Past Research Projects

Older KUPOLI research projects are described briefly below.
Dynamics of Transition Policies (DTP)

Attachment to education, delayed continuation to secondary and tertiary education, as well as high numbers of drop-outs and late transition to working life commonly are recognised as major problems. The research project aims to form a comprehensive view of the dynamics of transition policies – the interaction between the various institutions and actors providing guidance and support at level – by analysing the governance of post-comprehensive educational transitions in Finland. The theoretical and methodological approach will take up the challenge of unravelling the complexity, relationality and contingency that characterise the governance of post-comprehensive transitions. Due to national socio-cultural factors, the problematisations on well-functioning educational transitions are arguably distinctive to each national milieu. Therefore, the scope for action or national models of transition policies are dissimilar, requiring understanding on domestic conditions.

The project consists of national level documentary analysis and thematic in-depth interviews conducted in 2019­–2020.

Key research publications

Wallenius, T., Kalalahti, M. & Varjo, J. 2022. Poikkihallinnollisuus opinto- ja uraohjauksen hallintapuheessa [Cross-sectorality at the governance of career guidance]. Hallinnon tutkimus, 41(3), 186–200. DOI:


Transitions and Educational Trajectories of Immigrant Youth: a 4-year Longitudinal Study from Compulsory to Further Education (Transit)

The research project is aiming to explore more deeply, and more holistically than the previous register-based or cross-sectional studies the transitions of immigrant youth from the compulsory school to the secondary education, including also the students who are not embarking the further education directly after the 9th grade, as well as those who may drop-out /interrupt their studies after initially starting at the upper secondary level. The ultimate goal is to reach a comprehensive picture of the variety of trajectories possible for this group, compare those to the native counterparts’ trajectories and explain the transition mechanisms. This main task can be divided on two parts: 1) transition experiences is focusing on detailed information about the decision making process and the experienced support related to these decisions as well as the experiences during the upper secondary education, 2) educational trajectories and subgroups is focusing on the detailed description of the post-compulsory activity of the study group.

Key research publications

Jahnukainen, M., Kalalahti, M. & Kivirauma, J. (toim.) 2019. Oma paikka haussa. Maahanmuuttotaustaiset nuoret ja koulutus. Helsinki: Gaudeamus.

Holmberg, L., Kalalahti, M., Varjo, J., Kivirauma, J., Mäkelä, M-L, Saarinen, M., Zacheus, T. & Jahnukainen, M. 2018. Educational trajectories of immigrant-origin youths in Finland: A mixed methods analysis. Journal of Education and Work, 31 (7–8), 563–578. DOI:

Zacheus, T., Kalalahti, M., Varjo, J., Saarinen, M., Jahnukainen, M., Mäkelä, M-L. & Kivirauma, J. 2019. Discrimination, harassment and racism in Finnish lower secondary schools. Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 9 (1), 81–98. DOI: 10.2478/njmr-2019-0004

Kalalahti, M., Niemi, A-M., Varjo, J. & Jahnukainen, M. 2020. Diversified transitions and educational equality? Negotiating the transitions of young people with immigrant backgrounds and/ or special educational needs. Nordic Studies in Education 40 (1), 36–54. DOI:

Mäkelä, M.-L.,& Kalalahti, M. 2020.  Facing uncertainty yet feeling confident: Teenage migrant girls’ agencies in upper secondary school transitions. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 64(1), 118-134.

Dynamics in Basic Education Politics in Nordic Countries (DYNO)

The research project intends to reconstruct a comparative view of basic education politics in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Our theoretical and methodological approach will seriously take up the challenge of unravelling the complexity, contingency and trans-nationality that characterise the educational systems of Nordic societies. Our main hypothesis is that the dynamics in the basic education system in each country are relative, but reflect the intertwinement of the dynamics from at least four focal perspectives: education policy-making and governance, family educational strategies and classroom cultures. If successful, this research project will open up various new horizons and will have an impact not only on education research but also on other fields of comparative historical sociology and politics. Pragmatically, it will open up avenues for both educational development and education consultancy and export.

