Researchers in the Social studies in Urban Education unit come from a variety of disciplines, including educational sciences, sociology and social sciences, and urban geography, and are located in different faculties in the University of Helsinki, Tampere University, and University of Turku.

SURE Affiliates are located in multiple Finnish universities.

Sonja Kosunen

Sonja Kosunen works as assistant professor of education at the University of Helsinki. She is the leader of Social studies in Urban Education (SURE) -research unit and five research projects (LEE, MAPS, PAHE, MÅDIG and VALU) . Her research focuses currently on educational choices and production of educational inequalities in all stages of education through international comparisons in different SURE-projects. 

Venla Bernelius

Venla Bernelius is an Assistant Professor in Urban Geography and Regional Studies at the University of Helsinki. Her education and working life have centered on a deep fascination on research and building an understanding of the world through science. Making a social impact through collaboration outside the academia has also played a major role in her work. She has a Ph.D in Urban Geography from the University of Helsinki, and she has studied Geography, Statistics and Social Sciences in Finland and Sweden. Before becoming an Assistant Professor in Urban Geography and Regional Studies, she worked as a lecturer researcher in several academic research projects, as well as in EU projects and collaborations between universities and governance actors.

Bernelius's main academic interests have been to understand socio-spatial development in cities, and the way that impacts the society and its institutions. Most of her work focuses on segregation and schools, in search of the mechanisms through which the processes of differentiation operate. However, as Geography is a wonderfully diverse subject, she has also studied themes from trust and solidarity in neighbourhoods to the housing preferences of highly skilled immigrants in Helsinki.

Venla Bernelius works on project LEE (Local Educational Ethos) and has also worked on project MAPS (Mixed classes and Pedagogical Solutions).

Nina Haltia

Nina Haltia works as a postdoctoral researcher at University of Turku, Department of Education. Haltia’s research interests focus on higher education and especially on how the unequalizing mechanisms within the education system create differentiation in educational opportunities. Recently she has been studying the changes in higher education institutions’ admission policies in Finland, the students who enroll higher education through the vocational route instead of the traditional academic track, as well as participation in open university education that is a specific form of lifelong learning provided by higher education institutions in Finland.

Nina Haltia works on project PAHE (Privatisation and Access to Higher Education).

Heidi Huilla

Heidi Huilla, MA (History), MA (Educ.), works as a PhD researcher in the research unit of Social studies in Urban Education (SURE) at the University of Helsinki, at the Faculty of Educational Sciences. She is finalizing her doctoral thesis on disadvantaged schools in segregated urban environments. She has also studied and is interested in policies and practices of school choice, and inclusion and exclusion in education. Before her doctoral studies she worked seven years as a teacher in history, and social and religious studies. 

Heidi works on project LEE (Local Educational Ethos) and has also worked on project MAPS (Mixed Classes and Pedagogical Solutions).

Elina Ikävalko

Elina Ikävalko works as a postdoctoral researcher at University of Helsinki, Faculty of Educational Sciences. Her current research focuses on mental health work and politics, including mental health activism. She seeks to examine mental health policies and the politics of mental health, and consequently, issues related to the participation and citizenship of individuals who have encountered mental distress and/or psychiatrization.  The theoretical background of her research comes from critical mental health and mad studies, feminist affect theories and feminist ethnography. Her research interests also include gender equality and diversity policies in educational institutions.  

Alina Inkinen

Alina Inkinen (MA Adult Education) works as a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Helsinki. Her research is focused on the educational transition from upper secondary education to higher education and how these transitions are constructed within the frames of three policy reforms recently conducted in Finland. Inkinen is also interested in the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on educational transition and educational justice. Before her work on the project and SURE research unit, she worked as a project leader in national educational development projects.

Alina Inkinen works on projects PAHE (Privatisation and Access to Higher Education) and VALU (Vaihtuvat luokat: tutkimus matematiikan opettamisesta joustavin opetusjärjestelyin).

Suvi Jokila

Suvi Jokila is a postdoctoral researcher of PAHE research project. She is interested in the processes of commercialisation, privatisation and internationalisation especially from the perspectives of educational justice and policy-making. In PAHE project, Suvi analyses preparatory course markets and more broadly private tutoring (such as courses to take the matriculation examination) at the confluence of public schooling. She is also interested in socially and geographically constructed choice for further studies.

Suvi Jokila works on PAHE (Privatisation and Access to Higher Education) project.

Sara Juvonen

Sara Juvonen, MA (Educ.), is a PhD researcher in the University of Helsinki. Juvonen's research interests come from the field of sociology of education and concern themes like norms and socialization, equality of education, and teachers and teacher education. Previously, she has concentrated on topics of social capital, school communities, and politics of basic education across the Nordic countries. Juvonen’s dissertation deals with the relationship of school and society and the inherent paradox of socialization in school education.

Juvonen works on project LEE (Local Educational Ethos) and has also worked on project MAPS (Mixed Classes and Pedagogical Solutions).

Linda Maria Laaksonen

Linda Maria Laaksonen (MA Ed., special education) works as a PhD researcher at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests lie in educational choices, social justice, sociology of education and educational policy. She is part of the research group Social Studies in Urban Education (SURE). Previously she has worked in projects focused on educational transitions, upper secondary education, education of students with immigrant backgrounds, gender and special education.

Linda Maria Laaksonen works on PAHE (Privatisation and Access to Higher Education) project.

