Worklife is globalising fast, so versatile language proficiency and ability to manage in different cultures are increasingly important elements of professional competence. For this reason, language study is incorporated into every degree programme at TAMK. Furthermore, study materials in foreign languages are used, and every TAMK student has the opportunity to participate in a period of study abroad. Many students also choose to do some or all of their practical training in an international environment.
The language skill requirements of Finnish universities of applied sciences are in line with the European language policy, according to which, all European citizens should be able to communicate in two other European languages besides their mother tongue. For the degree programmes where Finnish is the language of teaching and learning, study of Finnish, Swedish and English is compulsory. On the English-medium degree programmes, the language study options are somewhat different.
At TAMK, the language courses in Swedish and in the primary foreign language (usually English) are at the same skill level for all students. For Swedish, students are assumed to have studied the language at least from the 7th grade of comprehensive school up to upper secondary school level (6–8 years), and thus are expected to have reached level A2–B1 on the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR). For the primary foreign language, students are assumed to have reached level B1.2–B2.1 on the CEFR, having studied the language at school for 7–10 years.
A number of degree programmes offer “bridging courses” in English and Swedish to support students who are not at the required starting level (A2–B1 for Swedish; B1.2–B2.1 for English), either because they have not studied languages for some time, or for some other reason.
The Government Decree on Universities of Applied Sciences sets official standards for degree-level studies, which apply nationwide. Where language competence is concerned, the decree states that students must demonstrate that they have achieved, through their studies at a university of applied sciences or in some other way:
• such proficiency in Finnish and Swedish as the Act on Language Proficiency requires of a public official who holds office in a bilingual area, in cases where the qualifications for the office include a higher education degree, and as is needed for the purpose of pursuing a profession and for professional development; and
• such oral and written proficiency in one or two foreign languages as is needed in order to pursue the profession appropriate to the particular degree programme and to develop as a professional in that field.
The scope of Swedish language study varies to some extent from one degree programme to another. Students receive separate grades for their written and oral proficiency in Swedish.
Depending on the degree programme, students study one or two foreign languages. The scope of the studies varies, too. English is the most common choice for primary foreign language, but German and Russian are also possible primary languages. Finnish as a foreign language can be the primary foreign language for degree students whose mother-tongue is not Finnish. German is the most common choice for second foreign language.