What is COS all about?

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.

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 following thematic pathways are available:

  • 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, Sociology and Development Studies

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 disciplines (study tracks):

  1. Sociology
  2. Social and Public Policy
  3. Social Psychology
  4. Social and Cultural Anthropology
  5. Development Studies

To apply you must have a Bachelor’s degree including studies in one of these disciplines.  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.

Degree structure

General studies in the Master’s Programme 10-20 ECTS

  • Career Course (e.g. Demola) or either Internship or Teaching or Research Practicum 5 – 15 ECTS
  • Academic writing 5 ECTS

Joint Studies 10 ECTS

  • COS seminar 5 ECTS
  • Situating the Social Sciences 5 ECTS

Study Track Specific Courses 55 ECTS

  • 15 ECTS advanced general studies in the discipline
  • 10 ECTS thesis seminar  
  • 30 ECTS Master’s thesis

Research Skills (quantitative and/or qualitative) 15 ECTS

Specialisation studies in a thematic pathway 15 - 25 ECTS
Thematic pathways: Ethnic Relations and Migration; Mind and Society; Socio-Cultural Shifts; Sources of Inequalities

Optional studies 0 – 15 ECTS
(Language studies and/or thematic courses of the student’s choice. Mobility window)

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

  • Ethnic Relations and Migration;

  • Mind and Society;

  • Socio-Cultural Shifts;

  • Sources of Inequalities