Key research publications

Hansen, P., Wallenius, S., Juvonen & Varjo, J. 2019.  Moving landscapes of Nordic basic education: approaching shifting international influences through the narratives of educational experts, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. See the article in HELDA

Wallenius, T., Juvonen, S., Varjo, J. & Hansen, P. 2018. Schools, accountability and transparency – Approaching the Nordic school evaluation practices through discursive institutionalism. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 4 (3), 133–143. See the article in HELDA

Parents and School Choice (PASC)

The objective of this research project is to explore the affiliation between parental educational strategies, social segregation and local school-choice policies. Finnish families in three major cities and Chilean families in two metropolitan areas will be interviewed and surveyed, and the resulting analysis will focus on pupil streams into and out of certain schools on the one hand and social segregation in related residential areas on the other. The emphasis will be on the parental school-choice processes and educational strategies of students leaving primary education and continuing to the lower-secondary level. We intend to contribute to the current discussion on the heated topic of school choice in terms of both research and policy: how would it be possible to limit the segregative effects of school choice in basic education? In relating family- and local-level policies to national, regional and global discourses we also aim to shed some light on the problematic of policy convergence, transformation and intersection in late-modern and globalised information societies.

Key research publications

Seppänen, P., Carrasco, A., Kalalahti, M., Rinne, R. & Simola, H. (eds.). 2015. Contrasting Dynamics in Education Politics of Extremes – School Choice in Chile and Finland. Rotterdam: SensePublishers.

Seppänen, P., Kalalahti, M., Rinne, R. & Simola, H. (Toim.) 2015. Lohkoutuva peruskoulu: Perheiden kouluvalinnat, yhteiskuntaluokat ja koulutuspolitiikat. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 68. Jyväskylä: Suomen Kasvatustieteellinen Seura.

Fabricating Quality in European Education (FabQ)

Quality assurance and evaluation (QAE) is increasingly important nationally and transnationally in education. It may steer policy and practice at all levels and in all sectors of education in national systems, and may be understood as a form of governance of education. This project focuses on the governance of education through investigation and analysis of (a) the extent of policy convergence and divergence in QAE across the systems in the project, (b) the extent of Europeanisation of education across the different systems, and evidence of policy learning, (c) differences and similarities in the operation of QAE at different levels across systems and (d) impacts of QAE processes on teachers in the different systems. It draws on detailed individual multi-level studies that share a common design. These studies enable the collaborative project to identify and analyse, through a variety of theoretical approaches, the ways in which education is controlled, managed and governed through QAE. The collaborative project will, through this work, contribute to the development of comparative methodologies that are sensitive to the influence of trans-national pressures for QAE on national systems, while also recognising the importance of context in shaping responses to these pressures.

The overarching aims of the project are to:

1. Develop understanding of QAE as a form of governance of education, through empirical investigation and theoretical work that draws on current social science approaches to the relationship between evidence, data and governing;

2. Develop new methodological and theoretical approaches to comparative education in Europe, which combine perspectives on emergent global policy development with critical approaches to meaning-making through comparison and with attention to the mediating effects of national and local practices.

Key research publications

Varjo, J., Simola, H. & Rinne, R. 2016. Arvioida ja hallita – perään katsomisesta informaatio-ohjaukseen suomalaisessa koulupolitiikassa. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 70. Jyväskylä: Suomen kasvatustieteellinen seura. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 70. Jyväskylä: Suomen kasvatustieteellinen seura.

Rinne, R., Simola, H., Mäkinen-Streng, M., Silmäri-Salo, S. & Varjo, J. 2011. Arvioinnin arvo. Suomalaisen perusopetuksen laadunarviointi rehtoreiden ja opettajien silmin. Turku: Suomen Kasvatustieteellinen Seura.


Power, Supranational Regimes and New University Management in Finland (UniPower)

This study will analyse institutionalised operating logics of power constructed through modes of governance and management in Finnish universities. There are three main questions here: first, how have these new modes been travelling and embedding? Second, what kind of new discursive and non-discursive practices and symbolic power relations are they reconstructing and reshaping? And finally, what are their effects in reproduction of what is seen as true knowledge and correct ethos in the Finnish university?

In our research project we are approaching our questions in three levels. These levels are the supranational level (especially EU Higher Education Policy), the national level (the Finnish HE policy and governance) and the university level (four case universities in Finland).

Key research publications

Rinne, R., Jauhiainen, A., Simola, H., Lehto R., Jauhiainen, A. & Laiho, A. 2012. Valta, uusi yliopistopolitiikka ja yliopistotyö Suomessa: Managerialistinen hallintapolitiikka yliopistolaisten kokemana. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 58. Turku: Suomen Kasvatustieteellinen Seura.