The aim of the Master’s Programme in Pharmaceutical Research, Development and Safety (MPHARM) is to provide a comprehensive overview of the life cycle of drugs and their use.

The academic activities in the personal study plan provide 120 credits (ECTS), the equivalent to two years of full-time studying. The target degree earned by the studies is Master of Science. In contrast to degree programme yielding Master in Pharmacy degree, this does not qualify for legalized healthcare professional status in the EU area. The courses are taught by an international faculty of world class scientists in a research oriented environment using state of the art pedagogical methods and incorporates their cutting edge research into the learning material.

Why pharmaceutical research, development and safety?

The ageing population and the need for rapidly evolving medication solutions are factors that highlight the growing role and need of experts in pharmaceuticals, their use and regulatory processes in society.

In the Master’s Programme in Pharmaceutical Research, Development and Safety, you will:

  • acquire a comprehensive overview of the life cycle of drugs and their use.
  • obtain a unique perspective of Green and Sustainable Pharmacy as well as essential knowledge for managing the global sustainability challenge.
  • be trained for research and development (R&D) oriented positions and as professionals for healthcare regulatory, management, policy-making and pharmaceutical industry positions.
  • earn a Master of Science degree from a programme hosted by the Faculty of Pharmacy, a top-level drug research institute, with an extensive network of partners and considerable external research funding.

Please note that the degree earned in this programme does not qualify for legalized healthcare professional status in the EU area.

Learning objectives

After completing the M.Sc. Degree in pharmaceutical research, development and safety, the students:


  • have a thorough understanding on the life cycle of drugs and can apply their knowledge as experts in  pharmaceutical research, development and use,
  • have a command on pharmaceutical research questions in theoretical and methodological level,
  • understand the roles of of different institutions and stakeholders in pharmaceutical development and pharmacotherapy,
  • understand the sustainability aspects of drugs and their use and can apply this knowledge in their work.


  • can formulate research questions and design ways to answer them in a scientifically solid manner,
  • have a command of key research methods as well as the research-based work method,
  • can conduct research work in an international and multidisciplinary environment,
  • are fluent in communicating the pharmaceutical research topics with both peer experts and public audience,
  • have developed a professional identity as experts in drug development and use and understand the potential of their expertise.
Who should apply?

Do you want to conduct multidisciplinary life science and health science studies as a member of a scientifically vibrant academic community? Do you have career goals e.g. in academia, the pharmaceutical industry or with public sector authorities? Are you interested in becoming a professional in the pharmaceutical sciences and seek for an education that is more research oriented than the Master of Pharmacy degree? Then this programme might be something for you. If you seek for an education yielding proficiency as a legalized healthcare professional, consider applying in Master in Pharmacy programme instead.

A Bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for being eligible to apply. Applications are welcome from motivated and skilled candidates with a broad range of backgrounds, but the expectation is that the successful candidates have sufficient prior knowledge in pharmacy, chemistry or life science in order to complete the education in two years.

In 2024, up to 30 students will be enrolled in the programme.

Admissions procedure and criteria

The application procedure of MPHARM is part of the international graduate student selection procedure of the University of Helsinki. The applications and applicants must follow the general admission procedures and the relevant country specific requirements of the University of Helsinki for the international Master’s programmes. The application must include all attachments required by the University of Helsinki.

In addition to these attachments, MPHARM requests a copy of the photo page of the applicant's passport or other identification document.

Admissions process

There are two phases in the admission procedure.

In phase one, all eligible applications are evaluated by a selection committee nominated by the MPHARM steering group. Selection committee members score the applications independently based on

  1. the content and the suitability of the applicant’s degree (at least a Bachelors’ degree) and the academic level of the institution of education
  2. the academic performance of the applicant
  3. the motivation letter by the applicant, and
  4. recommendation letter (optional) submitted preferably by an academic professional.

In the second phase, approximately 60 applicants with the highest scores are invited to an on-line interview. The total number of interviewed applicants may exceed 60. The invitations with interview schedules and instructions will be sent by e-mail. The interviews will be conducted by the selection committee. The applicants should have a possibility for an on-line interview with a video connection. A head-set is strongly recommended. 

