Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences

The Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences is a collaborative effort between a number of the social sciences at the University of Helsinki that aims to create the best research environment for doctoral training. It covers the widest areas of social science research in Finland: media and communication studies, social and cultural anthropology, social psychology, social and public policy, social work, sociology, statistics, criminology and demography. The Faculty of Social Sciences, to which all these disciplines belong, also has a new Centre for Research Methods, which aims to provide the most innovative methods to support the social science research being done at Helsinki.

Roberto De Vogli: "Psychopatologies as 'causes' and effects of the 2008 global financial crisis"

Social Research Seminar Series on Friday 25th May at 2-4 pm (U35, room 114)

Social Research Seminar Series is a set of talks given by speakers representing the disciplines of the Doctoral Programme. The talks are open to everyone interested. Read more

Call for Papers is opened for the 5th Annual Conference of the doctoral programme in Social Sciences and the doctoral programme in Political, Societal and Regional  Change. For more information, see Activities.

The Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences covers a very wide range of social science research, from the most abstract and qualitative to the most concrete and quantitative, and many mixtures in between. It also covers everything from research carried out purely because of academic or scientific interest, all the way to research that mostly has an applied purpose. In all the research we do, we aim to have an impact: either on the understanding of a particular topic or theme, and/or on a non-academic area, policy or topic, particularly in social and cultural fields.

The Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences has over 300 members.

Each year, the programme hosts a range of courses, seminars, and master classes organized by the disciplines, which are open to all doctoral researchers registered in the programme.  Many courses are held by distinguished international scholars invited to Helsinki for the purpose; others are designed by our own expert staff. These courses involve:

  • training in research methodologies and theoretical approaches;
  • specialist themes or topics in the social sciences taught by an expert in the field (e.g. globalization; inequality; political demography; social media; cultural difference);
  • doctoral skills and techniques (e.g. writing skills, publishing articles, time management, etc);
  • regular constructive critique of doctoral candidates’ work - where students present their work and they receive feedback on it. One of the advantages of having a cross-disciplinary programme is that students not only receive feedback from within their own discipline, but also hear the views of others, from other disciplines.

In addition, the programme holds an annual conference, which is an opportunity for doctoral students across all the disciplines to meet together in a large event and share their diverse approaches towards the study of social science.

The Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences has a strong commitment to providing the best conditions for doctoral students to carry out their research in the pursuit of this aim, whether their work is purely conceptual or scientific, or whether it has more of an applied purpose. We welcome dialogue and debate; that is at the heart of developing a strong research environment.

Social Research Seminars Series

Social Research Seminars Series is a seminar series of the Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences. Social Research Seminar Series is a set of talks given by speakers representing the disciplines of the Doctoral Programme. The talks are open to everyone interested. Read more


Annual Conference

The event will bring together PhD candidates, supervisors, and junior and senior-level researchers from different disciplines. The conference consists of plenary sessions and workshops where doctoral candidates have the opportunity to present their papers and receive feedback from peers, colleagues, professors, and experts in their fields. We warmly welcome doctoral candidates to present their research at the conference!

The Social and Political Life of Methods

The 5th Annual Conference for the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Change and the Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.

Time: 22-23 October 2018
Venue: Metsätalo, Unioninkatu 40

The 5th annual conference for PhD students explores the role of methods and methodologies in research and how they represent and perform aspects of the explored phenomena. Special attention is given to what could be called “the social and political life of methods”, referring to the historical, cultural, social and political contexts of methods and methodological developments. The expansion of digital data has made these questions particularly timely, but they are not limited to any particular data type, and the goal of the conference is to cross-fertilize questions about methods across the digital and analogue, including various disciplines and thereby strengthen the debate about methodological choices.

We are interested in questions like: how do research tools and methods promote certain forms of knowledge at the expense of others? How do they convert empirical data? What are methods good at “seeing” and what do they conceal? When and how are method choices political? What happens to research when methods become fashionable or are abandoned?

