Goal of the programme
Urbanization is a global phenomenon that determines the future of our societies. Most of the key challenges of contemporary societies are encountered and addressed in cities. Cities provide enormous economic, technical and cultural opportunities, but they are also places of social conflicts and segregation as well as environmental and health problems. The magnitude of such challenges implies that no single field of research or profession can tackle them alone. Urban development requires an integrated approach. To this end, two prominent Finnish universities, Aalto University and University of Helsinki, have joined forces in this unique and interdisciplinary master’s programme. This admission track is for students aiming for the Master of Science (nat. sci., environ. sci.), Master of Arts (humanities) or Master of Social Sciences degree at the University of Helsinki.
General Knowledge and Skills
After completing a degree in the master’s programme in Urban Studies & Planning, the student can:
- Excel as a professional capable of understanding and addressing complex urban development challenges
- Identify theories, concepts and empirical research methods relevant to urban studies and planning from related fields of social sciences, humanities, ecology, engineering, architecture, design and art
- Demonstrate a working understanding of the role of urban government, policy-making and planning in urban development
- Critically and creatively pose and answer significant research questions relevant not only within but across multiple fields of theory and practice
- Gather, process and develop relevant conclusions based on information from multiple sources
- Produce, collect and analyse cases and data relevant to urban phenomena
- Use digital and other tools to collect, analyse and share data
- Develop responses to urban problems using relevant tools and techniques for representing, modeling, prototyping, testing and evaluating solutions
- Understand and develop integrated approaches within and across urban research and applied planning
- Communicate understanding of and responses to urban phenomena visually, graphically, verbally and in writing
- Write academic, professional and popular texts on urban themes based on relevant literature
- Apply and develop skills for co-production of knowledge and co-design
- Work productively and cooperatively in multidisciplinary, multiprofessional and international environments
Knowledge and Skills Related to Specializations and Professions
After completing a degree in the master’s programme in Urban Studies & Planning, the student can:
- Apply general knowledge and skills introduced, developed and demonstrated within courses and thesis work
- Situate urban analyses and proposals in relation to his/her specialization as well as contextualize them in relation to others
- Identify, differentiate and articulate relations among various theories and methods relevant to his/her own specialization
- Develop and reflect on his/her competence in urban studies and planning in relation to his/her professional role
- Carry out independent research on urban issues in his/her field using relevant adequate research methods and responsible scientific practice
- Analyse phenomena and develop solutions through the use of digital and other tools, such as GIS and CAD
- Demonstrate competence to work as a professional and/or researcher in urban studies and planning
- Communicate professionally and constructively with different experts, practitioners and stakeholders in the field of urban studies and planning
- Articulate his/her professional identity in terms of established and emerging roles relevant to urban studies and planning
Further information about the studies on the Master’s programme website.
Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries, who do not have a permanent residence status in the area and pursue their studies in English, are liable to pay tuition fees. You can check from FAQ at the Studyinfo website whether or not you are required to pay tuition fees.
Find out more about the Be 1* of the Best Scholarship Programme.
Information on the languages of instruction
All teaching is given in English. Exams can also be taken in Finnish or Swedish, and the Master’s thesis can be written in English, Finnish or Swedish.
The Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning prepares students to excel as professionals capable of understanding and addressing complex urban development challenges. Students learn to address such challenges through a curriculum and pedagogical approach that includes interdisciplinary breadth as well as depth in core areas of knowledge, skill and practice. The program balances theoretical, historical and conceptual knowledge with the acquisition of methods, skills and experiences. Thus, students gain a broad understanding of urban phenomena as well as practical experiences in collaborative and concrete situations. This is the basis both of the structure of the programme and of elements in the curriculum.
Taking full advantage of the joint university structure, the program joins leading expertise from the University of Helsinki and Aalto University into three major study lines. Signature elements in the program are studios crossing the study lines to address urban challenge themes. Themes relate to current and urgent contemporary issues articulated not only in Finland but on the European and global scale, including controversies intrinsic to urbanization. Urban challenge themes may be attached to focus areas, research projects or collaborations within our universities, municipalities and regions in order to provide a constructive and critical framework for study and practice. Urban challenge themes are transdisciplinary and trans-professional, uniting the core areas as joint effort towards a common challenge and emphasizing an outward and forward-looking perspective.