Selection criteria

In the phase one, the applicants will be ranked based on the following criteria:

  • Applicability of previous studies to the Master’s programme and the academic level of the institution of education (0–4 points),
  • Academic performance (0–8 points)
  • Motivation letter (0–7 points)
  • Recommendation letter (optional) (0–1 points)

These criteria are assessed and scored in the above mentioned order. 

The total maximum score for an application in the first phase is 20. If the applicant fails to obtain the minimum score for the admission criterion under assessment, the application will not be further considered.

Admissions are based on the combined score from the two assessment stages. In the second phase, the interview will be scored on a scale of 0–8 points (8 points=outstanding, 7 points=excellent, 6 points=very good, 5 points=good, 4 points=average, 3 points=fair 2 or less=insufficient). The required minimum score for the interview is 3 (if the applicant receives less than 3 points from the interview, the application will be rejected).

The maximum score of the evaluation is 28. The steering group of the Master's programme will define a minimum score for applicants considered in the final selection. The top 30 applicants will be admitted to the programme. Other applicants with at least the minimum score will be placed on a reserve list in a decreasing order based on their score.

If two or more applicants are tied after the evaluation, they will be ranked primarily on the basis of an interview, secondly on the basis of applicable studies, thirdly on the basis of academic performance, and fourthly on the basis of the motivation letter. In case there are still applicants tied after this, they will be admitted to the programme.

To be accepted into the program, applicants need to receive a minimum of one (1) point in each of the following categories: applicability of the studies, academic performance, and motivation letter, as well as a total of three (3) points from the interview. The required score ultimately depends on the number of applicants and the standard of the applications. Consequently, not all applicants who meet the above minimum criteria are necessarily admitted.

Criteria for phase one:

Applicability of previous studies to the Master’s programme

The evaluation of the applicability of studies will take into account the analysis provided by the applicants on the application form of their prior studies in the key fields of the master’s programme. Course descriptions of these studies must also be attached to the application. 

The academic level of the applicant’s former institution of education is also taken into account, as well as the applicant’s own assessment of the applicability of the studies.

The applicants are requested to tentatively choose one of three study tracks. While the selection is not binding, the study track choice will be taken into account when scoring the applicability.

Placement to the chosen track cannot, however, be guaranteed; the number of students admitted to each track will be decided during the first semester of the studies.

The study tracks of the programme are:

  • Drug design and pharmacology
  • Drug delivery and development
  • Medication safety and effectiveness

The University of Helsinki does not make preliminary assessments of studies.

The applicability is assessed on a scale of 0–4.

Academic performance

The academic performance of the applicant’s applicable studies is assessed as a whole, based on the transcripts and course descriptions of the previous studies.

The applicant can explain his/her academic performance in the context of other students in their academic system and justify how it is sufficient for the programme. The applicant is also advised to provide an average of the grades obtained and the grading scale.

The academic performance is assessed on a scale of 0–8.

Motivation letter

The motivation letter is used to assess the applicant’s motivation to complete a master’s degree in the programme. In the motivation letter the applicant answers the following questions (in the order presented below):

  1. How would your previous studies support your studies in this programme?
  2. Why did you select this particular master’s programme?
  3. Of which study track would you be primarily interested in and why?
  4. What kind of previous research or other relevant work experience do you have?
  5. What kind of research would you like to be involved in during the Master’s studies?
  6. How would you see your capacity of completing the programme in two years?
  7. What kind of career plans do you have after completing studies in the degree?

The letter of motivation may be up to 3,000 characters in length. The letter of motivation must be written in English, and the language of the motivation letter will also be assessed. The text should be grammatically correct and coherent.

The motivation letter is assessed on a scale of 0–7.

Recommendation letter

The application may also include a separate recommendation (in English), preferably submitted by an academic professional. Only one recommendation is considered. The applicant is asked to provide name and professional e-mail address of the referee and to describe his/her connection to the applicant. A link to an e-form will be sent to the provider of the recommendation letter. It is recommended that the applicant informs the referee providing the recommendation letter in advance; it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the recommendation is sent in due time. Recommendation letters sent via e-mail, post or courier service will not be considered.

The recommendation letter is an optional, but strongly recommended part of the application, because it is part of the scoring. If the applicant does not include a letter of recommendation with their application, they are asked to provide a reason for this.

The recommendation letter is assessed on a scale of 0–1.

