I am learning to use economics and natural sciences as a tool to tackle environmental problems

At the University of Helsinki, you can combine economics with natural sciences, and get a comprehensive understanding of global issues. We talked to a student and a teacher in the Master’s Programme in Agricultural, Environmental and Resource Economics (AGERE) about customising your perfect degree.

Jamie Jenkins is a master’s student from Australia, who is studying the effect that militarisation has on local Arctic towns, sustainable development and Arctic ecosystems. Timo Sipiläinen, Professor of Agricultural Economics, specialises in researching farm businesses. He also teaches in the programme.

Who is the Master’s Programme in Agricultural, Environmental and Resource Economics for?

Timo Sipiläinen: “It’s for anyone interested in agriculture, sustainability and environmental issues in the context of economics. The AGERE programme helps you understand the mechanisms related to agricultural production and natural resources. For example, if you have a degree in economics and are interested in biology or natural sciences, you can learn to use them all to solve real-life problems.”

Jamie Jenkins: “The AGERE programme is for someone who likes to combine economics with something creative. My background is in finance and economics, but I felt passionate about environmental issues and wanted to learn how to solve these issues.

I searched online for different programmes. After doing some research on the University of Helsinki, I decided to apply. It’s quite rare that a university provides a master’s programme that allows you to study economics with such a strong focus on environmental issues and natural resources.

In the AGERE programme, I have learned a lot about climate change, fishery and forestry management and the protection of oceanic ecosystems. By teaching these things, the programme encourages you to use your expertise to do something about environmental problems.”

What is it like to study in the Master’s Programme in Agricultural, Environmental and Resource Economics?

Sipiläinen: “The programme has two study tracks, which means that you either specialise in agricultural economics or environmental and resource economics. In the study track of agricultural economics, where I teach, you get to look at for example the management of agricultural enterprises and design and effects of agricultural policies including also tools for econometric analysis. The teaching methods vary: we have lectures but a lot of group projects and independent work.”

Jenkins: “I specialise in environmental and natural resource economics. The courses are split into two parts. One main part is mathematical and economics based; where we solve many calculations and use programming software. The other main part focuses on environmental studies and has a lot of group projects, presentations and creative work. We learn to analyse real-life issues, such as environmental problems related to the Baltic sea and the effects climate change has on forestry.

There is a lot of independent work, but we often organise study sessions and complete exercises together. It’s nice to throw ideas around with the other students.”

What kind of career opportunities does the programme open?

Sipiläinen: “The AGERE programme offers a lot of career opportunities. Some graduates end up working in management or as specialists in big companies. Some found companies of their own. There are also many positions in policy work and consulting, both in Finland and internationally. For example, we have graduates working in the administration of the European Union and as researchers in international institutes like the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

The AGERE graduates have the advantage of understanding both economics and the field they choose. For example, if they specialise in agricultural economics, they know how agricultural production works. And if they choose the environmental and resource economics study track, they will learn about the challenges in environmental and resource policy. Both study tracks help to understand issues related to sustainability.”

Jenkins: “I haven’t decided yet what I am going to do after I finish my degree. I’m thinking about doing my PhD at the University of Helsinki or alternatively working within Finland. I would like to work as a researcher in a research institute.

“At the moment, I’m beginning to write my thesis on Arctic militarisation. I’m looking at how militarisation in local Arctic towns effectlocal development and sustainable growth. One area I am looking at is Russia, which has built new military bases, invested in icebreakers and conducted missile tests. All this has an effect on the Arctic and local development.

I’m writing my thesis in collaboration with the Aleksanteri Institute, which focuses on Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies. In general, it’s not common that you can do an interdisciplinary research project for your master’s thesis. It’s really valuable that the University of Helsinki provides this opportunity for students. You get to learn from people in other fields and faculties.”

What is the best thing about the programme?

Jenkins: “I have learned a lot about sustainability and environmental issues, and how to solve them. The programme teaches you to use economics as a tool to tackle global issues such as climate change and plastic pollution.

It has also been nice to be able to customise my degree to suit what interests me.  I mean, I am able to do my master’s thesis in collaboration with another faculty! The programme also provides a variety of different courses that relate to forestry, marine environments and the climate. I often feel that I am treated more as a professional than a student. The university gave me funding last summer to go to a two-week summer school in Japan. I went there to study the Arctic for my master’s thesis. It was really cool to get such an opportunity.”

What is it like to study and live in Helsinki?

Jenkins: “I have really been enjoying the small size of the classes. There are usually 10–15 people in each class, which enables us to participate more and discuss issues in depth. Many of my friends are from the AGERE programme. I also think that, at the University of Helsinki, you can easily connect with the teachers. You don’t just have to sit down and listen. Instead you can have real conversations with them. The other students and the teachers are very supportive and it has been easy to fit in here.”

“On my free time, I like to go hiking in national parks. Finland has a lot of them and I have been travelling around the country. I would like to go on a hiking trip up north to Lapland and see the autumn colours there. I’ve heard that it is really beautiful.”

“I enjoy many aspects of the Finnish culture and would like to work in Finland after I have finished my degree. I have been learning Finnish since I started my studies at the University of Helsinki. The only problem is that sometimes it’s hard to practise my language skills because everyone knows English so well! Luckily, I have been able to practise with some of my friends and I’m learning slowly, but surely.”