Master's Programme in Contemporary Societies, Master of Social Sciences (2 years)

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Degree level
Master's degree
Start semester
2019 Autumn
Scope of studies and length
120 ECTS credits, 2 years
Language of instruction
Tuition fee per year (only non-EU/EEA citizens)
13000 €
Application period
3.12.2018 - 11.1.2019

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Is your goal to understand the complex issues associated with contemporary societies? 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. To become an expert in the analysis of contemporary societies – choose COS!

The multidisciplinary, research-based Master’s Programme in Contemporary Societies (COS) focuses on the key themes in the dynamics of contemporary societies, both in a European and a global context.  Depending on your study track, one or several of the following pathways are available to you: Ethnic Relations and Migration, Mind and Society, Socio-Cultural Shifts, and Sources of Inequalities.

Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries, who do not have a permanent residence status in the area and pursue their studies in English, are liable to pay tuition fees. You can check from FAQ at the Studyinfo website whether or not you are required to pay tuition fees.

Find out more about the Be 1* of the Best Scholarship Programme.

The entire course programme is taught in English.

COS is a two-year programme. The programme includes studies in your study track (Sociology; Social and Public Policy; Social Psychology; Social and Cultural Anthropology; Development Studies) and thematic studies. The compulsory studies in a thematic pathway are specific to different study tracks as follows:

  • 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; Development Studies; Sociology

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

COS offers five major subjects (study tracks): Sociology, Social and Public Policy, Social Psychology, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Development Studies.

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.

The scope of the Master´s programme is 120 credits (ECTS), to be completed in two academic years. The programme comprises COS thematic studies, research skills courses, studies in a study track including a thesis seminar and a Master's thesis. In addition, it is possible for you to complete some studies of your own choice. Example courses and the preliminary syllabus.

You will start working on your Master's thesis on a topic that relates to your study track and the relevant thematic pathway during your first year of studies, although you will write your thesis 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.

As a graduate of COS with a Master’s in Social Science (MSocSc) you will have built your portfolio with courses that provide solid expertise in your field of study and reflect your personal interests and career goals. You will be qualified to work in both the public and private sectors, in governmental administration or in various types of organisations. Making use of the unusually broad range of courses available, you will also have acquired excellent qualifications to continue with an academic career and PhD studies.

COS will provide you with a diverse study environment with a truly international teaching staff. The COS programme is one of over 30 International Master’s Degree programmes offered by the University of Helsinki. Students come from all over the world.

The COS programme collaborates with the Finnish and Swedish language Master’s programmes at the Faculty of Social Sciences. Through these programmes, you will have access to a vibrant, multidisciplinary study milieu. Collaboration with research groups at the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism at the Swedish School of Social Science ensures that the teaching in COS is based on the leading research in the field.

  • Ethnic Relations and Migration;
  • Mind and Society;
  • Socio-Cultural Shifts;
  • Sources of Inequalities

An important aim of the COS programme is to provide you with a solid foundation from which you can continue towards a doctoral degree. The University of Helsinki offers several relevant doctoral programmes, such as the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Change and the Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences.

How to apply
Below you’ll find a link to the entry requirements for this programme. The application period to our international programmes is in December every year.

Faculty of Social Sciences

The Faculty of Social Sciences is Finland’s most diverse and multidisciplinary academic community and social force in its field. Global economic and political events increase the need for experts who are able to place them in a historical, internationally comparable context. Changes in social structures require a novel understanding of, for example, the foundations of the welfare society. 

The Faculty is known for its international top-level research that utilises diverse research corpora and challenging research methods as well as engages in innovative discourse. Teaching at the Faculty emphasises multidisciplinarity and critical thinking. The Faculty has a long tradition of collaboration with ministries, municipalities, various organisations and the media. 

Students enjoy their time at the Faculty of Social Sciences and feel like a part of the community. The Faculty and the students’ respective home departments are the students’ closest and most important operational environment. There is active interaction across disciplines and between different faculties.

There are some 4,000 undergraduate and 700 active postgraduate students at the Faculty, which is located on the City Centre Campus. The Faculty website can be found at

The Faculty of Social Sciences is located on the City Centre Campus near the Helsinki University Main Library (Kaisa House) and Learning Centre Aleksandria, which provide students with modern learning facilities. Other services of the Helsinki University Library, such as databases, online journals and textbooks, are readily available as well.

The Faculty of Social Sciences is a high-quality, research-based, international and multidisciplinary learning environment that trains versatile experts with a solid grasp of research methods and a profound understanding of the society for a wide range of positions in the public and private sectors. The teaching makes use of blended learning in a wide range of ways, thus increasing flexibility and providing efficient support for learning.

As a University of Helsinki degree student, you can participate in a student exchange or traineeship outside Finland. The University has approximately 500 high-quality partner universities throughout the world, and each year some 1,000 University students embark on a student exchange or traineeship. A stay abroad gives valuable skills and experiences:

  • You can incorporate an international dimension into your degree and obtain international expertise in your field. A well-planned student exchange provides you with diverse, unique skills!
  • You will gain a new perspective on the world, learn more about yourself and enhance your language proficiency.
  • You will get better acquainted with the culture of the target country, meet new people and be able to establish international networks in your field.

More information about studying abroad.

At the University of Helsinki we provide an accessible learning environment for all students.

If you have a disability, an illness or a learning disability, and might need some special arrangements to be able to complete your studies, please contact the faculty at the beginning of your studies or when the need arises.

You will usually agree upon the practical arrangements with your professor before the course or seminar begins. If needed, you can also consult the Head of Academic Affairs at the faculty.

Special arrangements for your studies, such as individual support for learning, might include extra time to complete assignments and exams, teaching materials given in advance or in electronic form, accessibility to classrooms and alternative ways to complete assignments and coursework.

If you would like more information about special arrangements, please contact the Student Services in the City Centre at

University students have access to various services and benefits; among them housing, meals, health care, wellbeing as well as sports. On the New Student web pages, you find information on necessary insurances, permits, and fees. The University of Helsinki Student union (HYY) members may use a great variety of services and participate in various events and activities. Not to mention discounts available for students e.g. on travelling, cultural events, and several stores. Sub-organizations of HYY also organize a wide variety of social events. More information is available at Instructions for students.