Finland's polytechnics are to offer postgraduate degrees for the first time.
A total of 53 degree programmes were submitted for a pilot assessment last October, but just 21 were approved.
The decision took into account not only the quality of the polytechnic and its teaching staff, but also the regional availability of higher education. Consequently, some of the better-known polytechnics in and around the capital Helsinki were excluded.
The education ministry has earmarked four main degree streams: business and commerce; social services and health promotion; the health sector; and technology and transport. A total of 300 students will be offered places each year.
The assessment board will evaluate the courses and publish its recommendations in 2005, when a decision will be taken either to expand or discontinue the postgraduate programme.
One detail remains unresolved: nobody knows what the graduates should be called. The issue has been debated since the plans for polytechnic postgraduate degrees were put forward, but no satisfactory solution has been found.
Education minister Maija Raski has argued that the key issue was not how the degree compared with other degrees but the fact that these graduates represented the highest level of expertise within their profession.
But she added that the postgraduate degrees gained at polytechnics should be of equal value to masters degrees gained at universities.