would place the applicants in an unequal position.
The applicants shall be notified of the results by 9 July at the latest. The current schedule does not allow for new examinations to be organised at a later date.
As stated above, there are obvious legal risks and challenges involved in unsupervised electronic remote examinations. There is also no reliable control system in place for remote examinations.
Why can’t I take an entrance examination if I’m sick or in quarantine?
The situation with the coronavirus requires everyone to act responsibly. Those in isolation or in official or self-quarantine are not permitted to take the entrance examination. Taking care of your own health and that of others must be a priority. Breaking a quarantine or isolation order is a health protection violation that may have consequences in criminal law.
Does the current model not place in an unequal position applicants who are unable to avoid close contact for reasons such as work, and who may be quarantined as a result?
From a humane perspective and at an individual level, this is a very regrettable situation. Universities must, however, guarantee the functionality of the admissions process and the safety of entrance examinations for as many applicants as possible, and for those participating in entrance examinations.
Why are there no individual arrangements in place for examinations for people in risk groups?
We have tried to find the best solution within the existing resources. In principle, normal safety arrangements are in place for ensuring the safety of the entrance examinations and minimising the possibility of infection. Please ask your doctor if it is safe for you to participate in the entrance examinations.
According to current estimates, the vaccinations for people in risk groups will already have started in May or June: Assessment of the progress of coronavirus vaccinations (THL – Finnish Institute for health and welfare).
Does travelling to the exam location not pose an unnecessary risk in terms of the spread of coronavirus?
Universities recommend that applicants travel to the examination as directly as possible, follow safety instructions while travelling, and do not stay in the exam location for longer than necessary.
Travel for necessary reasons is not currently restricted.
In the joint application system, it is possible to select the entrance exam location, in which case the applicants can minimise their travel.
I live abroad. Can I travel to Finland for an entrance examination?
When travelling to Finland, the valid Finnish Border Guard instructions for border traffic during the coronary pandemic are followed: https://raja.fi/en/guidelines-for-border-traffic-during-pandemic
According to the THL travel instructions, you can travel to Finland for a necessary and justified reason, such as studying. Follow THL’s self-quarantine recommendations for people arriving in Finland. THL guidelines for travel and the coronavirus epidemic: https://thl.fi/en/web/infectious-diseases-and-vaccinations/what-s-new/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-updates/travel-and-the-coronavirus-pandemic
Questions added on 9 April
I live abroad. Can I take an entrance examination in a foreign country, for example at an embassy?
Entrance examinations are only organised in Finland. If you arrive from abroad, you must take into account THL’s recommendations on self-quarantine for those arriving in Finland. THL guidelines for travel and the coronavirus epidemic: https://thl.fi/en/web/infectious-diseases-and-vaccinations/what-s-new/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-updates/travel-and-the-coronavirus-pandemic. Please also read the previous question and answer.
Why is a separate space reserved for those who refuse to wear a mask during the examinations but not for those who are in risk groups?
In principle, the exams are arranged as safely as possible. For this reason, the entrance examination requires participants to wear a mask. However, a higher education institution cannot oblige wearing one, and applicants refusing to wear a mask cannot be refused admission to the entrance examination. Therefore, applicants who do not agree to wear a mask during the entrance examinations are placed in a separate space reserved for the unmasked. However, this is not an individual arrangement. Applicants who refuse to wear a mask on principle are placed in the same space. Individual spaces are not offered for applicants refusing to wear a mask for the entrance examination.
Individual arrangements and individual spaces might be available if the applicant has a health reason for not wearing a mask and / or if additional time is needed for taking the examination. Applicants who have requested individual arrangements based on health reasons will be treated in accordance with the special arrangement process and, if possible, an individual space will be arranged for them in the entrance examination.
We trust that applicants follow safety recommendations and wear a mask during the examinations. Universities anticipate that there will only be a small number of people refusing to wear a mask on principle, so it is possible to arrange a space for them. In order to keep other applicants and supervisors safe, such applicants have been asked to contact the university admission services in advance (by 3 p.m. on 7 April) so that the universities can prepare.
There may be many people who are in corona risk groups so it is impossible to arrange a separate space for everyone at risk. For more information on people in risk groups in entrance examinations, see also the question “Why are there no individual arrangements in place for examinations for people in risk groups?”
Are those who refuse to wear a mask placed in the same space as those who cannot wear a mask for health reasons?
No. Those who refuse to wear a mask are placed in a different space than those who cannot wear a mask for health reasons. In order for this to succeed in practice, people who cannot wear masks for health reasons must apply for individual arrangements at the university by 3 p.m. on 7 April at the latest. For more information on applying for individual arrangements, see the website of each university.
Questions added on 20 April
Will I be able to attend the entrance examination if I arrive late?
If you arrive late, you cannot attend the entrance examination. You will receive an exact place and time of arrival at the entrance examination; follow the instructions that you receive.
Will I be able to attend the entrance examination if I arrive at the wrong place?
In order to ensure equal treatment of applicants and the health security of entrance examinations, it is essential that you carefully read the entrance examination instructions and arrive in the correct area in time. Entrance examinations are a carefully designed whole; consequently, universities cannot guarantee your admission to an entrance examination if you do not follow the instructions.
Due to strict security arrangements, you will only have a place reserved at that locality, campus or lecture hall at which you are instructed to arrive to take your entrance examination.
Bulletin: Universities organise entrance examinations with strict safety arrangements
2021 University Entrance Examinations: Safety instructions for applicants