The Proficiency in Swedish of Finnish-speaking University Students: Status and Directions for the Future

Åsa Palviainen

university students, written proficiency, swedish as a foreign language, civil service language proficiency certificate, language education policies in finland


All Finnish-speaking students in Finland are obliged to study Swedish at lower and upper secondary school. At university, students taking a degree must obtain a Civil Service Language Proficiency (CSLP) Certificate in Swedish, for which spoken and written proficiency corresponding to at least level B1 on the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) must be demonstrated, along with the proficiency necessary for the professional field in question. This article aims to empirically examine the extent to which university students demonstrate the requested level of written proficiency when entering university, and to discuss potential actions to meet the challenges of the current situation. A total of 490 university students participated in the study, representing seven faculties at a Finnish-speaking university. Those 490 students wrote an essay in Swedish when beginning a course leading to obtaining a CSLP Certificate; three independent raters evaluated all the essays according to the CEFR scale. The results show that 52.9 % of the essays were marked below B1. This article concludes by discussing the need for increased consistency in assessment procedures at all educational stages. Possible actions for improving general level of skills at lower and upper secondary schools are suggested, as is a reconsideration of the need for everyone to obtain the CSLP Certificate as part of university study.

Download as PDF

Print this page

Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies