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Studies, principal goals and key figures at the Sibelius Academy in 2018

by Anu Ahola

In the following, Dean Kaarlo Hildén explains the current focus areas at the Sibelius Academy. We also supply some indicators and a schematic of the modules offered by highest-level music education institution in Finland.

When we wrote about the Sibelius Academy in the FMQ in 2015, we mentioned that its key goals were to preserve and strengthen elite instrumental tuition while strengthening versatility. It was also important to enable the students to specialise in a narrowly defined area of expertise or to build a broader professional identity outside of the traditional definitions. Internationalisation was seen as an increasingly important factor. “Our duty is also to maintain various continuums across Finnish music culture, and fulfil those responsibilities that allow Finnish musical life to keep developing, flourishing and renewing itself,” said the then Dean of the Sibelius Academy, Tuomas Auvinen. (See the article here.)

Kaarlo Hildén, Dean of the Sibelius Academy in 2018, concurs with these goals but with somewhat different weighting.

“Looking back, we can see that one of the factors behind the success of the Sibelius Academy is the Finnish music education system. One of our important tasks is to continue to develop, revitalise and strengthen this system while energising the music industry as a whole to contribute to the future of the art. In doing so, we also want to ensure that our graduates will find employment and their place in the society.” In doing so, we also want to ensure that our graduates will find employment and their place in the society.”

In recent years, the Sibelius Academy has been expanding its Junior Department by collaborating with music institutes around Finland. Also, there are plans for a youth orchestra course in the Helsinki area in the summer. The Sibelius Academy aims to contribute to the development of cultural activities in Finland in the big picture as well, and a concrete example of this is the ongoing effort to engage cultural institutions around Töölönlahti Bay in closer cooperation.


The core task of the Sibelius Academy is to train music professionals for the future needs of the music sector. The role of artists in society is in a continuous state of flux, and this brings new challenges to university-level music education as well.

“As the Sibelius Academy is now part of the University of the Arts Helsinki, the learning environment is broader than ever. We want to challenge our students in reflecting on their role and purpose in the field of music by asking for instance what kind of a musical scene they want to be involved in building in the future, and how the student should aim to get his or her own musical message heard.”

The Sibelius Academy was one of the first institutions to develop an artistically oriented doctorate alongside the traditional scientific postgraduate programme. The first doctoral degree in the Arts Study Programme was completed in 1990, and between 2013 and 2017 the Sibelius Academy produced 66 doctorates in three programmes (see also Rikka Hiltunen’s article here). “Our Arts Study Programme offers an exceptional possibility for musicians to explore their art in more depth while fostering a research-oriented approach in a community including both artists and scholars. The academic and artistic level of applicants is constantly improving, and an increasing number of them are from abroad."

Several Finnish universities have sought to amalgamate music studies with other subjects, and the future of musicology is a cause for concern (see the article by Lasse Lehtonen here). Does this translate into pressure for the Sibelius Academy to invest more in research?

“It would appear that Finnish universities are increasingly reluctant to bear responsibility for musicology, and this means that we have an increasing responsibility for research. In addition to collaborating more closely with the University of Helsinki, we have plans to launch a Master’s degree programme in music studies ourselves in the near future,” says Hildén. 


Today, the Sibelius Academy is more international than ever. The number of applicants from abroad has doubled in the past five years, most of them coming from Asia and the USA. “In most departments, foreign students account for about one third of the total, but in some the figure is higher.” 

Hildén notes that the gender balance is quite good. Equality and non-discrimination are very high on the agenda and are discussed among both teachers and students. “Society at large still has a lot of work to do with equality and non-discrimination. The Sibelius Academy wants to be in the forefront in promoting these themes in the field of music.” 

Key figures


  • The number of annual applicants to the Sibelius Academy has increased steadily, from 1,361 in 2013 to 1,500 in 2017. In 2017, 447 of the applicants were from abroad; 47 of them were accepted. In all, the admission rate between 2013 and 2017 was 13% to 16% of applicants.
  • The percentage of foreign nationals in the teaching and research staff was 9.1% in 2015, 10.8% in 2016 and 10.2% in 2017.
  • In 2017, women account for 36% of professors, 40% of lecturers and 80% of other teaching staff at the Sibelius Academy; 65% of doctoral students and 56% of post-doctoral researchers are women.

Studies and degrees


The Sibelius Academy offers the following degrees:

Bachelor of Music (BMus) – 3 years
Master of Music (MMus) – 2.5 years
Licentiate of Music (LMus)
Doctor of Music (DMus)

- The Sibelius Academy has two faculties: the Faculty of Classical Music and the Faculty of Music Education, Jazz and Folk Music. 

- The faculties administer 13 Departments, which provide teaching in the various major subjects. The Departments are not completely isolated from one another; students and teachers may move freely between them. 

-In addition to students being able to customise their pathways at the Sibelius Academy, they may also take units organised by the other schools at the University of the Arts Helsinki – the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and the Theatre Academy.

- Basically, at least 50% of the units taken to complete a BMus or MMus degree should be selected from the curricula of the University of the Arts Helsinki, but there is also extensive cooperation with other educational institutions and universities in Finland and abroad. Students may also participate in exchange programmes, international projects and masterclasses.

Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

Featured photo: Mirka Malmi and Ilona Jäntti in Maija Hynninen's work Pix graeca (The MuTeFest 2015)