We welcome analytical debates on the value of methods, concerning digital methods and beyond. We are interested in ways to bypass the quantitative and qualitative divide in research and encourage papers to combine and compare different kinds of methods to highlight and discuss aspects of research.

For more information, see the call for papers. The deadline for 300 word (max.) abstracts is  31 July.


Forthcoming Courses


Methods in Comparative Cultural Sociology

Credits: 2 (for attending the lecture and the master class)
Type of course: Training in research methodologies
When taught: April 2018, 23.-25.4.18.
Responsible PI: Mats Bergman
Lecturer in charge: Giselinde Kuipers
Other lecturers: Joonas Koivukoski (coordinator/tutor)
Aims: Elaborating key methodological approaches for comparative cultural sociology
Learning outcomes: After completing the course doctoral students can identify the most common methods used in comparative cultural sociology. Moreover, they will be able to critically evaluate and justify their own methodological choices made in relation to their own dissertation work.
1st day:  Afternoon session (2-3h):  Lecture: "Methods in Comparative Cultural Sociology"  
2nd day: Morning session (2-3h): Master Class: Presentations and commentary of the papers of doctoral students,  Afternoon session: Tuesday coffee -format (2h):  Introduction to and discussion of "Cultural Sociology of Humor"
Teaching and learning methods: Lectures, presentations of papers, constructive commenting on others' papers, discussions


Mediation Analysis with a focus on the Causal Inference Approach

Credits: 2
When taught: May 2018
Responsible PI/name of the organizer: Pekka Martikainen
Lecturer in charge: Dr Maarten
Aims: To understand the basis of modern mediation analyses
Content: The course would run for ca. 5 hours over 3 days. Each day would consist of about 3 hours of lectures and 2 hours of practical exercises. Exercises would be with R-code, but I would refer to STATA packages for some of the same methods.

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Planning to apply for a doctoral study right at our programme? Good choice! To start with, you should read the University’s general instructions for doctoral applicants. Once you’re acquainted with those, come back here to read more about the programme-specific selection criteria and instructions for applicants.


In addition to fulfilling the general rules of eligibility, your previous degree must be relevant to the planned research topic and discipline. A degree is regarded as relevant if it includes sufficient studies in a discipline which, given the topic of the proposed doctoral dissertation, can be regarded as a suitable basis for doctoral studies. To be able to apply, you need to have all the studies required for the degree you apply with completed, graded and registered by the end of the relevant application period.

The following criteria have been confirmed for admission to doctoral education in the Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences:

  1. Appropriate performance in previous studies and their suitability to serve as the foundation of the prospective doctoral degree.
  2. The quality of the research plan and the links between the planned dissertation research and the research conducted in the doctoral programme.
  3. Availability of supervision and related resources: as a rule, the person who agrees to serve as the supervisor can simultaneously supervise no more than six students who are completing their postgraduate degree in a way that is equivalent to full-time studying.

Process of evaluation of applications and decision-making at the Faculty of Social Sciences

Applications that meet the formal eligibility requirements will be submitted for a scholarly assessment by supervisors in the doctoral programme. The Faculty's Doctoral Education Committee makes the final decision on granting the right to complete a degree based on a proposal by the steering group of the doctoral programme.

In conjunction with admission, the doctoral programme and the title of the doctoral degree to be pursued will be confirmed, and the student will be assigned at least two supervisors who have completed a doctoral degree and of whom at least one has a permanent or long-term employment contract with the Faculty in which the student will pursue the doctoral degree. In addition, each student will be assigned a supervising professor, who may also serve as one of the dissertation supervisors.


The Doctoral Programme has two application periods for doctoral study rights each year – one in the spring and one in the fall.

The spring 2018 round of applications was from April 3, 2018 to April 16, 2018. Applicants will be informed of the decisions by June 15th, 2018.

Next application period will be from September 14, 2018 until September 27, 2018.

