At the end of the first teaching period, all first-year Bachelor’s students at the University of Helsinki have something in common: knowing what it’s like to study in the new degree programmes.
Most likely, they ran into the education reform already during the application process. The number of application options in last spring’s joint application procedure went down to 63 from the previous year’s 102.
Benjamin Pitkänen took a gap year and decided to apply to the University and take development studies as a major subject. When that discipline joined the Bachelor’s Programme in Society and Change, it was the obvious choice for Pitkänen, who began his studies this autumn along with 55 other first-years.
The four Bachelor’s programmes at the Faculty of Social Sciences contain a total of 11 disciplines. The Bachelor’s Programme in Society and Change is one of the largest such combinations, as it comprises teaching in social and cultural anthropology, development studies, political history as well as economic and social history.
The number of application options in last spring’s joint application procedure went down to 63 from the previous year’s 102.
Creating such extensive combinations has been challenging for the teaching staff, but Pitkänen feels that their work has been successful.
“So far the different topics have been well balanced. It’s also nice that the range and perspectives of the topics are broader than just one discipline could offer,” he says.
In the Bachelor’s programme, Pitkänen will choose his future study track during the second year, which now seems to be the distant future. Pitkänen is currently focusing on the task at hand, one course at a time.
“When the time comes to choose a study track, good grades won’t hurt.”
Looking at the different faculties, it becomes apparent that the degree programme reform actually meant several separate changes. For example, Juuso Karila, a first-year student of the new Bachelor's Programme for Teachers of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, chose chemistry already during orientation week. The decision was not difficult, because he is at least as interested in chemistry as he is in teaching, and because he accepted his study place already a year ago, before he entered military service.
During his military service, the education for subject teachers at the Faculty of Science was combined into a single degree programme. It seems to Karila that the changes to the old system are small but positive. The study path seems freer and more flexible, partially because the pedagogical studies do not begin until the Master’s stage.
“Even though I originally applied to become a chemistry teacher, I could have chosen mathematics as my first subject and physics as the second. Additionally, if I study both mathematics and chemistry sufficiently, I can myself decide which one becomes my first subject,” Karila explains.
The study path seems freer and more flexible, partially because the pedagogical studies do not begin until the Master’s stage.
The new thirty-strong group of teacher students is another bonus. The subject teacher students share few courses, but they have a strong sense of community. The students participate in events organised by each others’ subject-specific student organisations, and share their experiences of various subjects.
“We’re almost like our own organisation. It’s like having dual citizenship: we have our own subject and the common teacher studies.”
In Meilahti, change is distant
When Jutta Kankaanpää is asked about her experiences of the education reform during her Swedish-language undergraduate studies in medicine, she smiles.
“I don’t really have any experience of that. The reform hasn’t changed anything for us. I’ve just watched from the sidelines as my friends who’ve been studying for some time in other faculties have to find their feet in the new system,” says Kankaanpää.
There may also be upcoming national reforms to the process of specialising in medicine, the details and schedules of which are unknown at the moment.
But the Faculty of Medicine has gone through its share of changes. The content of the courses changed in the degree reform a few years back. Kankaanpää’s preparation for the entrance examination was affected by the new rule dictating that only simple calculators could be used.
There may also be upcoming national reforms to the process of specialising in medicine, the details and schedules of which are unknown at the moment. The uncertainty can also be frustrating.
“Specialisation used to be something you could just announce. Now there’s been talk of grades having an impact on it. From now on, we’ll really have to think about how much we should focus on particular courses from the very beginning of our studies.”