The University of Helsinki offers its students an increasingly broad selection of sustainability studies

New course topics include sustainable health and the sustainability of space.

The University of Helsinki’s teaching offerings focused on sustainability were supplemented in 2023 with new discipline-specific courses.

“It’s important for students to be able to find meaningful sustainability-related perspectives, even in fields where such expertise has not previously been heavily emphasised,” says Tuija Veintie, project manager from the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS, University of Helsinki.

“We wish to give our students the chance to obtain knowledge and skills for tackling complex global challenges,” Veintie adds.

The topics of the new courses range from space sustainability to sustainable health, and from sustainability education to the relationship between chemistry and the circular economy. The courses are optional. In spite of the discipline-specific preparations, some courses are open to all students of the University of Helsinki. Some of them can also be completed at the Open University.

Students praise a multidisciplinary course in art studies

Among the courses breaking new ground is a sustainability course in art studies, which was piloted in late 2023. The course, organised through blended learning, was realised in cooperation with the Open University.

Professor Arto Haapala and Specialist Noora-Helena Korpelainen, who coordinated the course design, are pleased that interest in the course turned out to be high. Based on feedback, the course was a sought-after addition to the teaching offerings, and the aim is to organise it annually.

“The multidisciplinary nature of the course was particularly commended. For many students, the course also provided an overview of the significance of their field in the face of future challenges,” Korpelainen says.

The course brings together aesthetics, theatre research, comparative literature, musicology, film and television studies as well as art history to examine sustainability issues.

“The course provides students with practical experience of working in a multidisciplinary research field and the capacity to develop a critical approach to both questions specific to their field and sustainability issues from outside the field of art studies,” Korpelainen says.

Sustainable Health course – From small-scale pilot to MOOC

The University has granted funding for the development of new sustainability courses as part of its broader project aimed at strengthening sustainability expertise. Other support for course development has been available as well.

Specialists in the sustainability of pharmaceuticals and pharmacotherapies from several faculties contributed to the initial planning the Sustainable Health course. University Instructor Ilkka Miettinen from the Faculty of Pharmacy collaborated with the Global Campus project specialising in experimentation in web-based education.

“Global Campus helped hone the course’s online pedagogy and establish a narrative framework that, based on feedback, engages course participants in independent online learning,” Miettinen enthuses.

Miettinen also applied for and received seed funding, which made it possible to continue the course development. At the beginning in 2024, the course was launched for the third time. The course can be taken by anyone studying at the University of Helsinki. An online version open to all is currently under development for an appropriate MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platform.

This year, a professor of sustainable pharmacy, presumably the first position of its kind in the world, will begin working at the Faculty of Pharmacy. Miettinen believes that the professorship will open up entirely new opportunities for integrating sustainable development into teaching and research.


Plenty to choose from in sustainability courses

In recent years, the University of Helsinki has invested in increasing students’ sustainability skills, expanding the provision of sustainability education:

  • The University offers the multidisciplinary Sustainability Course (3 cr) open to all students. Since last autumn, the course has been implemented through independent study, which has increased the flexibility of course completion.
  • Students can also complete a micro-credential in sustainability through the Una Europa university collaboration. The micro-credential programme is available on the Una Europa website.
  • Coordinated by the University of Helsinki, the Climate University network offers several online courses open to all.
  • The University is participating in the Sustainability Studies Network, through which students can find courses related to environmental, sustainability and responsibility themes that are not available at their home institution.
  • Launching in spring 2024, a 60-credit Specialisation Programme in Climate Expertise emphasises a career orientation, compiling the latest research knowledge in various fields on climate change.