SUB ry
Student organization for students of English philology

Academic Affairs



The purpose of this page is to provide students of English Philology with information on the Big Wheel as well as details on other upcoming changes affecting studies at the University of Helsinki.

ON THE BIG WHEEL | Petteri Konkola 26.03.2017

So, the Big Wheel is rapidly approaching us, with the University of Helsinki making both minor and major changes to its ways on faculty, department and unit levels alike starting from the Fall of 2017. As one of the Studies reps of SUB ry, I feel like I should aim to clear some of the mysteries surrounding the upcoming education reform. Therefore, I will be trying to write about the Big Wheel in a somewhat simplified manner in this text, hoping to ignore some of the university politics and the more intricate nuances of the reform.

As all of you are probably aware, our department, the Department of Modern Languages, held a Big Wheel-themed briefing on Wednesday the 22nd of March. Although the lecture hall wasn't exactly short of empty seats (perhaps due to the early morning date), I was nonetheless very pleased to see some of our fellow Subbers there, diligent as always.

The briefing itself was a very standard university info-session, consisting of a Powerpoint presentation as well as the presenters answering any possible questions coming from the audience. Being perhaps slightly more familiar with the reform a priori due to my post as a Studies rep, I found the presentation to be both coherent and informative. Some members of the English staff were present as well, which was nice.

Since the briefing held in English hasn't been held yet, some of the terms used in this text may be subject to change. Please note that in my discussing of the changes, I am observing them on a very general level - if you wish to know more or are concerned with your personal situation, you can always contact the student services. Keep in mind, though, that some of the changes are still being finalised and thus coverage of the changes has deliberately been low-key. Furthermore, all students of the Faculty of Arts will receive a letter detailing the Big Wheel and the transition later this spring.

With that being said, I have complied a list of the biggest changes brought by the Big Wheel below, focusing chiefly on those affecting the Faculty of Arts. I'll start with the Bachelor's Degree changes, then provide an overview of the Master's Degree changes, and end the text with a rumination on the transition. Before that, however, a short Q&A might be appropriate.

Q: What is the Big Wheel?

A: The upcoming (Fall 2017) education reform. Its main purposes are to make cross-faculty studies more plausible/possible/attractive to students and to transform studies into 'modules', chiefly by regulating the credits courses provide to students.

Q: I'm a 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/Xth year Bachelor's student. Is the Big Wheel transition forced on me?

A: No. You have until 01.08.2020 to complete your old Bachelor's Degree. After having completed the old Bachelor's Degree, you can enter either the new Master's Degree Programmes (or the old one, until 01.08.2020, but this is unwise). For additional information, contact the student services or unit lectors.

Q: I'm a 1st/2nd/3rd/4th year Master's student. Is the Big wheel transition forced on me?

A: No. You have until 01.08.2020 to complete your old Master's Degree. For additional information, contact the student services or unit professors.

Q: Since the Big Wheel is coming about next year and I don't want to transition into it, how do I complete my studies? Are the old classes being held?

A: Honestly, it's difficult to say at this point. Book exams and essays will most likely be used for some courses over lectures and a final exam. This is in part due to the university budget cuts - it is difficult to find teachers for both old and new courses. More information will most likely be provided by the English unit at a later date. Remember that some information on WebOodi regarding next year's studies may be outdated.

Q: How do I know if I should transition into the Big Wheel programmes?

A: This is also difficult to say, at this juncture. The Faculty of Arts will be providing some information on what are the most favourable transition possibilities for students. Generally these are after neatly completing certain studies such as Basic studies or Intermediate studies, so that those students who have planned their studies well are rewarded.

Q: Will I lose something in the transition?

A: Most likely not. The transition is generally organised so that the student gains rather than loses - the presenters at this briefing said that most of the time, compensation for the Big Wheel courses based on old studies will be somewhat generous.

Q: Can my studies expire because of this reform?

A: If you opt to stay in the old system until 2020, the expiration rules are the same as they are now. After transitioning into the Big Wheel system (regardless of whether you do it on 01.08.2017 or 01.08.2020), all studies will expire after 10 years from that date. If you have really, really old studies (I'm talking 90s or 00s), consider contacting Student Services for more information.

Q: What happens to exchange programmes? Will the Big Wheel make going on exchange more difficult/undesirable?

A: I highly doubt it. Also, there will be officially recommended times for exchange studies in every programme, these recommended periods are called 'kansainvälistymisikkuna' in Finnish.

Q: Why isn't the Uni doing more to inform us of the Big Wheel?

A: From the University's perspective, it's annoying and troublesome to hand out information on things not yet set in stone (some Big Wheel changes are still being finalised in Spring Term 2017). There has now been a briefing, and a letter is being sent to all students. There's also the Big Wheel site on Flamma.

Q: Should I be worried about the transition? Are the teachers and other staff?

A: It's always good to be aware of what's happening, but panic is seldom the answer. The teachers and other staff have seen bigger changes than the Big Wheel, and thus have good experience in dealing with things like these. In the briefing, the presenters made it very clear that no student will be left alone. If you are truly worried, consider contacting the Student Services.

Bachelor's Degree Changes

* Courses will, excluding shared faculty-level studies, always be worth 5 credits, or in the case of larger courses, divisible by 5 (f. ex. proseminar + bachelor's thesis is still 10). This change is perhaps the largest change for Bachelor's level English studies, since some of our courses are being merged together. Despite not being personally involved in the Big Wheel planning groups, I've sat in a few meetings with the English staff and it was naturally a matter of some debate - since two 3 credit courses cannot retain all the work/material should the result be a 5 credit course, something has to be dropped or added if a course is expanded from 3 or 4 credits to 5. Nonetheless, the unit staff has done an excellent job in tirelessly planning the upcoming Big Wheel curriculum.