Before submitting an application, applicants must contact teachers in the suitable field of science to receive instructions concerning the suitability of their research proposal for supervisory and research profile in the field of science (no supervisory assistance can otherwise be offered for the research proposal). Teachers’ email addresses can be found under each doctoral programme supervision information. Email messages sent to teachers must be accompanied by a preliminary research proposal (max. 5 pages). Information about a potential supervisor is asked in the application form.

Supervisor’s statement about the applicant is not compulsory in this doctoral programme. However, this is mistakenly asked for in the application form. Please, submit an empty page.


Applications are submitted using an electronic application form, which will be open during the application period. All applicants must submit the following documents as part of their application (point 1 is integrated in the electronic application form; points 2-4 are submitted as scanned attachments):

Electronic application form (open between 3-16 April 2018)

The required documents to be attached to the form:

1. A preliminary research proposal. Instructions on how to draw up your research plan are found by looking at the University of Helsinki research plan template . The following fields related to the research plan are included in the electronic application form (the number in parentheses indicates the maximum number of characters per field, spaces included):

  • Brief summary of the research plan (1500)
  • Significance of the project in relation to current knowledge (1500)
  • Objectives of the research (2000)
  • Effects and impact beyond academia (500)
  • Research methods (2000)
  • Research material to be used and its significance for the research project (1000)
  • Data management plan (1500)
  • Critical points for success, alternative implementation strategies (500)
  • Ethical issues (1000)
  • Publication plan (including a preliminary outline of a monograph) (1000)
  • Methods for ensuring open access (more information available on the University Library's website, 500)
  • Schedule for the research (500)
  • Funding plan for research and doctoral studies (500)
  • Applied funding and salaried positions (500)
  • Motivation for choosing the University of Helsinki as the site of doctoral research and motivation for selecting the doctoral programme (500)
  • Mobility plan (500)
  • The most important research literature and/or sources (1000)

2. An abstract of the Master’s thesis

3. A copy of your previous degree certificate (Master's degree or equivalent) and a copy of a detailed transcript of studies included in the degree.

4. Verification of language skills. The University of Helsinki demands an indication of academic level language skills of all applicants. Please acquaint yourself with the options for verifying your language skills in either Finnish, Swedish or English in good time before applying. Additionally, you will need to have sufficient skills in any other languages needed for your research topic. Your skills in these languages will be assessed based on the application documents (e.g. transcript of studies) as well as preliminary discussions with your potential supervisors.

N.B. Applicants who have not completed their previous degree in the University of Helsinki must also send officially certified copies of the documents mentioned in points 3. and 4.  by post. For more information on the means of having the documents officially certified, please see here.


The applications, along with the required additional documents, must be submitted by the end of the application period. Applications are submitted using an electronic application form, which closes at UTC +3, (at 15.00 PM Helsinki time), on the last day of the round of applications. Those applicants who are required to send certified copies of the additional documents by post must make sure that these documents arrive by the end of the application period.

Applications and additional documents sent by email are not accepted. Incomplete applications are not considered.

The certified copies of additional documents must be delivered to the Admissions Services of the University of Helsinki. For instructions on how to submit your documents, please see here.

who to ask? CON­TACT DE­TAILS

Admission to postgraduate studies:

Decisions on admissions for doctoral studies in the Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences are made based on the University’s general criteria for admissions as well as programme-specific complementary guidelines for admissions.

Applications that meet the formal eligibility requirements will be submitted for a scholarly assessment. This scholarly assessment is performed by supervisors of the doctoral programme.
The Faculty's Doctoral Education Committee makes the final decision on granting the right to complete a degree based on a proposal by the steering group of the doctoral programme.

Feasibility, scientific significance and suitability to the research profile of the doctoral programme are emphasised in the assessment of the quality of the research plans. In the assessment of study plans, weight is placed on the feasiblity and appropriateness for the dissertation project in question. When assessing the provisional timetables presented in the study plans, special attention is paid to the fact that a full-time doctoral student should aim to complete the dissertation and related studies in approx. 4 years. Supervisors are expected to support this goal.