Selection of the study track
The programme combines several degree options from Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. The target degrees are listed in the section “Qualifications”. The target degree is to be selected in the application process, and the application should be directed to the suitable university and according to the target degree. The applicability of previous studies is assessed according to the selected target degree.
For example, a student aiming for a M.Soc.Sc degree at the University of Helsinki has to have suitable previous studies to qualify for the target degree, and the application has to be made for the University of Helsinki. The chosen target degree cannot be changed.
After the initial choice of the target degree, students will choose their study line (USP Plans/Peoples/Systems). The chosen study line cannot be changed. There are three study lines in the Master’s programme in Urban Studies & Planning:
Urban Planning and Design
Urban Planning and Design (USP Plans) addresses urban development by integrating the knowledge, skills and pedagogical approaches of planning and design and by developing synergies across multiple disciplines. The constructive power of design to imagine, structure, visualise and communicate is combined with analytical rigour and a critical understanding of planning and urban governance history, methodologies and tools. USP Plans develops and deepens such skills while advancing your professional capabilities through challenge-based learning within concrete cases, multi-disciplinary collaboration, and learning-by-doing experimentation. USP Plans is oriented towards planners, architects, landscape architects, and spatial, service and strategic designers.
Urban Life, Economy and Cultures
Urban Life, Economy and Cultures (USP Peoples) addresses urban development by integrating analysis of socio-economic, digital and physical structures with planning. Theories and methodologies from the social and political sciences are explored and applied. The focus is on socio-spatial dynamics changes, including influences of policies and markets, actors and structures, decision-making processes, social mixing and demographics. The study line also introduces the historical layers of urban life and urban environment as lived space. USP Peoples deepens your knowledge of foundational studies while advancing your professional capabilities through challenge-based and collaborative learning, including situated municipal and field studies. USP Peoples is oriented towards developing abilities to conduct scientific research in the field of Urban Studies. As the research is linked with problems in urban policies and planning, the study line is oriented not only towards researchers but also to planners, urban economists and managers and those interested in urban humanities.
Urban Ecologies and Systems
Urban Ecologies and Systems (USP Systems) addresses urban development by integrating fundamental concepts of ecological and computational systems thinking. This includes future-oriented methodologies for studying, assessing, planning, designing and simulation of ecological resilient, technological innovative and complex adaptive urban systems. It applies systems approaches to identify multi-dimensional planning, while retaining a holistic perspective on the complex and dynamic urban layers affecting multiple scales. USP Systems develops your understanding of foundational studies while advancing your professional capabilities through challenge-based and collaborative learning. Advanced data informed analysis, simulation and modeling, including ecological and environmental science, will lead to an interconnectedness of data and knowledge. USP Systems is oriented towards planners, engineers, architects, landscape architects, and environmental managers.
The requirement for completing the Master’s programme in Urban Studies and Planning is 120 credits (ECTS), which can be done in two years. The curriculum consists of:
Core Urban Challenge Studios (20 credits)
Common urban challenge studios integrate multiple expert areas to study and address contemporary urban phenomena from different perspectives. Here you will explore urban challenge themes theoretically from different perspectives and you will address them practically within specific cases, sites or initiatives. Your teachers represent key disciplines and professions, and your studies will be conducted in cooperation with partners in research and municipalities. Examples of urban challenge themes include:
- Urban economies and the challenge of governance and welfare
- Social integration and the challenge of urban typologies and heritage
- Liveability and the global challenge of fast-paced cities
- Socio-Ecological habitats and the challenge of densification
- Place-making and the challenge of creating attractive urban environments
Specialisation coursework (20 credits)
The three study lines (USP Plans/Peoples/Systems) offer courses for you to specialise within one of the three competence areas in the broad field of urban studies and planning. Both universities offer courses for each study line; these can be adapted to support your advancement, background knowledge and skills. The courses cover topics such as urban geography, urban sociology, urban ecology, urban economics, urban ethnology and history, environmental policy, urban planning, urban design, landscape architecture, real estate economics, service and strategic design, etc.
