City – an artificial system as part of the ecosystem

The application process for the international master’s degree programmes at the University of Helsinki is currently in progress.


Cities are increasingly worse places to live in, but it has still been estimated that by 2030, some five billion people will live in them.

As a result of the huge growth of population, society continuously needs more information about urbanisation, both with respect to urban ecology and biotechnical solutions.Next autumn, this requirement will be met by MURE, an international master’s degree programme in urban environment studies, provided by the Faculty of Biosciences at the University of Helsinki.

“Cities consume living space from all other sensible operations. One current topic deals with ensuring ecosystem services, such as food, materials, and the oxygen supply provided by plants. Cities do not have these services, so they have to be outsourced,” says Heikki Setälä, Professor in Urban Ecosystem Studies.

In the first year, MURE will be provided at the Lahti unit of the Department of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, and in the second year, it will also be provided in Viikki, Helsinki. The technical know-how will be supported by cooperation with the universities of technology in Lappeenranta and Tampere.

The University of Helsinki has ten professorships in Urban Studies, and MURE also has a strongly multidisciplinary approach. According to Setälä, in regard to research and education, cities should be considered a process between different actors.

“Even though cities are artificial systems of a certain kind, they also are people’s ecosystems which adhere to natural laws. Without a holistic view, cities will not be understood to an adequate extent, and problems cannot be controlled.”

As a key theme, Setälä wants to highlight a dialogue between a dense urban construction approach, which has also been discussed in Finland, and a spacious construction approach supported by Finland’s Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen.

“Osmo Soininvaara’s dense model is good in many ways, but it is not perfect. Cities also have lots of other issues besides the climate issue. Those more extensive than the carbon issue include city pollution, the contamination of groundwater, and the increasing amount of drainage water. One should be careful not to get too wrapped in the carbon hype. It ‘consumes the oxygen’ from other problems related to urbanisation.”

International Master's Degree Programmes » »

Text: Kai Maksimainen
Photo: City of Helsinki / Comma Image

Translation: AAC Global

News of the month »»
News archive »»
University of Helsinki