The story of the University of Helsinki

The University of Helsinki was established in 1640. Ever since, it has played a major role in the construction of the Finnish welfare state and the Finnish national identity. The University and the people who work and study here have helped to create a fair and equal society and to foster Finnish education and learning. We have educated nine presidents, four Nobel laureates and thousands of influential figures in the worlds of politics, scholarship, culture and the business sector.

Today, we wish to share our expertise and have an impact on the world. Our research and education set global benchmarks, as shown by several indicators. We work daily to develop new cancer treatments, improve teaching and education, and promote lifelong learning. As a multidisciplinary university, we resolve problems that affect everyone, such as the challenges of climate change. Our strategic plan currently emphasises four research themes: the digital world, ageing and health, globalisation, and sustainable development.

The University of Helsinki resolves problems that affect all of us. Truth and the quest for new knowledge as well as crossdisciplinary research shape our planet and lives. Radical openness and active international collaboration make the University of Helsinki a global force. We believe passionately in the power of thought to change attitudes, people and society – for a better world.

The University of Helsinki was established by a 13-year-old girl. The world came to know her as Queen Christina of Sweden. The University was initially a small and modest academic community with 11 professors and 250 students. Future civil servants and members of the clergy were taught Lutheran theology and European humanism.

In the 19th century, the University became the centre of the Finnish national awakening. It was the scene for the formation of Finnish identity, history, language and culture as well as the creation of the Finnish national anthem and flag. Throughout its history, the University of Helsinki has played a key role in the development of the Finnish education system, cultural life and welfare state. It has been the alma mater of nine presidents and thousands of influential figures in the worlds of politics, scholarship, culture and the business sector, not forgetting four Nobel laureates.

Our success as a world-class university is not measured in years, but in decades and centuries. In good times and bad, our focus has always been on the future.

Read more about the history of the University

Finland’s northern location and rugged terrain have made us Finns survivors. Life at the top of the world requires solution-driven thinking, openness and the ability to work together. We are known for our ability to think clearly and produce solutions that stand the test of time. The combination of our expertise, mindset and ability to cooperate is something the world needs right now.

Today, the University of Helsinki has 40,000 students and researchers and 11 faculties conducting groundbreaking multidisciplinary research. We are one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary universities, featuring in the top 50–100 in most university rankings.

Depending on the method of calculation used, there are approximately 18,000–23,000 higher education institutions in the world, which means we are among the top 0.5%.

We Finns believe in a just society. We are proof that even a small country can succeed if all its citizens have the opportunity to succeed. Whether it is about health, education or technology, we develop solutions for everyone, not just the chosen few. We create and share ideas that contribute to social wellbeing, regardless of people’s income or education. 

The roots of the Finnish school and healthcare systems, widely considered among the best in the world, can be traced back to the University of Helsinki. They are excellent examples of social justice and sustainable development for everyone’s benefit. Transparency, equality and justice guide all our actions. Equality and diversity are our core values.

We believe in radical openness – open science, open data and open innovations. Knowledge sharing promotes and accelerates economic, social and cultural progress. This, we believe, is humanity at its best.

Our most important values are critical thinking and the quest for truth. These are also what the world needs right now, perhaps more than ever. We contribute to the development of a better, more sustainable world by participating in the resolution of global problems.

A multifaceted world needs multidisciplinary solutions. We are known as a pioneer of climate research. Our worldwide network of air-quality measuring stations benefits the whole world. Thanks to our research, mechanisms that cause the onset of cancer are now better understood than ever before. Our clinical biobank is a cornerstone of pioneering genetic research. We educate the world’s best teachers and lead the way with big data.

We work persistently for a fairer, safer and better world. To succeed, we need your help.

Learn more about the social impact of our research