Political science

YK:n turvallisuusneuvoston hätäistunto Syyrian tilanteesta 7.4.2017 Photo: Manuel Elias, UN

The discipline of political science explores the exercise and legitimisation of political power. Those who pursue and exercise power include candidates in elections, members of political leadership bodies, heads of state, appointed leaders in the public sector, government employees, political parties, interest groups, large companies, states and international organisations. At the University of Helsinki, teaching in political science is divided into two study tracks: political and organisational studies and world politics.

Research in political science examines global and international as well as national and local issues. Research topics include phenomena within the public and governmental sphere, such as elections and referenda, and political institutions from the UN and EU to nation states and municipalities. The discipline also investigates political opinions, parties, non-governmental and labour market organisations, civic movements, and the political activities of Finnish and international companies. In addition, research in political science analyses anything from gender equality to populism.

Research in political science has a vivid connection to social philosophy as well as ideological and conceptual history when discussing the field, nature, ethics and other features of politics. At the University of Helsinki, political science is based on a pluralist philosophy and encompasses empirical statistical research as well as social criticism and interpretative research that applies more recent approaches.

What is political science?

The Finnish (and Swedish) name of the discipline of political science at the University of Helsinki, yleinen valtio-oppi (allmän statslära), is based on the German Allgemeine Staatslehre. The discipline also studies the political aspects of governance and organisations as well as international relations, which are often distinguished from political science and treated as separate disciplines in other countries.

A broad and changing field of research

As an academic discipline, political science is rooted both in social philosophy and in the needs of the late 19th century to educate civil servants for the service of the modern state. However, the areas of research within political science has since expanded considerably. With changes in Finland and the world, research in political science has taken on new issues and phenomena. Current research explores such topics as supranational integration, terrorism, the rise of populism and the effects of social media on democracy. The state, political institutions, public power and international relations have remained subjects of research throughout the discipline’s history. 

Political and organisational studies encompasses politics and governance in the broad sense. The research also examines democracy, political ideologies, comparative politics, political philosophy, and the theories and concepts of politics. Another research topic is the European Union.

Research in world politics examines diplomacy and the formation of the foreign policy of various countries and other actors, the causes of peace, political violence and war, as well as the development of a global political economy and its co-management. Research in world politics covers a wider area than just “international relations”. The focus is not only on international or global politics, but also on political circumstances which permeate or transgress the boundaries of traditional political communities.

Permanent teaching and research staff in political science focus on research topics including the following:

  • Political participation and voter behaviour
  • Institutions of politics and governance
  • Democracy and equality
  • Public policies and their instruments, effects and assessment
  • National and global civic movements and organisations
  • Gender and politics
  • Political communication
  • Global political economy
  • Theory of world politics

For more information about research and grant-funded researchers, see the University of Helsinki research portal.

Head of Discipline:  Riikka Kuusisto, DSSc

Director of the Master's Programme in Politics, Media and Communication: university lecturer S.M. Amadae

  • Digital Humanities of Public Policy-Making, Kone Foundation, research project, leader Pertti Ahonen, 2015–2017
  • Policy instrumentit ja globaali hallinta, Academy of Finland, academy project, leader Tero Erkkilä, 2013–2018
  • Health and Political Engagement, Academy of Finland, academy project, leader Mikko Mattila, 2013–2017
  • Intraparty competition: The neglected dimension of electoral politics (IntraComp), Academy of Finland, forskningsprojekt, ledare Åsa von Schoultz, 2018
  • Diaspora: Politiskt beteende i den finlandssvenska diasporan, Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland, forskningsprojekt, ledare Staffan Himmelroos, 2019–2022
  • Contention or Consensus? Policy Networks of Climate Change in Finland in a Comparative Perspective, Kone Foundation, project, leader Tuomas Ylä-Anttila, 2014–2018

Research projects in political science

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Political scientists publish actively in the Politiikasta.fi online journal of the Finnish Political Science Association.

Finnish and international blogs in political science and its sub-fields:

Personal blogs by political scientists:

Political scientists are actively involved in the academic and wider communities

  • Our researchers participate in the applied research and development projects of various funders (e.g., Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Ministry of Justice, Prime Minister’s Office and Finnish Innovation Fund SITRA) as well as international development projects.
  • Our researchers are actively involved in Finnish and international scholarly organisations and their governing bodies as well as the editorial bodies and referee activities of international scholarly journals.
  • Our researchers participate in a broad range of expert assignments at the University of Helsinki, in scientific administration and in Finnish and international politics.
  • Many of our experts also participate in political parties, trade unions and professional organisations as well as in various non-governmental activities.
  • Our experts have a high profile as analysts and commentators in the media. Many are also active in social media.
  • For information about our events, press releases and media coverage, see the Faculty of Social Sciences website.

Postal and street ad­dress for political science

PB 54 (Unionsgatan 37)
00014 Helsingfors universitet
Tel. 0294 1911 (universitetets växel)

Infor­mation for me­dia

Contact details of communications staff