Finland's 30 polytechnics are to offer postgraduate degrees for the first time from autumn 2002 in a bid to boost industry.
The ministry of education, together with the assessment board in higher education, will consider applications by polytechnics to grant the degrees.
The pilot programme will end in July 2005, after which the impact of the courses on the labour market will be assessed.
Postgraduate courses are aimed at polytechnic as well as university graduates who have had at least three years' work experience in their field since graduating.
The courses, which run for 40 to 60 weeks, put an emphasis on practical applications and will be established in fields that are experiencing severe staff shortages, such as the health sector.
Courses on offer include care of the elderly and the long-term sick, as well as a health promotion option.
The technology sector, which also suffers a persistent lack of suitably qualified staff, will be given an extra boost with the introduction of two programmes designed to tackle the areas with the greatest shortages.
This link with the labour market will in fact be one of the key criteria that any institute applying will have to meet.
Previously, polytechnic graduates who wanted to continue their studies could only do so at universities.
Polytechnics that wish to apply will have to demonstrate how their proposed postgraduate degree courses will benefit the labour market, for example by giving a detailed plan of the practical execution of a job-related research project.
A course outline, with details of how students who wish to continue working while studying for their degree can combine the two, must also be supplied.
Institutes must submit their applications by the end of October 2001.
There are more than 122,000 polytechnic students in Finland and 158,000 students at the country's 20 universities.