Masters from abroad

Freshmen in, Masters out. This is the manner in which university studies have usually progressed in Finland. Then again, in North America and the United Kingdom in particular, it has long been the norm to complete Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in different universities. Today, this is an increasing trend also at the University of Helsinki.

“For ideas and their dissemination, this is a very good thing. There is no reason to get stuck in a rut. We must encourage our Bachelors to boldly consider whether our offerings are suitable to them, or whether they would be better off by pursuing Master’s degree studies elsewhere,” says Esko Koponen, a specialist at Strategic Services for Teaching.

According to Koponen, this is how students elsewhere think, which makes the University of Helsinki believe that its campuses will still attract newcomers in the future. In connection with the Big Wheel education reform, all faculties and degree programmes have given consideration to which studies would be practical to implement entirely or partly in English. Naturally, Finnish students are also eligible.

In today’s world, nothing is stable and static, and the University must be able to create environments that facilitate creativity. We want to offer international students what we are good at and what is in demand, while at the same time further improve our offerings.

Next autumn, altogether 33 international Master’s degree programmes will be operational at the University of Helsinki. Most of them are at the Viikki and Kumpula Campuses, but English-language programmes are also available in humanities and social sciences. The Master’s Programme in European and Nordic Studies led by Juhana Aunesluoma and the Master’s Programme Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age led by Matti Miestamo are prime examples. The Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning, led by Professor of Urban Geography Mari Vaattovaara, is jointly operated by the Faculties of Science, Biological and Environmental Sciences, Social Sciences and Arts, as well as Aalto University.

Admissions for international Master’s programmes are based on certificates. Primary admissions criteria are prior studies and the student’s performance in those studies, but grades are not the only thing valued by the programmes.

“In addition to academic qualifications, applicants must be very motivated. Motivation is difficult to measure, but a mechanical review of applications is not sufficient,” states Koponen.

Competition between programmes is tough –  Koponen points out that in English alone, there are tens of thousands of options all over the world. Students completing their Master’s degree studies usually already know what they want, choosing primarily on the basis of content and quality. On a general level, Finland’s reputation as a model for education is a boon for the University of Helsinki, but university rankings also matter – even though opinions on their measurements vary greatly. In all of the central rankings, however, the University of Helsinki ranks among the top 100.

“Quality is difficult to compare, and if you are not familiar with a university, many turn to the rankings.”

It would of course be beneficial to Finland if experts from abroad stayed in the country after completing their Master’s degree. Staying is not always easy even when one wants to stay, since fluency in the Finnish language is often a requirement in Finland, even though in practice, a little less than perfect language skills would suffice. According to Koponen, the assimilation of foreign students to Finland would be easier if businesses would already provide students of international Master’s programmes thesis topics during their studies.

“Such offers would be welcomed with open arms,” says Koponen.