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Duration of studies

Shall apply to students who have started their studies in the academic year 2005―2006 and after it. 

1. Legal provisions concerning the duration of studies towards a degree (Universities Act, Sections 40–41)

The normative duration of studies is three years for a bachelor's degree and two years for a master’s degree. However, a student admitted to study only for a bachelor’s degree has the right to complete the degree in four years. A student admitted to study only for a master’s degree has the right to complete the degree in four years. A student admitted to study for both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree has seven years total to complete both degrees.

2 Effect of absences on the duration of studies towards a degree (Universities Act, Sections 39–41)

The duration of studies is counted from the time the student enrols as present (attending) at the university. Students have a right to certain absences that do not expend their duration of studies. Absence refers to time when the student has enrolled as non-attending.

NOTE: Students must enrol for attending or for non-attending status within the enrolment period set by Aalto. Periods for which students fail to enrol as attending or non-attending will count against the time remaining in their duration of studies.

2.1 Absences of students who began studies prior to 1 August 2015

The duration of studies is unaffected by time spent performing military or national defence duties or time spent on maternity, paternity or parental leave. Absences beginning on or after 1 August 2016 for these reasons will be taken into consideration in determining the duration of studies only for the time in which the student has been registered as non-attending. The abovementioned reasons for absence may, however, be taken into consideration in granting an extension to a student who registered as attending, but was unable to attend for any of these reasons.

In addition, students may be absent for a total of four terms (two academic years) for any reason without the absence affecting their duration of studies if they have enrolled as non-attending.

2.2 Absences of students who began studies on or after 1 August 2015:

The duration of studies is unaffected by absences due to time spent serving under the Conscription Act (1438/2007), the Non-Military Service Act (1446/2007) or the act on voluntary military service for women (194/1995) or time spent on maternity, paternity or parental leave. Absences beginning on or after 1 August 2016 for these reasons will be taken into consideration in determining the duration of studies only for the time in which the student has been registered as non-attending. The abovementioned reasons for absence may, however, be taken into consideration in granting an extension to a student who registered as attending, but was unable to attend for any of these reasons.

In addition, students may be absent for a total of two terms (one academic year) for any reason without the absence affecting their duration of studies if they have enrolled as non-attending.

First-year students who accept an offer of admission may enrol as non-attending only if they are: (1) serving under the Conscription Act (asevelvollisuuslaki 1438/2007), the Non-Military Service Act (siviilipalveluslaki 1446/2007) or the act on voluntary military service for women (naisten vapaaehtoisesta asepalveluksesta annettu laki 194/1995); (2) on maternity, paternity or parental leave; or (3) unable to begin their studies due to their own illness or disability.

If the grounds for enrolling for non-attending status for the first academic year are presented only after the end of the enrolment period for students who had enrolled as attending, the grounds may be taken into consideration for granting an extension.

3 Effect of absences on the length of extensions for completing a degree

A granted extension continues to be expended in the case of students who enrol for non-attending status during the time of the extension, regardless of the grounds for enrolling as non-attending. The abovementioned grounds for absences, i.e. those that do not affect the duration of studies (military or civil service, or maternal, paternal or parental leave), thus cannot be used to lengthen an already-granted extension. Absences on the abovementioned grounds may, however, count in the student’s favour when considering a new extension of time, if needed.

Aalto University policy on extension to duration of studies

Approved by the Aalto University Academic Affairs Committee on 9 October 2012

Aalto University policy on extension to duration of studies (pdf)

This policy will enter into force on 1 January 2013 so that the guideline will apply for the first time to the extension applications of students who have reached the limit for the maximum duration of studies set forth in Universities Act (Yliopistolaki 558/2009) or for the extension granted to it on 31 July 2013.

Starting point: supporting the student in earning the degree

The normative and maximum durations of studies for bachelor’s and master’s degrees are set forth in the Universities Act (Yliopistolaki 558/2009). The university may also grant extension to the duration of studies to allow students to complete the degree pursued. The university is responsible for arranging its education and supporting its students in a manner that allows them to earn their degrees without extending the duration of their studies. The university shall ensure that students are committed to goal-oriented studying from the very beginning of their studies and follow-up on the students’ academic progress for the duration of their studies. Key support measures include guidance on the personal study plan, tutoring, and contacting those students who are falling behind schedule well in advance of them reaching the limit for the maximum duration of studies set for their degree.

Students shall prove the feasibility of their graduation by completing study attainments towards their degree, and they shall be encouraged to seek solutions to any problems hindering the progress of their studies before the maximum time limit is approaching.

It is essential that the students be reminded of the normative duration of studies if they seem to fall behind schedule. The degree programmes shall actively contact bachelor’s students who have failed to earn the bachelor’s degree in 3.5 years of studies as an attending student, and notify them of the available guidance and support. A similar notification shall also be sent to master’s students who have failed to earn a master’s degree in 2.5 years of studies as an attending student. The schools shall provide the degree programmes with opportunities to contact students in the above cases; communication to students must be improved regarding, for instance, the effect of the terms registered as non-attending student to the total duration of studies. Schools should also develop incentives to encourage students to keep a good grip on their studies and remain goal-oriented for the duration of their degree; the degree programmes play a key role in developing suitable incentives.