* I'm not sure if it is wise for me to discuss the upcoming changes for the English courses, but I suppose I'll say this much, based on what I last heard:

Brit Lits I and II are being combined, Am Lit will include some world literature, VCE and Global & Regional are being combined in some manner, and parts of Structures of English and Structural Analysis will most likely be merged.

* Neither of the terms 'major' and 'minor' are used in the Big Wheel programmes. I'm not familiar with the English terms as of yet, but in Finnish, 'pääaine' becomes 'opintosuunta' and 'sivuaine(et)' becomes 'valinnaiset opinnot'. This seems to be chiefly a cosmetic change, in line with the original intention of the Big Wheel (which is to make cross-faculty/inter-faculty studies more appealing and available for students).

* The new Bachelor's programme consists of the following studies:

Shared studies (25 credits), Basic studies (30 credits), Intermediate studies (40 credits), Language & Communication studies (15 credits), and finally 30-60 credits of 'valinnaiset opinnot', or the new 'minors'.

Additionally, just like before, you can additionally have an X amount of 'other studies'; one of the reasons for this is that during the transition to the new Big Wheel Bachelor's Programme, no student should ever lose any credits gained from previous studies.

The 'shared studies' are shared by all students of languages on the Bachelor level. Of the 25 credits, 10 are from working life-orienting studies and 15 are from more general shared studies, most likely consisting of linguistics, comparative literature etc, much like before.

* Translation and pedagogical studies are being relocated entirely to their own Master's Degree Programmes.

* In short, the changes do not appear to be very extensive. However, those aiming to be teachers of several subjects (if they wish to graduate in 5 years) will have to plan their studies carefully if they opt to transition into the new Big Wheel Bachelor's Programme because the university wants you to complete all those studies in your Bachelor's degree. Also, applying for pedagogical studies and 'minors' studying rights becomes more important and should be done early on in one's studies given the situation.

Master's Degree Changes

* The Master's thesis, pro gradu, will be worth 30 credits rather than 40. In line with this, the requirements for the work will change (meaning that there's most likely less pages required for the thesis).

* Instead of the more linear Master's Degree studies available in our old study plan, there will be 13 (or 14) Master's Degree Programmes in the Faculty of Arts, as well as two additional Programmes starting from 2018. Students of English will most likely have access to one or two (uncertain at this juncture) of these new Master's Programmes after completing their Bachelor's studies, with the possibility of applying for other Master's Programmes as well. The English Studies Programme is probably the most similar new programme to our old Master's programme of English.

* The new Master's Degree Programmes include Translation Studies and Pedagogical Studies, which have previously been either Bachelor's Degree studies in part or in full. Gaining access to these Programmes will (most likely) be through a Master's-level 'entrance exam'. Additionally, there are programmes like Digital Humanities available, which may or may not require an 'entrance exam'.

The presenters noted that if you have already received the option for pedagogical studies, you will have access to the new Master's level Pedagogical Studies. Likewise, if you have already done some of the pedagogical studies in your Bachelor's Degree, you won't have to do those studies again. Also, you'll still be able to apply for the Master's Pedagogical Studies at any point during your Bachelor's studies.

The structure of the new Pedagogical Studies Master's programme is as follows:

60 credits of pedagogical studies + 60 credits of advanced studies (including 30 credit pro gradu)

When asked about whether students of Translation will have to essentially repeat their studies in part, the presenters noted that the new Master's Degree Programme will offer more advanced level studies than the pre-Big Wheel Master's level Translation Studies. I am not all that familiar with the new Translation Studies programme, but if you are interested, I'd suggest contacting KouKi ry or the Student Services.

Transitioning Into the Big Wheel Programmes

* Final rules/policy of transitioning will be published in May or June 2017.

* Like stated earlier, the first possible date for transitioning into the Big Wheel system will be 01.08.2017, and the deadline for doing so 01.08.2020.

* Do not expect many old courses to be taught as lectures or small groups starting from 01.08.2017 - essays and book exams will most likely be the case. This depends on the unit, though, and the English unit will probably offer more information regarding this at some point.

* In the Big Wheel Programme, you can no longer switch your major inside the faculty. You can do that as long as you are studying under the old programme, though (and eventually transition into the Big Wheel programme of that major).

* Under the Big Wheel, all studies will expire after 10 years, including accredited studies. The counter starts when you transition into the Big Wheel programme. Naturally, completed degrees will never expire.

Hopefully this text has answered some of the issues raised by the Big Wheel. If there's something that you feel like you must know or something remains unclear, do not feel prohibited to contact the Student Services, our unit professors (for Master's Degree questions) or our unit lectors (for Bachelor's Degree questions).

Petteri Konkola

NOTICE | Petteri Konkola 06.03.2017

Dear members of SUB,

The Big Wheel approaches us.

We, the Studies reps, will begin a series of coverage on this site, with the intent of exploring and examining the greater outline of the changes, as well as some of the lesser noticeable details of it in layman’s terms. Unfortunately, due to busy schedules, these will be posted sporadically.

In your e-mail you should find details of an upcoming faculty info session regarding the Big Wheel, on both the sub-ry@helsinki.fi and arts-info-list@helsinki.fi mailing lists.

For now, though, if you are interested, please check out the following links for information on the Big Wheel:

Flamma (in Finnish)
BTSB

Petteri Konkola