Core skills and methods coursework (20 credits)
Core skills for thesis research and professional practice are offered as basic courses. These include skills relevant to digital representation, analysis and communication, modalities and techniques of communication and argumentation, research methods and methodologies of academic research. You will learn, for example, how to use digital tools to analyse and study urban phenomena and how to illustrate your ideas and solutions visually and graphically. You will also become familiar with the theories and tools of communication and argumentation, and you will study and apply research methods.
Electives (30 credits)
You can select elective courses according to your personal study plan. You can select electives to deepen your knowledge in a specialisation or broaden your exposure to additional areas relevant to planning. For architects and landscape architects, some electives will guide your development according to the EU directive or other requirements for these professions. You can also take courses at other Finnish universities, in a student exchange abroad, or in an internship in city planning and development.
Master’s Thesis (30 credits)
Your Master’s thesis in the Urban Studies and Planning programme can take one of several forms: an independent scholarly research project; a directed thesis within a larger research project in one of the universities; or a professionally-oriented thesis developed in the context of a cooperating partner. In particular, you are encouraged to build upon your work in the urban challenge studios, which will provide a context for collaboration and guidance. Particularly in the studios, you can research and write a thesis together with another student or students. In all cases, your thesis must be original, creative work conceived and developed by you. We recommend that supervision for your thesis includes at least three experts from two or more of the study lines, and that the subject of your thesis should be relevant across two or more study lines.
The programme prepares you to be a professional in a field that is meaningful, growing and in demand. You will acquire the knowledge, skills and experience needed to fill both traditional and emerging planning roles (such as urban planning and design, real estate development, strategic planning, environmental planning, landscape architecture, policy and service design). To these established or emerging roles, you will bring an integrated understanding of, and training in applying, more interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to urban development. As a graduate you will be prepared to compete for local and international positions within public, private and non-profit organisations, planning, architectural and policy advisory firms, research institutes and NGOs.
The program offers different degrees from two universities – from the University of Helsinki Master of Science (nat. sci., environ. sci.), Master of Arts (humanities) and Master of Social Sciences, and from Aalto University Master of Science (Architecture), Master of Science (Landscape Architecture) and Master of Science (Technology) – that ensure sufficient expertise to work in established and emerging expert roles in urban development in the public and private sectors, in Finland and internationally.
This admission track at the University of Helsinki is for students aiming for the Master of Science (nat. sci., environ. sci.), Master of Arts (humanities) or Master of Social Sciences degree at the University of Helsinki. The applicant’s previous studies are evaluated on how well they suit to these research-oriented studies, and for example, writing a master’s thesis that is required at the end of the studies.
You may apply if you meet the following three requirements:
- You have completed by 31 July 2019 a first-cycle degree (e.g., bachelor’s degree) or second-cycle degree (e.g., master’s degree) or a postgraduate degree in Finland or abroad.
- You have completed or will complete studies required for the master’s programme by 11 January 2019. Below are more details concerning applicable studies.
- You are able to demonstrate your proficiency in English, Finnish or Swedish (Updated 18/12/2018: Finnish and Swedish added). For further instructions on demonstrating your language skills, see the section “Required enclosures”.
If you are currently or have previously been a student at the University of Helsinki, please note the following rules.
If you have refugee status or are in a refugee-like situation, and you do not have the official documents to prove your eligibility to apply for higher education, you can still apply to the University of Helsinki.
You may be admitted if
- You prove your eligibility (see above) by the deadline
- You submit the application and the required attachments within the specified deadline. The application form is open from 3 December 2018 (8:00h Finnish time) to 11 January 2019 (15:00h Finnish time). Read more about what will happen after the application period.
- You have a first-cycle degree in architecture, ecology, history, urban and regional planning, real estate economics, cultural studies, geography, landscape architecture, design, social research or economics, or another applicable degree, which includes studies essential to the programme.
Please note: even if the degree you are using as grounds for application is not completed during the application round, you must have a sufficient amount of applicable studies completed by 11 January 2019.