Sirpa Lappalainen

Sirpa Lappalainen (PhD in Education) works as an associate professor in sociology at the University of Eastern Finland, having the title of docent at University of Helsinki. Her general interest is in educational cultures with focus on dynamics of inclusions and exclusions at different levels of education. Her research comprises themes of nation making and belonging, ideals of citizenship as well as various normativities framing education politics, policies and practices.

Sirpa has worked on project MAPS (Mixed Classes and Pedagogical Solutions).

Tiina Luoma

Tiina Luoma, MA (Educ.), MA (Finnish Literature), is a doctoral candidate at the University of Helsinki and she is conducting her PhD research as a part of the Local Educational Ethos (LEE) project. Her current research focuses on democratic education and social justice as well as social relations and interactions in schools. She has several years of experience in teaching Finnish in comprehensive school and in integration training for adult immigrants. Before her doctoral studies, she worked as a researcher in a project that investigated immigrants’ employment and well-being in Finland.

Tiina works on project LEE (Local Educational Ethos).

Anna-Maija Niemi

Anna-Maija Niemi (Adjuct professor in educational sciences) works as a university researcher at the University of Turku, Department of Education. Her research topics consider educational inclusion as an intersectional question - both in education policy and in school's everyday life practices. Niemi has studied educational paths after basic education and concentrated on policies and practices of and experiences in special needs education, belonging and participation and educational choice-making of the students. She is specialised in ethnographic and life-historical studies.

Anna-Maija Niemi works on PAHE (Privatisation and Access to Higher Education) project.

Riikka Oittinen

Riikka Oittinen (M.Sc, geography) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Helsinki. She is conducting her PHD research within the LEE (Local Educational Ethos) project. Her dissertation focuses on mechanisms of segregation in schools and neighbourhoods and segregation in different life domains of pupils. Previously, she has worked as a teacher and in research projects and teaching development projects at the University of Helsinki.

Riikka works on project LEE (Local Educational Ethos).

Marja Peltola

Marja Peltola DSocSc is a senior lecturer in gender studies in the Tampere University in sociology and youth research. Much of her research has focused on questions of intersectionality, (multi)ethnicity, and close relationships. Recently she has studied changing masculinities in the context of multicultural schools in Helsinki.

Marja Peltola works on LEE (Local Educational Ethos) project.

Hannele Pitkänen

Hannele Pitkänen is a postdoctoral researcher in the Tampere University, working in fields of sociology and politics of education and critical curriculum studies. Her main research interest has been on evaluation in education as a societal phenomenon and form of governing education and educated. Her current Academy awarded project (2020–2023) examines ethnographically the current politics of pupil self-evaluation and the enactment of it in the daily practices of schooling and pupils’ experiences on it. The project runs from the theoretical premise that pupil self-evaluation is not an apolitical technique of learning but potentially plays a significant role in shaping pupil subjectivities and identities, and finally their future prospects as well.

Hannele has worked on project MAPS (Mixed Classes and Pedagogical Solutions).


Juhani Saari

Juhani Saari is working in the research project from a research leave from Statistics Finland, where he is currently working with multiple international surveys such as the European Social Survey, the Eurostudent and the Finnish Survey on Gender Based Violence. During his participation he has focused on quantitative analysis of the national Eurostudent survey data, where he analyses how student motives (according to the SMAU model by Côte & Levine 1997) for attending higher education are related to their socioeconomic background and how they contribute to the demand of private tutoring. In the meantime Juhani is also interested in how graduate employability is measured in the new HE funding model in Finland.

Juhani Saari works on PAHE (Privatisation and Access to Higher Education) project.

Piia Seppänen

Piia Seppänen is a professor of education, especially in comparative education and education policy at the University of Turku, Finland. Much of her scholarly work has focused on school choice policy, pupil selection, classed practices, urban social segregation and comprehensive schooling systems. Seppänen has co-edited books Lohkoutuva peruskoulu (2015, Finnish Educational Research Association) [segmenting compulsory school in Finland] and Contrasting Dynamics in Education Politics of Extremes: school choice in Chile and Finland (2015, Sense Publishers). She is currently leading research project “Hollowing Out of Public Education Systems? Private Actors in Compulsory Schooling in Finland, Sweden and New Zealand (HOPES)” 2017-2021 funded by Academy of Finland at the Centre for Research on Lifelong Learning and Education (CELE), University of Turku.

Piia has worked on project MAPS (Mixed Classes and Pedagogical Solutions).


Jasu da Silva Gonçalves

Jasu da Silva Gonçalves, MSc (Econ) & MA (Education), is a doctoral researcher at the University of Turku, Faculty of Education. Previously they have done an ethnographic study on the study practices of university students and a discursive analysis examining the constitution of the student subject in writings about mental health from the perspective of power and subjectification. Their current research relates to university students' mental health and ableism in the academia, and examines how ableist ideals are produced in both the discourses of student mental health services and the practices of the university and how the students see themselves in light of these ideals. They are interested in the mechanisms of injustice and exclusion in the university context, as well as in (post)qualitative research and methodological approaches combining autoethnography, drifting, nomadic research and collective memory work. Their perspective is informed, among others, by poststructural feminist research, disability studies, crip theory, and mad studies. 

Their own experiences of discomfort and of not quite fitting in have led them to ask questions about who the university is for. Through their studies, they have come to understand that those feelings of inadequacy are not merely their own, but a part of economic, cultural and social forces that shape what we come to think of as ideal and abject.

SURE Affiliated scholars

Helena Hinke Dobrochinski Candido

Yenny Hinostroza-Paredes

Isabel Ramos Lobato

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