Our history

The three Uniarts Helsinki academies have roots deep in Finnish art education and the history of art. Read our story.

Merger of the arts universities

Uniarts Helsinki was founded when the Academy of Fine Arts, the Sibelius Academy and the Theatre Academy merged in 2013. Prior to the merger, the need for an arts university had been under discussion for a long time. As early as the 1980s, the Pasila Project included a plan to build a new complex in the Pasila district of Helsinki for the Sibelius Academy, University of Art and Design and Theatre Academy. The merger of the arts universities was topical throughout the 2000s.

In 2010, the Ministry of Education and Culture published a report on how to enhance the role of the arts universities in strengthening the quality, impact, and international competitiveness of the Finnish arts and culture sector. In November 2011, the boards of the Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy and Theatre Academy approved the merger. The actual merger took place in early 2013.

Long-running traditions

The three academies of Uniarts Helsinki have roots deep within the Finnish art education and history of art.

The earliest predecessor of the Academy of Fine Arts (former name Finnish Academy of Fine Arts) was the drawing school of the Art Society of Finland, which opened in 1848. Many of Finland’s most noted artists of both national and international fame studied at this school, including Albert Edelfelt, Axel Gallén, Helene Schjerfbeck and Ellen Thesleff.

From 1939 onwards, the academy operated under the Finnish Art Academy Foundation as the Finnish Art Academy School. In 1985, it became state-owned and was renamed the Academy of Fine Arts. The Academy of Fine Arts became an institution of higher education in 1993, and in 1998, it became a university.

The Sibelius Academy was established as the Helsinki Music Institute in 1882 through a private initiative. One of the students was Jean Sibelius, who later became a world-famous composer and the institute’s figurehead.

In 1924, the institute’s name was changed to the Helsinki Conservatory of Music. In 1939, the name Sibelius Academy was introduced. The Sibelius Academy became state-owned in 1980 and a university in 1998.

The roots of the Theatre Academy (former name Theatre Academy Helsinki) date back to Finland’s first theatre school, which operated in connection with the Swedish Nya Teatern from 1866 to 1868. The Swedish-speaking theatre school, Svenska Teaterskolan, was established in 1908 in connection with Svenska Teatern. From 1904 to 1940, Finnish-speaking actors were trained at the Student School of the Finnish National Theatre and at the private Finnish Stage School. In 1943, the Finnish Theatre School began training students.

The Theatre Academy was established in 1979, when the Finnish and Swedish theatre academies were merged into a single national, bilingual institution.