University of Helsinki: Interdisciplinary postgraduate degrees that address 21st century challenges
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University of Helsinki: Interdisciplinary postgraduate degrees that address 21st century challenges

Ansung Kim knows she made the right choice to study in Finland instead of the UK.

Several months before applying, the South Korean had not even considered studying in Finland. And she was already offered a place at universities in both the UK and Finland.

But once she started digging deeper into the University of Helsinki (UH) and its Masterʼs programme in Human Nutrition and Food-related Behaviour (HNFB), it was clear they were what she was looking for in an international education.

One, the course aligned closely with what she wanted to explore more about. Two, she really wanted to know what the famous Finnish education system is like.

“Why I choose to study my master’s degree here in UH is they provide a multidisciplinary programme. I studied Food and Nutrition and Psychology. I always wanted to combine these two areas and I found out UH provides such a wonderful programme,” she said.

Ansung is one of the many students at the University of Helsinki enrolled in a range of interdisciplinary postgraduate degrees that capture the 21st century zeitgeist.

The university is active in the resolution of global problems; their multidisciplinary research, teaching and learning of a high standard generate new knowledge and know-how for the benefit of humankind.

It is ranked within the top one percent of the world’s research universities. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020, it is among the top 100 institutions.

University of Helsinki

What this research prowess translates to for students is the merging of different fields of research into a curriculum that equips students with the skills needed to face the challenges to come in the next decade.

For example, there is a course called “The Health Promotion Project Work” in Ansung’s HNFB programme, which would be highly relevant in a world dealing with a global health pandemic, expanding populations, a climate crisis and so forth.

In this course, students get to participate in a real-life project that aims to write a health-promotion plan to a community.

Riitta Freese, a university lecturer in human nutrition who teaches on the programme said, “We had a collaboration with a small city in Finland, where the students planned a programme to control childhood obesity.”

Such courses prepare students like Ansung for “plenty of opportunities,” in the future, according to Riitta.

“The strength of the HNFB graduates is that they have skills related to nutritional science, food culture and food selection. They also know how all of these topics relate to individual and societal factors. This is useful for people who are interested in working, for example, in public health organisations or food companies,” she said.

“There are also opportunities to work in international settings – you could do research for some of the specialised agencies in the UN.”

Interdisciplinary postgraduate degrees

Another interdisciplinary Master’s programme at the university is the Master’s in Urban Studies and Planning (USP).

Urbanisation is a global phenomenon. Rapid urbanisation brings with it a host of opportunities and challenges, in addition to placing huge demands on infrastructure, services, job creation, climate and environment, notes PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The magnitude of such challenges implies that no single field of research or profession can tackle them alone: urban development requires an integrated approach as taken by Helsinki’s Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning (USP).

University of Helsinki

The specialisation courses in this programme 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.

Students will take part in common urban challenge studios, which integrate multiple expert areas to study and address contemporary urban phenomena from different perspectives.

Another area with exemplary multidisciplinary research at UH is materials, among the richest and most multidisciplinary fields in natural sciences.

Helsinki’s Master’s in Materials Research programme is based on physics, chemistry, biology and medical sciences, mathematics and computer science – very wide-ranging but all taught in a cohesive, self-contained way. Students will study biomaterials, nanomaterials, smart materials, polymers, composites, electronics, energy generation and storage as well as green and sustainable materials.

Without a doubt, to study at the University is to be part of a unique ecosystem that genuinely strives for a better, more connected world. Their postgraduate degrees will give you the tools to combat some of the world’s biggest challenges. And best of all, you will do so in one of the most liveable cities in the world.

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