Finnish Studies at the University of Toronto

Finnish Studies, housed in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto, is the largest, most comprehensive, and most highly regarded program dedicated to the study of Finnish language and culture in North America. It was established in 1989 as a result of an innovative partnership between U of T, the Finnish government, and the Canadian Friends of Finland (CFF), a not-for-profit organization committed to promoting friendship, understanding and cooperation between the people of Canada and Finland.

In October, 1990, the President of the Republic of Finland, Dr. Mauno Koivisto, visited the University of Toronto as part of his official visit to Canada. On this occasion, the University’s Provost’s Office announced its commitment to fund a “stipend teacher” in Elementary or Intermediate Finnish “as needed,” thus ensuring that the Program could offer the equivalent of four full courses per year.

In 1991, CFF established the Canadian Friends of Finland Education Foundation (CFFEF), a charitable organization, for the sole purpose of raising funds for the Finnish Studies Program at the University of Toronto.

The University then entered into an agreement with CFFEF according to which the latter agreed to contribute a certain percentage of the expenses of the three-way partnership between it, the Government of Finland and the U of T.

Professor Muhonen and students taking "Modern and Contemporary Finnish Architecture and Design" on a field trip to Toronto City Hall which is designed by Viljo Revell.
Interactive classroom

Why Study Finnish?


Click the image above to hear what some recent students have said about why they value studying Finnish at the U of T.

Finnish Studies Program Overview


The Finnish Studies Program is a major contributor to the study of Finland in North America.

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures offers courses in Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Macedonian, Polish, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian – one of the broadest ranges of Slavic and Finno-Ugric languages, literatures and cultures taught in North America, and one of the most truly integrated.

The Finnish Studies Program, established in 1989 with the installation of the distinguished scholar and translator Professor Börje Vähämäki, PhD, as its Director, is the only fully accredited degree program in Finnish in Canada. As an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts program, Finnish Studies provides instruction in the Finnish language – a three-year sequence together with a linguistics course and a translation course. It also offers other courses on Finnish literature and culture, including one devoted to the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, in addition to very popular film and folklore courses. Students also have the option of minoring in Finnish Studies, of auditing Finnish Studies courses or selecting them as electives. In 2009, as Dr. Vähämäki retired, Assistant Professor Pia Päiviö, PhD, assumed the Program Directorship until 2013, when Dr. Vähämäki was called upon to serve as an Interim Professor for one year. In 2014 The Program welcomed Dr. Anu Muhonen as Assistant Professor and Program Director. Professor Muhonen has championed fresh ideas and dynamic reforms, propelling the Finnish Studies Program to further excellence.

A Centre of Excellence in Finnish Studies

"The Finnish Studies Program’s reputation is earned by its consistently large enrolments, by its display of academic excellence and diversity, by its significant and meaningful contributions to the discipline of Finnish Studies and by its stimulating impact on the larger community in Ontario and Canada." (Centre for International Mobility, Finland, November 25, 2011)

From 1989 to 2012, the Finnish Studies Program has graduated more than 25 majors, several dozen minors, and has served well over 1000 students. Currently, the program averages 60-80 students and 5-10 auditors per year. Interestingly, Finnish Studies attracts a higher percentage of auditors compared to other programs in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Auditors - often mature students - do not receive credits, but do all the work required to complete the courses they take. Often lifelong learners, auditors bring a diverse set of perspectives that enrich the classroom experience.

Finnish Studies

As the program grew in numbers, so too did its reputation, such that in 2011, it was recognized by the Finnish Government’s Centre for International Mobility (CIMO) as a Centre of Excellence in advancing the study of Finnish language and culture abroad.

A significant measure of Finnish Studies’ success can be ascribed initially to Professor Börje Vähämäki’s inspirational direction, later to the significant enhancements made by Assistant Professor Pia Päiviö, and most recently to the dynamic streamlining by the current incumbent Program Director, Anu Muhonen.

Finnish Studies and members of CFFEF board in a lunch meeting with a Finlandia-prize awarded author Jussi Valtonen.

The Canadian Friends of Finland Education Foundation is a registered charitable organization (889034799 RR 0001) founded in 1990 for the sole purpose of supporting the Finnish Studies Program at the University of Toronto.

U of T Finnish Studies Program

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