The suitability of the previous degree as a basis for the planned dissertation project, previous study performance and the availability of high-quality supervision are also a central part of the criteria. Lack of suitable supervision resources can be used as grounds for rejecting an application.

In conjunction with admission, the doctoral programme and the title of the doctoral degree to be pursued will be confirmed, and the student will be assigned at least two supervisors who have completed a doctoral degree and of whom at least one has a permanent or long-term employment contract with the Faculty in which the student will pursue the doctoral degree. In addition, each student will be assigned a supervising professor, who may also serve as one of the dissertation supervisors.

There are a few salaried doctoral student positions funded by the University of Helsinki available every year. The next round of applications will be in September 2018.

The steering committee of the Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences has nominated 24.11.2017 the following applicants for funded doctoral candidate positions, starting in January 2018:

Liina Junna, 4 years
Arto Kekkonen, 4 years
Anna Klimova, 4 years
Aino Koskenniemi, 4 years
Paula Merikoski, 4 years
Jenni Savonen, 4 years
Stefania Siren-Heikel, 4 years
Atte Vieno, 4 years

The programme congratulates the successful candidates and wishes to thank all applicants.

PhDs involve a long-term commitment, which requires planning and shared understanding of expectations and responsibilities. In the beginning of doctoral studies, each doctoral candidate makes a personal study plan (PSP) and a supervision agreement. The personal study plan is to ensure that the formal training you take will benefit the aims of your research. Only the student and the supervisor will know what counts as beneficial for each candidate as it varies across research topics and disciplines, and it varies at different stages of the completion of the PhD. Therefore, the personal study plan is done together with a supervisor or supervisors.

These documents - the personal study plan and supervision agreement - are designed to help both PhD students and their supervisors to keep track of progress, and ultimately to approach the goal of achieveing a PhD. 


Degree programme structure 1.8.2017 onwards

The doctoral degree consists of three modules:
Research-specific training (30 credits) + Academic competence (10 credits) + Doctoral thesis.

Module 1: Research-specific training (30 credits)

  • Regular constructive critique of doctoral candidates’ work: research-theme specific seminars and supervision (minimum of 10 credits and maximum of 20 credits).
  • Training in research methodologies and theoretical approaches specific to the PhD candidate’s research field (minimum of 5 credits and maximum of 20).
  • Training in research ethics so as to ensure the highest standards in protecting the privacy, dignity, interests and security of those we research (1-5 credits).
  • International mobility and conference participation (2-10 credits). 
  • Training in specialist themes or topics in the social sciences directly relevant to the doctoral research, which can include training from an external expert (no minimum; maximum of 10 credits).

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Module 2: Academic Competence and Transferable Skills (10 credits)

  • Academic and transferable skills and techniques (e.g. writing and communication skills)
  • Pedagogy in university education, teaching skills
  • Research management skills and science in society
  • Career planning and general working skills

Courses and events

Module 3: Doctoral Thesis

The preparation of the doctoral thesis is the core work of any PhD candidate. All modules involve contributions to this, but this third module lies at the heart of the doctoral program. This module depends heavily on the supervisors (usually a minimum of two, with one main supervisor or two equal co-supervisors) and the doctoral candidate, working together throughout the period of the completion of the degree. There are four elements to this module:

  • Primary and secondary research and data gathering, which will include becoming fully familiar with existing literature and knowledge in the chosen field.
  • Thorough and rigorous analysis of data, which will include regular academic writing under supervision, and presentation of that work for critical assessment and peer review.
  • The writing of the final thesis in a coherent, concise, well organized and well-presented manner. The thesis can be monograph or article-based, as agreed by the supervision team. It is recommended that the thesis shall not exceed a maximum of 80 000 words in total, including footnotes, endnotes, diagrams and tables, and appendices, but excluding the bibliography, and excluding open access to primary data.
  • Submission of the thesis for examination, followed by a public defence of the thesis, in accordance with the regulations of the University of Helsinki.