Together with their application, applicants must submit officially certified copies of certificates on all previously completed studies that serve as the basis for their application.
The applicability of the field and the sufficiency of the completed studies will be evaluated in conjunction with admission. The University of Helsinki does not provide any preliminary evaluation on the suitability of the applicant’s previous studies.
Choosing the language of your Master’s degree
In the Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning, you can choose the language of your degree to be Finnish, Swedish or English. This means that even though most of the teaching will be offered in English, you can answer examination questions and write course assignments and your Master’s thesis in the language that you select as the language of the degree. Please note that you can apply to pursue this Master’s programme in one language only and you must demonstrate your language skills accordingly. You must select the language of your degree when submitting your application.
Choosing a study track
The Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning has three study tracks:
- Urban Planning and Design (USP Plans)
- Urban Life, Economy and Cultures (USP Peoples)
- Urban Ecologies and Systems (USP Systems)
The applicants must select their study track on the application form. You can select only one study track.
Factors affecting admissions
Your success in the selection process will be influenced by the evaluation of your academic performance; the focus will be on the amount, quality and grades of completed studies that are applicable to the field, your academic or professional portfolio as well as your motivation letter and the study plan contained in it.
In the admission procedure, your application will be scored in the following four categories:
- Applicability of your previous studies
- Academic performance in the studies serving as the grounds for your application
- Your motivation letter (as part of the application form)
The letter of motivation must contain a description of how the applicant’s previous studies and other experience relevant to the field provide a good foundation for completing a degree in the Master’s programme. The motivation letter and analysis of previous studies form part of the admission criteria and when writing them you must answer the provided questions. They are part of the application form.
All applicants must also attach to their application a portfolio. Please see the portfolio instructions here.
When applying the applicants must specify the degree they apply for: Master of Arts (Faculty of Arts); Master of Science (Faculty of Science or Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences) or Master of Social Sciences (Faculty of Social Sciences). The applicants can select only one degree they apply for. The applicants must also select their study track on the application form.
If several applicants have completed studies applicable to the programme, but not all can be accommodated in the programme’s quota, the applicants will be compared against each other, and the most qualified will be admitted. The programmes need not fill their student quotas to the maximum. The University of Helsinki does not provide any preliminary evaluation on the suitability of the applicant’s previous studies.
If in this round of admissions you are applying for more than one Master’s programme at the Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki, you must rank them in order of preference on your application form. If you could be admitted to more than one programme, you can only be admitted to the one you have ranked the highest.
The Master’s programme admits no more than 30 students regardless of their selected language of degree and application option.
Applicants will be informed of the results of the student selection by 12 April 2019 at the latest. Please note the one study place per term provision if you are applying for more than one study programme in spring 2019.
Study right to be awarded
If you are admitted, you will be granted the right to pursue one of the following degrees: the degree of Master of Arts (Faculty of Arts); Master of Science (Faculty of Science or Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences); Master of Social Sciences (Faculty of Social Sciences) in the Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning. You must select the degree you are applying for when completing the application form.
The student places will be distributed between the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Arts in accordance with the background and study plans of the applicants. The right to study granted to each applicant will depend on the faculty.
Statistics on applicants can be found on the University’s webpage.
The application must be accompanied by the following documents, and the documents must be submitted as instructed below:
- Official photocopy of the degree certificate/diploma
- Official transcript
- Diploma supplement (if available)
- Certificate of language proficiency
- Authorised translations into English, Finnish or Swedish
- A photocopy of your passport, your official identity card or your Finnish residence permit card
- Motivation letter and study plan (to be filled in on the application form)
1) Read carefully the instructions on application enclosures and their submission.
2) You must demonstrate your proficiency in English. Read the instructions on proving your language skills.
3) If the degree serving as grounds for application to the programme is still incomplete, you need not submit a degree certificate/diploma with the application documents. If you are admitted, the admission decision will be conditional, and you will receive instructions with your letter of admission for submitting the official degree certificate/diploma. NB! The final degree certificate/diploma must be presented by 14 August 2019 at the latest.
|Due date||11.1.2019, 15:00|
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