General principles

Students are granted extension for completing their degree on the basis of an application supported by a goal-oriented and feasible graduation plan. When considering the application, the degree programme assesses the possibilities of the student to graduate within a reasonable time, any previous extensions granted, and his/her life situation. The decision regarding the first period of extension is made taking into consideration the permissible reasons for absence set forth in the Universities Act, which automatically extend the duration of studies (voluntary military service or fulfilment of the national defence obligation, maternity or paternity leave or parental leave).

Although extension may only be granted for short periods at a time, the whole graduation plan is reviewed before granting the first period of extension. When reviewing the application, the school will also consider the compliance of the student with the graduation plan during any prior periods of extension granted.

A goal-oriented and feasible graduation plan

The plan shall specify the studies completed and those still remaining and a schedule for the completion of the latter. If applicable, the application shall also include a scheduled plan for the completion of an unfinished master’s thesis approved by the thesis supervisor. In addition, students shall present a plan of the time available for the remaining studies and of their possibility to participate in teaching. The plan shall give an account of the use of any previous periods of extension granted and as necessary, reasons for the delay in studies. Students applying for extension on the basis of their life situation or other grounds shall present an account of it and the necessary related certificates (e.g. medical certificate).

Reasonable time: bachelor’s degree

The normative duration of studies set for the bachelor’s degree is 3 years. Students are allowed to use 4 academic years registered as an attending student to earn the degree (maximum duration of studies).

Reasonable time and duration of extension:
1st time: Need considered but maximum duration of extension 1 year

Extension is granted after a one-year period of extension only if

a. the studies have progressed in accordance with the graduation plan in force and the plan for the remaining studies is compliant with the original graduation plan
OR
b. the studies have progressed during the extension and may be completed in the course of one academic term in accordance with the graduation plan
OR
c. grounds related to life situation support the granting of extension.

The combined duration of the periods of extension granted (i.e. reasonable time for completing the degree) without any grounds related to life situation is 1-1.5 years. In such cases, the student will have spent a maximum of 5.5 years as an attending student pursuing a degree for which the normative duration of studies is 3 years.

Reasonable time: bachelor’s + master’s degree

The normative duration of studies set for the combination of the bachelor’s and master’s degree is 5 years. Students are allowed to use 7 academic years registered as an attending student to earn the combination (maximum duration of studies).

If the bachelor’s degree is notably incomplete, extension is granted only until the completion of the bachelor’s degree. Extension for earning the master’s degree is granted after separate consideration. Extension is granted for 2 years at one time only under exceptional circumstances.

Reasonable time and duration of extension:
1st time: Need considered but maximum duration of extension 1 year
2nd time: The use of the first period of extension and need considered but maximum duration of extension 1 year

Extension is granted after a period of extension of a total of two years only if

d. the studies have progressed in accordance with the graduation plan in force and the plan for the remaining studies is compliant with the original graduation plan
OR
e. the studies have progressed during the extension and may be completed in the course of one academic year in accordance with the graduation plan
OR
f. grounds related to life situation support the granting of extension.

Without any grounds related to life situation, the combined duration of the periods of extension granted (i.e. a reasonable time for completing the degree) is 2-3 years for the bachelor’s and master’s degree. In such cases, the student will have spent a maximum of 10 years as an attending student pursuing a degree for which the normative of studies is 5 years.

Reasonable time: master’s degree

The normative duration of studies set for the master’s degree is 2 years. Students are allowed to use 4 academic years registered as an attending student to earn the degree (maximum duration of studies).

Reasonable time and duration of extension:
1st time: Need considered but maximum duration of extension 1 year

Extension is granted after a one-year period of extension only if

a. the studies have progressed according to plan and the plan for the remaining studies is compliant with the original graduation plan
OR
b. the studies have progressed during the period of extension and may be completed in the course of one academic term in accordance with the graduation plan
OR
c. grounds related to life situation support the granting of extension.

Without any grounds related to life situation, the combined duration of the periods of extension granted is 1-1.5 years. In such cases, the student will have spent a maximum of 5.5 years as an attending student pursuing a degree for which the maximum duration of studies is 2 years.

Maximum amount of remaining studies and the requisite pace of academic progress

Reasonable time here is defined as follows: the preparation of a goal-oriented and feasible graduation plan and the subsequent grant of extension are deemed possible at least for students who upon reaching the limit for the maximum duration of studies, have completed about 2/3 of the studies required for the degree. The maximum amount set for the remaining studies is not absolute. The larger the amount of remaining studies, the weightier the reasons required for applying for extension. Also the recent academic progress of the student is a factor when reviewing the feasibility of the graduation plan. The swift progress of studies in the terms preceding the reaching of the time limit for the maximum duration of studies will be considered an advantage particularly for students who have completed less than 2/3 of their degree when applying for extension for the first time. Students who have completed a very limited amount or no studies towards the degree at the university cannot be granted extension without extremely important reasons related to their life situation. For example, pursuing another degree or working are not sufficient grounds for delay.

Effect of life situation

The effect of the life situation of the student will be interpreted favourably to the student both in the extension application and in reviewing the reasons leading to the small amount of completed studies and the feasibility of the schedule presented in the graduation plan. Life situations change and taking them into account always requires careful consideration.