Studying

As societies become increasingly diverse, change rapidly, and are confronted with inequalities, there is a growing need for professionals trained in the analysis of these dynamics. Is your goal to understand the complex issues associated with contemporary societies?

If you want to become an expert in the analysis of contemporary societies, choose the multidisciplinary, research-based Master's Programme in Contemporary Societies (COS). It focuses on the key themes in the dynamics of contemporary societies both in a European and a global context.

You can choose from five study tracks: Development Studies,  Social and Cultural Anthropology, Social and Public Policy, Social Data Science (starting from 2020-2021 application round), Social psychology, or Sociology. Depending on your study track, you study one or several of the following themes: Data and Society, Ethnic Relations and Migration, Mind and Society, Socio-Cultural Shifts and Sources of Inequalities.

As societies become increasingly diverse, change rapidly, and are confronted with inequalities, there is a growing need for professionals trained in the analysis of these dynamics.

In the Master's Programme in Contemporary Societies (COS), you will:

  • focus on the key themes in the dynamics of contemporary societies both in a European and a global context
  • become an expert in the analysis of contemporary societies
  • acquire expertise and skills relevant for working life and qualifications
  • build your individual portfolio according to your interests and career plans
  • get support for both international mobility and work experience
  • study disciplines that are ranked among the best 100 subjects in the QS World University Ranking by Subject
  • be taught by staff who are research leaders in their fields and have longstanding experience of teaching multicultural student groups

As a graduate, you will be qualified to work in both the public and private sectors, in governmental administration or in various types of organisations. You will also have excellent qualifications to continue with an academic career and PhD studies.

The scope of the Master's programme is 120 credits (ECTS), to be completed in two academic years. It consists of:

  • Joint Studies 5 ECTS
    COS seminar 5 ECTS
  • Study Track Specific Courses 55 ECTS
    15 ECTS advanced general studies in the discipline
    10 ECTS thesis seminar  
    30 ECTS Master’s thesis
  • Specialisation studies in a thematic pathway 15 - 35 ECTS
    Thematic pathways: Data and Society; Ethnic Relations and Migration; Mind and Society; Socio-Cultural Shifts; Sources of Inequalities
  • Research Skills (quantitative and/or qualitative) 15 - 35 ECTS
  • General studies in the Master’s Programme 10-20 ECTS
    Career Course (e.g. Demola) or either Internship or Teaching or Research Practicum 5 – 15 ECTS
    Academic writing 5 ECTS
  • Optional studies 0 – 20 ECTS
    (Language studies and/or thematic courses of the student’s choice. Mobility window)

COS offers six study tracks:

  • Development Studies
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Social and Public Policy
  • Social Data Science (starting from 2020-21 application round)
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology

To apply you must have a Bachelor’s degree including studies in one of these disciplines or cognate fields. You should apply for the study track that is closest to your previous studies.

Depending on your study track, you study one or several of the following themes: Data and Society, Ethnic Relations and Migration, Mind and Society, Socio-Cultural Shifts and Sources of Inequalities.

The programme includes studies in your chosen study track: Development Studies, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Social and Public Policy, Social Data Science, Social Psychology, and  Sociology and thematic studies.

The following thematic pathways are available:

  • Data and Society: Social Data Science from 1.8.2021onwards (Data and Society can be taken as a second pathway in Autumn 2020 too)
  • Ethnic Relations and Migration: Sociology and Social Psychology
  • Mind and Society: Sociology and Social Psychology  
  • Socio-Cultural Shifts: Social and Cultural Anthropology; Development Studies
  • Sources of Inequalities: Social and Public Policy, Sociology and Development Studies

The thematic pathways highlight the strengths of research at the University of Helsinki and its methodological expertise. As a student, you can include courses from all pathways in your optional studies.

The international teaching staff are research leaders in their fields and have longstanding experience of teaching multicultural student groups. All of the participating disciplines are ranked among the best 100 subjects in the QS World University Ranking by Subject.

The teaching in the COS programme is organised so that you can acquire expertise and skills relevant for working life as well as qualifications for doctoral studies. The unique context offered by the COS programme helps you to develop versatile expertise. The programme design allows you to build your individual portfolio according to your interests and career plans. 

During your first year in the programme, you will study in your study track and take COS thematic and research skills courses. You will also begin your work towards your Master’s thesis. The second-year consists of further thematic studies, attending thesis seminars and writing your thesis.

The entire course programme is taught in English.

Check out courses in Weboodi, the online course catalogue for students at the University of Helsinki.

Preliminary syllabus for the academic next year can be found on the Instructions for students website. Make sure to select the correct programme in the drop-down menu.

You will already start orienting towards your Master's thesis during the first year of studies, although you will write your thesis on a topic that relates to your study track and the relevant thematic pathway mainly during the second year. You practice thesis writing in thesis seminars, where teachers and fellow students provide feedback on your work. You will also be assigned a thesis supervisor, who will mentor you and provide feedback as you write your thesis.

Completing the thesis requires the ability to formulate research questions, write scientific text and employ research methods. It teaches you to acquire and produce information as well as to conduct independent research. It may even inspire you to choose a research career as either a doctoral candidate or a researcher outside academia.

What's it like to study at the University of Helsinki? What are the future possibilities offered by a degree in social sciences?

Read what our students have to say.

Student life and especially the student organisation culture is exceptionally rich and diverse in Finland. Also at the University of Helsinki, more than 250 student organisations operate within the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY).

As a student and member of the Student Union (HYY), you are entitled to many benefits and services. For example, affordable student housing, basic healthcare services, sports facilities and student-priced meals. You also get numerous discounts, for example on public transport fees across the country.  

Read more about the benefits as a student at the University of Helsinki.

The home of the COS programme is the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki, in the heart of Helsinki and the City Centre Campus. The City Centre Campus, with 21,000 students, is situated near many potential workplaces: ministries, important public institutions, NGO headquarters and the Faculties of Education, Law, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Theology.

Finland in general, and the University of Helsinki, in particular, offer an exceptionally rich setting for interdisciplinary studies focusing on contemporary societies. The international teaching staff are research leaders in their fields and have longstanding experience of teaching multicultural student groups. All of the participating disciplines are ranked among the best 100 subjects in the QS World University Ranking by Subject. Moreover, the COS programme invests in building an alumni network and gives you support for both international mobility and work experience.