How to make study information more accessible to authorities, learners and the rest of society? Preliminary study finds two promising solutions

Higher education institutions accumulate large amounts of information on study attainments, degrees, enrolments and study rights. This information is needed daily by the learners themselves, but also by authorities, higher education institutions, statistics services and many other actors in society.

In spring 2023, the Digivisio 2030 programme launched a preliminary study on the basis of both its previous work and an initiative by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The preliminary study examined how to improve the accessibility of study information to various parties. Since 2014, study information has been compiled into the national VIRTA higher education achievement register, which is now nearing the end of its life cycle. The reform of the register is closely connected to the study information platform that is being developed by the Digivisio programme, a joint project of Finland’s higher education institutions.

The preliminary study was carried out jointly by experts from both Digivisio and the VIRTA register. It mapped current problems as well as wishes of stakeholders. It also outlined five options for replacing the VIRTA register.

Facing the challenges of slow data transfer and the need for new service contents

VIRTA higher education achievement register is owned by the Ministry of Education and Culture and maintained by CSC. It contains information on 1.3 million degree students. The register is used frequently: in 2022, 56 million searches were run on the VIRTA interface.

Various parties use the data stored on the VIRTA register. For example, KELA uses study information when making decisions on financial aid for students, whereas HSL uses it when granting student discounts for travel tickets. Higher education institutions and the Ministry of Education and Culture also use study information to support their own management. VIRTA is closely linked to the KOSKI service of the Finnish National Agency for Education. The KOSKI service combines information from different levels of education.

The data currently collected on the VIRTA register is not sufficient for future needs. For example, the register does not currently allow users to add descriptions of the competences gained from study attainments. Furthermore, the current solution is not optimal for maintaining the quality and commensurability of data. For example, the register updates too slowly: it might take multiple days for updated information to reach the end user. Another problem is the fact that updating the register requires the entire historical mass of data to be reuploaded every time.

Stakeholders provided advice for developing the new service

In spring 2023, the preliminary study group met stakeholders in workshops and meetings and collected their views for the reform of the register. A survey was also carried out in March, receiving responses from 32 higher education institutions and 9 data users.

Stakeholders made several suggestions for further development. For example, the new service could be expanded to include education and training that does not accumulate credits. Concepts should be used more consistently and the quality of data should be guaranteed at all stages. Unnecessary data transfers should be minimised. The transfer of data should also be faster and ideally happen in real-time. The reformed service should also include those higher education institutions that are not part of the current register.

Five proposed solutions to consider

The preliminary study group formulated five solution proposals for replacing the VIRTA higher education achievement register. All proposals would include Digivisio as a new actor and increase the role of the KOSKI service. Two of the proposals had the most strengths, and the working group therefore recommended that these be examined further.

Many good aspects were found in proposal 1, in which data on various higher education institutions’ study information systems such as Peppi and Sisu would be transferred and made available on Digivisio’s data platform. From there, the data would be forwarded to the KOSKI service. This solution most closely resembles the current model. Proposal 3 was also promising. In this proposal, the study information systems would write the information directly to Digivisio’s platform, from which the data would be transferred to the KOSKI service. Both proposals would take advantage of Digivisio’s possibilities and minimise data transfer. In the working group’s opinion, they should be examined in more detail.

The three remaining proposals, on the other hand, should be assessed critically. In proposal 2, study information would be transferred to Digivisio’s platform, but the KOSKI service would have a larger role, which could cause problems. In proposal 4, study information would be transferred to a data platform of an actor other than Digivisio, whereas in proposal 5, study information would be transferred directly to the KOSKI service. The working group considered that neither of these options complies with the principles of data transfer approved by the Digivisio General Assembly. They also contain other weaknesses, such as obstacles to the further processing of information.

Follow-up study has already begun

The preliminary study alone did not provide enough information for selecting the best replacement for the VIRTA higher education achievement register. In October 2023, the Ministry of Education and Culture launched a follow-up study for examining the costs, benefits and legal aspects of the various options in more detail.

Work on the follow-up study will continue until June 2024. Its progress can be monitored on the Wiki page and stakeholders will also be informed by email. If you have any questions, please contact or

The core group of the VIRTA-Digivisio preliminary study consisted of Aino-Kaisa Ellfolk from CSC’s VIRTA team and Leena Latva-Rasku and Matti Riihimäki from the Digivisio programme. In addition, the preliminary study was supported by a project group that also included Minna Pylkkönen, Helena Majamäki and Kimmo Rautio from the VIRTA team and Vilho Kolehmainen and Jorma Korkiakoski from the Digivisio programme.

More info

Read the entire VIRTA-Digivisio preliminary study (in Finnish) here »