The thesis can be monograph or article-based. If it is article-based doctoral thesis, the following information should be taken into account: 

  • The normally expected number of peer-reviewed articles will be no less than three (3) and no more than five (5). The final number must be agreed with the recommendation of the doctoral candidate's main supervisor, and must comply with University regulations. 
  • It is recommended that the summary and conclusions of an article-based PhD shall not exceed 20 000 words. The contents of the summary, which varies across disciplines and themes, should be agreed with the doctoral candidate's supervisor.
  • It is recommended that the total word count, including summary, conclusion and articles, shall not exceed 80 000 words (i.e. circa 250 pages).  

The preparation of the doctoral thesis is the core work of any PhD candidate. Therefore, the key person in the process of obtaining a doctorate is your supervisor. He or she will supervise your research and guide you through your doctoral degree. A good starting point for finding a potential supervisor at the University of Helsinki is to study the list under. By clicking the names of potential supervisors you will see their TUHAT-profile. TUHAT is the University’s research portal where UH researchers update their latest publications and other activities.


Media and Global Communication
Contact persons of the research area: Mats Bergman
Marko Ampuja
Mats Bergman
Camilla Haavisto
Juha Herkman
Jaana Hujanen
Nathalie Hyde-Clarke
Anu Kantola
Kari Karppinen
Janne Matikainen
Tuomo Mörä
Hannu Nieminen
Mervi Pantti
Matteo Stocchetti
Johanna Sumiala
Esa Väliverronen

Urban Studies
Contact persons of the research area: Anne Haila and Matti Kortteinen
Robert Beauregard
Giacomo Bottà
Anna-Maija Castrén
Anne Haila
Timo Kopomaa
Matti Kortteinen
Annika Teppo
Tarja Tolonen
Mari Vaattovaara

Cultural and Social Diversities and Intergroup Relations
The research area welcomes students with a background in social psychology or related disciplines interested in the ways diversity is constructed and managed and intergroup relations are organized in communities, organizations and societies.

Contact person of the research area: Inga Jasinskaja-Lahti
Inga Jasinskaja-Lahti
Karmela Liebkind
Jukka Lipponen
Tuula Sakaranaho
Antti Räsänen
Jan-Erik Lönnqvist
Päivi Berg

Social Anthropology and Cultural Anthropology
Contact person of the research area: Sarah Green
Eeva Berglund
Phaedra Douzina-Bakalaki
Sarah Green
Toomas Gross
Andy Graan
Miia Halme-Tuomisaari
Elina Hartikainen
Timo Kaartinen
Timo Kallinen
Anu Lounela
Mary Montgomery
Tuulikki Pietilä
Minna Ruckenstein
Carl Rommel
Patricia Scalco
Kenneth Sillander
Laia Soto Bermant
Sirpa Tenhunen
Reetta Toivanen
Katja Uusihakala

Social Policy
Contact persons of the research area: Anne Kouvonen and Heikki Hiilamo
Anne Haila
Heikki Hiilamo
Janne Hukkinen
Hisayo Katsui
Kathrin Komp
Anne Kouvonen
Reetta Mietola
Ossi Rahkonen
Anna Rotkirch
Ullamaija Seppälä
Arho Toikka

Social Psychology
Contact person of the research area: Anna-Maija Pirttilä-Backman
Jari Hakanen
Nelli Hankonen
Ari Haukkala
Klaus Helkama
Keegan Knittle
Hanna Konttinen
Inga Jasinskaja-Lahti
Karmela Liebkind
Jukka Lipponen
Jan-Erik Lönnqvist
Liisa Myyry
Tuuli Anna Renvik
Anna-Maija Pirttilä-Backman
Niklas Ravaja
Inari Sakki
Antti Uutela
Kari Vesala

Social Work and Welfare Policies
Contact persons of research area: Ilse Julkunen and Marjaana Seppänen
Helena Blomberg-Kroll
Timo Harrikari
Ilse Julkunen
Maija Jäppinen
Marja Katisko
Johanna Kiili
Aino Kääriäinen
Annika Lillrank
Harry Lunabba
Ira Malmberg-Heimonen
Anu Muuri
Kirsi Nousiainen
Camilla Nordberg
Marketta Rajavaara
Mirja Satka
Marjaana Seppänen
Maritta Törrönen
Elina Virokannas

