As the year is coming to its end so is the first term of the Master's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning (USP). Students and staff of the programme share their experiences of the past few months of USP and what they are expecting the future to bring.

Ramia Mazé is a professor in Design Practices at Aalto University and teaches in the USP programme. As the programme is interdisciplinary she was expecting the start of the programme to be challenging, crossing disciplinary and institutional silos, however, she has been amazed by how well and fast breaking across structures and norms has happened. "That’s in great part due to the passion and commitment of the whole teaching group", she explains.

USP student Aino Suomalainen also emphasises the strong USP spirit that there is among the staff and students. "We have a bunch of very excited professors and students, great visitors on a daily basis, interesting and current themes, and various ways of learning and doing." According to her the interdisciplinary approach has been very enriching, and she has learnt a lot from different disciplines. She points out, however, that the students are not encouraged to lose their previous identity, but to complement it with other perspectives.

Aino did her bachelor's degree in sociology and now studies in the Peoples study track. The possibility of combining urban sociology and urban planning was exactly what she had wished for when she applied, and USP offered this approach. So far, the students have had courses about current topics in urban studies and planning, different methodologies, geoinformatics and an Urban Challenge Studio, which resulted in a publication.

USP GIS work

Map about how actively people use public space. This map was made during the geoinformatics course. The soft GIS data was collected by the students from their surroundings with an app called EpiCollect. All the students went outside to answer a questionnaire and from that data they composed maps. Map made by Aino Suomalainen.

As for the future Aino is looking forward to new connections and discussions, not to mention a study trip to China next spring. Professor Mazé has great expectations for new possibilities in teaching: "USP is a huge breakthrough program for implementing challenge-driven education in Aalto and in Finland, which is really exciting." According to her the students have responded well to this approach, and are not only demanding transdisciplinary approaches but also creating them themselves. "It will be really exciting to see how these expectations [for challenge-driven education] further unfold as Aalto joins the USP formally now and fully with students in autumn 2018!", Mazé concludes.

The highlight of this term for Aino has been founding the new student association of USP students called Mesta together with other students. "[It] was a step towards developing this Master’s programme from a student’s perspective and providing students different activities, international networks, and cooperation with other student associations in the urban field." One of Mesta's two presidents, Daria Tarkhova, is looking forward to the many plans that the organisation has in store: a seminar, podcast and movie nights to mention a few. Mesta also welcomes people who are not studying in the USP programme but share a common interest for all things urban as their members.

Learn more about the USP Programme:
•    Website:
•    Facebook:
•    Twitter: @USPHelsinki
•    Student Association Mesta on Instagram:

Are you interested in applying for the USP Programme at Aalto University? Check out the following websites:
•    M.Sc. Degree in Technology
•    M.Sc. Degree in Architecture
•    M.Sc. Degree in Landscape Architecture

In case you have questions, please contact us by email:
•    Admission process at the University of Helsinki: 
•    Admission process at Aalto University:
•    Curriculum: katariina.kosonen[at] or salla.jokela[at]
•    Student life: daria.tarkhova[at]