Choosing which university to go to is a complex process. In addition to deciding which subject, course, country or town, students have to sieve through hundreds of colleges and universities to find the one that’s best for them.
Searching for an answer to this would entail a long, multifarious process but for the interested social science scholar, the University of Helsinki presents a good example of what an ideal place to study this discipline should be.
Located in Finland’s capital, the Faculty of Social Sciences is among the leading multidisciplinary universities in the world. It’s the country’s leading research institute in the social sciences, and the nation’s most diverse social sciences faculty in terms of its selection of disciplines and fields of science.
The sheer breadth of disciplines makes Helsinki stand out. There are 13 disciplines altogether: development studies, economics, economic and social history, media and communication studies, political history, political science, practical philosophy, social and cultural anthropology, social and public policy, social psychology, social work and Sociology
The faculty also includes four other research units: the Centre for European Studies, the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy, the Centre for Consumer Society Research and the Centre for Research Methods and Social statistics.
Whether it’s at the undergraduate or postgraduate level, students benefit from teaching based on the specialised research the Faculty conducts on the phenomena in our changing world from global, European, national and local perspectives.
Helsinki’s dedication to “inquiry and life-long learning” instead of “grades and the marketability of skills” sets it apart from other comparable institutions, according to lecturer SM Amadae.
Amadae, who teaches World Politics and Political Science at the Faculty, explains this doesn’t mean the Faculty’s graduates do not progress to good jobs.
“The focus here is on the intrinsically interesting and rewarding activity of mastering knowledge,” he said.
Amadae might be on to something. Research have consistently shown that graduate outcomes are not the sole measure of the worth of education, grades are not the best way to motivate learning, and the skills needed to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution all revolve around interpersonal aptitude, cognitive adaptability and creativity.
At the Faculty, its social science courses are tailored to this end.
Professor Anna Kouvonen, teacher of Social Policy, explains how she ensures this for the Master’s in Contemporary Societies (COS):
“You need to have a broad understanding of how society works to really understand it, so you need breadth in your Master’s studies, which our courses give you. However, you also need in-depth knowledge of particular areas and issues of contemporary societies and our programme gives you that too.”
For COS students, this means diving into a multi-disciplinary, research-based Master’s programme focused on key themes in the dynamics of contemporary societies, both in a European and a global context. Lecturers, who are experts in their fields, guide students to build a portfolio which shows “solid expertise” in the analysis of contemporary societies without compromising learner interests and career goals, according to Kouvonen.
Indeed, this drive to mould students into experts in their chosen discipline informs every step of the educational process at Helsinki. In lecture halls, students learn from world-leading academics, developing and facilitating learning so students achieve maximum understanding of the subject.
“Our international teaching staff are research leaders in their fields and have long standing experience of teaching and working with multicultural student groups,” Kouvonen explains.
This spring, the university took the learning experience further by launching the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics, a joint unit established together with Aalto University and the Hanken School of Economics.
It’s seeks to increase both the quantity and quality of academic economic training and research, as well as to promote collaboration between economics and other disciplines.
“The aim is to improve both academic training and research in the field of public economics and thereby provide better information to support policy decisions concerning, for example, education system reforms, healthcare, job markets and taxation,” said Professor Roope Uusitalo DSc (Econ), a Professors of Public Economics at the graduate school.
This is a stimulating environment for academic discussions. From PhD candidates to Nobel Laureates, the faculty regularly hosts a range of talks and discussions by these figures, cultivating a vibrant culture of dialogue and debate among students and staff.
After all, the faculty is located at the heart of the social sciences in action. The faculty’s location in its City Centre Campus positions it near many potential employers: ministries, other important public institutions and NGO headquarters.
Breadth of disciplines? Check. Outstanding teaching? Check. Career support and guidance? Check. Start your journey as an expert in examining society at the University of Helsinki.