Reform of the degree structure:
Strategic Planning and Development
University of Helsinki
What will change?
Students will first complete the lower academic degree
The most striking difference between the old and new degree systems will be the division of the basic degree into two levels. Students will first complete the lower academic degree, i.e. the Bachelor's degree, and then the higher academic degree, i.e. the Master's or the Licentiate degree. Despite the adoption of the two-cycle degree system, all students admitted to the University of Helsinki continue to receive the right to pursue studies leading to the Master's degree, as the University considers the Bachelor's degree to be an interim degree towards the Master's degree. Exceptions to this rule continue to be the programme leading to the qualification of kindergarten teacher and the Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy programme.
Although medicine will not adopt the two-cycle degree system, the regulations related to the reform of the degree system will apply to the medical fields as well. Whereas the higher academic degree will be the Master's degree in all other fields, in medicine and veterinary medicine the higher academic degree will continue to be the Licentiate degree.
In the Bologna process, doctoral education belongs to third cycle education. Discussions aiming at the reform of this level will be launched in spring 2005. The University of Helsinki will also initiate a reform of postgraduate education during this spring.
Independent Master's programmes
A novelty brought about by the reformed degree system are the independent Master's programmes leading to the Master's degree. Students may seek entry into such a programme after having completed the Bachelor's degree. The programmes may be multidisciplinary or field-specific.
The establishment of these separate Master's programmes will be decided on a case-by-case basis, and the University will make conscious efforts to restrict a dramatic growth in their number. Despite the new programmes, the majority of Master graduates from the University of Helsinki will have completed their degree in the conventional degree programmes.
Transition from Bachelor's level studies to Master's level studies
Apart from a few exceptions among the degree programmes, students will be admitted to the University of Helsinki to pursue the higher academic degree (Master's degree). Consequently, there will be no selection process in the transition from Bachelor's level studies to Master's level studies. The Bachelor's degree must be completed before registering for Master's level studies, but students may also complete individual Master's level courses before the completion of the Bachelor's degree.
After having completed their Bachelor's degree, students may change their major subject for the Master's degree. If they obtain permission to do this, the department of the new major subject may require the student to complete a maximum of 60 credits of complementary studies.
A new system of credits will replace the credit system which has been in use since the 1970s. In the new system, the student workload will be 1600 hours per year, which is worth 60 credits in completed studies. Consequently, the Bachelor's degree, 180 credits in scope, may be completed in three years and the Master's degree, 120 credits in scope, may be completed in two years. In other words, the Master's degree can be completed in five years of full-time study. The annual student workload of 1600 hours is the same as the annual workload of university teachers. The minimum scope of courses in the new system will be three credits.
Scope of study modules
In order to ensure the high standard of its degrees, the University has set minimum requirements for the scope and number of study modules. The Bachelor's degree will consist of studies in the major subject (with a minimum of 60 credits) and basic studies in at least one minor subject (25 credits). At the Master's level, the scope of advanced studies will be 30 credits or more.
The Bachelor's degree will include a thesis, the scope of which will be six credits. While the scope of the thesis required for the higher academic degree in medicine and veterinary medicine will be 20-40 credits, the scope of the Master's thesis in all other fields will be 40 credits. This requirement is due to the University's aim of emphasising the research-oriented nature of its degrees and the eligibility for postgraduate studies provided by the Master's degree. Theses of less extensive scope or of varying scope would jeopardise this aim.
Furthermore, the requirement for studies in information and communication technology will be a minimum of five credits, and the requirement for language studies will be a minimum of 10 credits. Professional development has not been neglected in the new degree system: a few credits will be reserved for studies in orientation into professional life.
In order to facilitate the long-term planning of studies, each student will be required to devise a personal study plan. The University considers the personal study plan to be a valuable aid for students in the long-term goal-oriented planning of studies. The study plan will be checked regularly, thus aiding in the monitoring of study progress. At the University of Helsinki , the personal study plan is not considered to be an agreement between the student and the University.
Grading of studies
In connection with the reform of the degree system, the diverse grading systems used over the years will all be harmonised. Presently, 17 different kinds of grading scales are in use at the University, but, at the beginning of the next academic year, the whole University will adopt a six-level grading scale from 0 to 5. Traditions will be upheld in the grading of the Master's thesis, which will continue to be graded on a scale using the Latin language.
Degree certificates will be accompanied by a supplement (Diploma Supplement), which will describe the contents of the degree. The purpose of this supplement is to improve the international comparability of degrees and facilitate mobility either for postgraduate study or employment.
A university offering a solid general education encourages its students to plan their studies according to their own interests. Degrees constructed on an individual basis require that students be able to move smoothly between faculties. In order to promote mobility between faculties and the coordination of minor subject studies in the faculties, the University has decided to divide the academic year into four teaching periods, each beginning and ending at the same time throughout the University. There will be a week's break between the periods. Teaching organised in the summer will not belong to the teaching periods. Examinations and special courses may be arranged outside the teaching periods. The University will implement the system of teaching periods on 1 August 2005 . The Faculties of Law, Medicine, Biosciences, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine will, either entirely or partly, observe different teaching periods than those observed generally at the University.
Mobility will not be confined to moving between faculties. In future, it will be easier for undergraduate students to study at other universities either in Finland or abroad. After the reform, the scope of studies will be consistent with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).