Criteria for phase two:


The objective of the interview is to ensure the applicant’s motivation and the feasibility of the applicant’s aims based on the written application. The interview will be scored on a scale of 0–8 points (8 points=outstanding, 7 points=excellent, 6 points=very good, 5 points=good, 4 points=avarage, 3 points=fair, 2 or less=insufficient). The required minimum score for the interview is 3. Applicant, whose interview performance is insufficient, will be rejected.

Structure, content and study tracks

The scope of the Master’s Programme in Pharmaceutical Research, Development and Safety (MPHARM) is 120 credits (ECTS), the equivalent to two years of full-time studying. The target degree earned by the studies is Master of Science. 

The two-year curriculum of the programme starts with a core study module on drug development and use, common for all enrolled students. In addition, the first semester studies include courses for acquiring transferable academic skills as well as an induction to our research themes. The students are encouraged to take an active role in becoming oriented with the research that is carried out in the department right from the beginning of their studies.

Starting from the second semester, each student will conduct studies according to a personalised study plan. Guidance is available from a nominated faculty member acting as a supervisor throughout the studies. To assist the tailoring of the elective elements of the curriculum, courses are organised under three study tracks:

1. Drug design and pharmacology

After completing the study track, the students are able to:

  • Explain the drug discovery process and understand target finding, specificity, efficacy, and toxicity studies,   
  • Understand drug discovery from a methodological point of view, 
  • Understand how drug efficacy and safety are tested in preclinical phase, 
  • Understand how commonly used drugs are studied; how they act, how they modulate molecular, cellular and physiological processes, 
  • Understand druggability approaches for small/large/biological molecules,   
  • Plan and execute research projects,  
  • Appreciate clinical trial process and many of the translational challenges related to developing drugs, 
  • Examine scientific studies critically.  

2. Drug delivery and development

After completing the study track, the students are able to:

  • Explain all issues relevant to what is known as “ADME”: absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of drugs,
  • Have a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the subdiscipline of pharmaceutical research known as “pharmaceutics” including the formulation and manufacture of drugs, different dosage forms and drug delivery, pharmaceutical technology and physical pharmacy,
  • Explain what is meant by “nanomedicine” and all issues related to the rational design of drug delivery nanoparticles,
  • Describe key aspects pertaining to the process of preclinical and clinical studies that all potential drug molecules must pass through in order to become drugs.

3. Medication safety & effectiveness

After completing the study track, the students are able to:

  • Explain the basic principles and concepts of medication safety risk management and pharmacovigiliance in health services systems,
  • Describe research methodologies and their application in medication safety and effectiveness research, as well as in economic evaluation of pharmaceuticals,
  • Apply real-world-data (RWD) in medication safety and effectiveness research,
  • Critically review and appraise scientific literature,
  • Plan and conduct research projects,
  • Report research findings.

The student may also choose studies in an interdisciplinary manner according to her/his own interests. However, there will be only a certain amount of placements available at the different study tracks, and therefore, the placement according to the first preference of the student cannot be guaranteed at the time of applying to the Master’s Programme. 

Structure and content of the Master's Programme.

Get acquainted with the Curriculum of the Master's programme in Pharmaceutical Research, Development and Safety (MPHARM) (in instructions for students)

Please note that the teaching programme only contains courses organized by the degree programme. The students can include in their studies also courses from other degree programmes and faculties (see list of examples on Structure and content of the Master's Programme page), or studies conducted during an international exchange period.


Language of instruction

The programme’s official language is English. All courses are taught and can be completed in English.

Master's thesis

The aim of the master’s thesis is to develop skills for independent scientific work and critical evaluation of scientific data.

The master’s thesis in the programme consists of a 30 cr research project under the supervision of a principal investigator within the faculty.

In addition to the research groups operating in the faculty, students are encouraged to explore the possibility of finding their thesis project within our extensive collaborative networks or suggest a topic of research according to their own interests.

Students and student life

Student life and especially the student organisation culture is exceptionally rich and diverse in Finland. More than 250 student organisations operate within the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY), ranging from faculty and subject organisations to political and societal organisations, and from choirs and orchestras to sports and game clubs. Their activities include anniversary celebrations, academic dinner parties, cultural events, get-togethers and excursions.

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

Read more about student life, services and benefits when studying at the University of Helsinki.

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