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University of Helsinki Department of Geography
Department of Geography

Venla Bernelius

PhD Student

Project Researcher

Department of Geography
PO Box 64 (Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2)
00014 University of Helsinki

Tel: +358 (0)9 191 50784


Click here for CV






2005 M.Sc., University of Helsinki. Major subject Geography (Urban Geography), minors Sociology, Statistics, Social Politics



University courses:

“Basic Methods in Geography”
“Introduction to Human Geography” (Open University)
“Research Methods in Human Geography”

+ various lectures for high school students and university freshmen


Research Interests

  • Urban geography
  • Urban segregation
  • Neighbourhood effects
  • Education as a geographical phenomenon
  • Urban policy
  • Geographical focus: Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Finland


Current Research Project

I am working on my Ph.D. Thesis, currently titled “Urban segregation, education and neighbourhood effects”. My project is part of a wider research program “Urban spatial differentiation and neighbourhood effects”. The research program, my project included, is financed by the Academy of Finland and led by professor Mari Vaattovaara (Urban Geography) and professor Matti Kortteinen (Urban Sociology).

The aim of my Thesis is to explore the possibility of neighbourhood effects in the Finnish context in order to provide more information about the effects of urban segregation. The main research question is, whether there are observable educational neighbourhood effects in the Helsinki metropolitan area – i.e. whether neighbourhoods have some independent effect on the residents’ outcomes when controlling the individual characteristics of the residents. Besides the theoretical interest, this information is politically important, since some indicators point towards a possible increase in socio-spatial segregation in the area. The current body of European, and particularly Finnish, studies on this subject is small and no definite conclusions can be drawn from the existing research evidence. Better scientific understanding on this field is crucial in finding sound political solutions to social problems.

The focus of this research is on education, because education is one of the most powerful factors in defining the life chances and welfare of an individual in the information society. The thesis will consist of several independent articles, the first of which concerns neighbourhood effects in the secondary schools in Helsinki. I use mainly quantitative methods to explore the possibility of neighbourhood effects, but some qualitative methods are also needed in order to provide better insight into the mechanisms that play a central role in the formation of possible neighbourhood effects. The thesis is calculated to be finished by the end of 2009.

My Master’s Thesis laid the groundwork for my current research project. The Thesis was titled “Are educational outcomes real estate? A study of the connection between urban segregation and educational outcomes in public schools, and the effects of the public school market in Helsinki”. The thesis, written in Finnish, explored the relationship between urban segregation and school segregation. The central finding was that even in the egalitarian Nordic welfare country with high-quality public schools, the location of the school plays a central part in the formation of educational outcomes through selection of students. The thesis was awarded with Helsinki Award for a laudable Master’s Thesis.


Other Interests

My great passion has always been literature, although my own writing tends to lean on the non-fiction side at the moment… (Non-fiction doesn’t have to be uninteresting, though. As Mark Twain put it: “Truth is stranger than Fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.”) Besides reading, I waste my free time on dogs, especially behaviour studies and competitive obedience, and growing orchids in a small scale in our home. My long-time dream has been to start fencing, but my social life and other hobbies have always been on the way. If the situation continues as it is, my only hope is that someone will start a fencing class for pensioners when I retire.