Knowledge, Technology and Environment
Contact persons of the research area: Janne Hukkinen and Petri Ylikoski
Ilkka Arminen
Eeva Berglund
Lotta Hautamäki
Eva Heiskanen
Nina Honkela
Janne Hukkinen
Mikko Jauho
Kari Kantasalmi
Mianna Meskus
Mika Pantzar
Mikko Rask
Minna Ruckenstein
Karoliina Snell
Arho Toikka
Esa Väliverronen
Petri Ylikoski

Statistical Modeling
Contact persons of the research area: Krista Lagus and Mikko Myrskylä
Juha Alho
Krista Lagus
Seppo Laaksonen
Risto Lehtonen
Pekka Martikainen
Mikko Myrskylä
Samuli Ripatti
Reijo Sund
Maria Valaste
Kimmo Vehkalahti

Action, Interaction and Social Relationships
Contact persons of the research area: Ilkka Arminen and Kari Vesala
Ilkka Arminen
Tiina Arppe
Ritva Engeström
Riikka Homanen
Riitta Högbacka
Anu Klippi
Ritva Laury
Jan Lindström
Anssi Peräkylä
Niklas Ravaja
Ulla-Maija Seppälä
Marja-Leena Sorjonen
Harriet Strandell
Liisa Tainio
Marja Tiilikainen
Tarja Tolonen
Kari Vesala

Comparative Study of Social Change
Contact persons of the research area: Sirpa Wrede and Anu Kantola
Marko Ampuja
Antti Gronow
Lotta Haikkola
Matilda Hellman
Juha Herkman
Heikki Hiilamo
David Inglis
Johannes Kananen
Anu Kantola
Anu Katainen
Suvi Keskinen
Kathrin Komp
Matti Kortteinen
Anne Kouvonen
Johanna Mäkelä
Camilla Nordberg
Lena Näre
Johanna Sumiala
Aaro Tupasela
Sirpa Wrede
Tuomas Ylä-Anttila

Contact persons of the research area: Janne Kivivuori and Matti Näsi
Mikko Aaltonen
Noora Ellonen
Janne Kivivuori
Juha Kääriäinen
Matti Näsi
Elsa Saarikkomäki
Jukka Savolainen

Population, Health and Living Conditions 
The board of the research area:
Pekka Martikainen 
Ari Haukkala
Anne Kouvonen
Eero Lahelma
Ossi Rahkonen
Karri Silventoinen

Other supervisors:
Mikko Aaltonen
Hillevi Aro
Anu Castaneda
Raija Gould
Jari Haukka
Marja Holmila
Taina Huurre
Sakari Karvonen
Janne Kivivuori
Kathrin Komp
Hanna Konttinen
Päivikki Koponen
Matti Kortteinen
Seppo Koskinen
Mikko Laaksonen
Tiina Laatikainen
Jouni Lahti
Taina Leinonen
Eila Linnanmäki
Minna-Liisa Luoma
Tuija Martelin
Mikko Mattila
Heta Moustgaard
Lasse Murto
Pia Mäkelä
Irma-Leena Notkola
Veijo Notkola
Hanna Remes
Eva Roos
Ullamaija Seppälä
Riikka Shemeikka
Ismo Söderling
Lasse Tarkiainen
Marianna Virtanen
Hanna Wass

The Director of the Doctoral Programme
Professor Sarah Green

The Steering Committee of the Doctoral Programme
Sarah Green
Mats Bergman
Ilse Julkunen
Heikki Hiilamo
Mikko Myrskylä
Anssi Peräkylä
Anna-Maija Pirttilä-Backman
Merja Kiiskinen, student representative
Jennifer de Paola, student representative

Doctoral Programme Planner
Tiina Käkelä