Freezing cold and pitch-black, even though it is the afternoon. Looking back, Marcus Bainbridge is laughing at his state of bewilderment when arriving in Finland in January 2018. Originally from the United Kingdom, he was supposed to be helping at a wilderness tourism business in Northern Finland for a few months.
“I travelled through Lapland and at the last leg of the journey, a man called Heikki came to pick me up. We headed to the middle of nowhere in his beat-up blue Peugeot. My first thought was what on earth I had gotten myself into.”
Despite the stark conditions, Bainbridge enjoyed his time up north and the Finnish way of life. Nearly four years just flew by. In autumn 2021, he began studying in the Master’s Programme in Economics at the University of Helsinki.
“I have a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and had worked for four years in London as a research analyst. It was an obvious choice to build upon that background.”
While working in London, Bainbridge wanted a change of scenery. He decided to take time off to travel for a bit but found himself settling down in Finland instead.
“There is just something special about this country. I feel at home in Finland and the longer I stay, the more the feeling intensifies.”
Seeing value in the smaller scale
At the start of Bainbridge’s studies, he participated in the orientation activities that aim to make it easier for new students to settle in at the University and start their student life. The tutors organised a game where they asked various questions as an icebreaker.
“One question was ‘do you prefer microeconomics or macroeconomics?’”
Microeconomics is a study of decisions made by individuals and firms, whereas macroeconomics studies the national economy as a whole.
“Most students said that they preferred the latter. This would have been my answer a while back too, but experience has made me more interested in microeconomics.”
Bainbridge wants to focus on microeconomics because he believes that by focusing on the smaller scale, you gain a holistic understanding of the whole economic system.
“You can’t really have the big picture if you don’t have a grasp on the small picture, as the big picture is just an aggregate of smaller ones.”
Exploring the extensive selection of economic courses
In the programme, students get to choose courses based on their interest from the most extensive selection of economic courses in Finland. This is made possible by the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics (Helsinki GSE), a teaching and research unit jointly run by the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Hanken School of Economics. It means that the students gain from the economics expertise of three universities.
Bainbridge is keen to explore the broad course catalogue by taking courses on topics such as behavioural, experimental and information economics as well as contract theory and search theory.
“I am most interested in information economics. It is a branch of microeconomic theory that studies how information systems affect economic decisions.”
To understand the decision-making of individual actors better, Bainbridge intends also to take some courses in social psychology. In addition, he is interested in learning more about programming languages. This multidisciplinary approach where students take courses across academic disciplines is highly encouraged at the University of Helsinki.
“I appreciate the flexibility of the programme. I get to focus on issues that interest me the most and gain additional skills that are valued in the job market.”
After graduation, Bainbridge would like to work as a research analyst or a product manager. Due to the adjustable curriculum, he was able to do an internship included in the programme’s study structure already at the start of his studies.
“I got an offer for an internship in global logistics and product management and was glad to be able to accept the offer. The staff of the programme has been very accommodating. It is a pleasant surprise as I am used to a more predetermined study schedule.”
Helping others to have better options and outcomes
Bainbridge wants to help people make more informed decisions, whether it is about pressing societal issues such as climate change or personal dealings like learning a new language.
“One area of information economics is deciphering what causes people to go down certain routes and what you can change to help them have better outcomes.”
A common challenge is information asymmetry, an occurrence where parties involved do not possess the same amount of information. For instance, in a widely used example, the salesperson of a second-hand car knows of possible defects with the vehicle, whereas the customer does not.
“Information asymmetry is preventing some participants from making an informed decision. By improving information flow, all parties have a better sense of what they are getting from the arrangement.”
Bainbridge wishes also to apply his knowledge of information economics to help other international students in their job search in Finland. He is part of the ‘International Task Force’ pilot operated by the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY). Members of the task force participate in developing HYY’s advocacy work aimed at international students and international affairs.
“I have been living in Finland for nearly four years and have gathered a lot of information about career opportunities in the country. I applied to the task force as I found it to be a great opportunity to share my knowledge and aid other international students.”
In the future, Bainbridge hopes to alleviate challenges related to the lack of optimal information structures that affect both the big picture and individuals.
“By improving information systems, people can become more aware of their actions. For instance, the consensus is that we need to act in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Still, people do not necessarily think actively about how to limit their daily environmental impact. I would like to help institutions in identifying how to get past this kind of disparities.”
In the Master’s Programme in Economics at the University of Helsinki, you get a demanding high-quality education in the field of economics by focusing on the key elements of economic analysis and methods. Oriented towards social sciences, the two study tracks of the programme (general study track and research study track) prepare students for demanding expert occupations or equip them with the capability to pursue a Doctoral degree in Economics.
Teaching in the programmes is arranged in cooperation with the departments of economics at Aalto University and Hanken School of Economics. Together with the discipline of economics at the University of Helsinki, they form the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics (Helsinki GSE). The unit offers the most extensive selection of economics courses in Finland.