Helsinki School of Economics

The School of Business already had a strong heritage stretching back almost 100 years when Aalto University was established in 2010.

Kauppakorkeakoulun juhlasali kuva: Aki-Pekka Sinikoski

Helsinki Business College, established in 1904, was reorganised and became the School of Economics on 16 January 1911. It was located on Fabianinkatu in central Helsinki.

In order to graduate, students were required to complete at least four terms of studies at the university. Studies included lectures, seminar exercises, laboratory work, and discussion evenings. At the time it was established, the School of Economics had a total of 117 students, of which 42 were actual students and 75 people who sat in on lectures. The School’s curriculum was designed for two years of studies.

Students could complete a degree in one of two departments: Business and Industry or Business and Banking. Compulsory subjects, for students of both departments, included general economics, statistics, business and business practice, business geography, or business history, legal science, general accounting, and a model office, as well as chemistry and goods and commodities. In the early years, attendance at lectures was compulsory and necessary as there were only a few copies of books on business available.

Establishment of degree programmes

The programme for a Bachelor’s degree in Economics was established on 15 December 1920. The programme was an extension of studies after college graduation and required completion of at least four subjects in a specified subject area. Only few graduates chose to continue their studies due to the substantial amount of independent study required. Thus, the completion of a Bachelor's degree was quite arduous.

Kauppakorkeakoulu kuva: Aki-Pekka Sinikoski

As the number of graduates from the School of Economics grew, the Finnish title 'ekonomi' (economist/economic) was adopted in 1928. The title was voted on in a referendum. The title Master of Sciences (Economics) was adopted at the beginning of 1995.

The Doctorate programme for Economics was established in 1931 and on 27 October 1937 Vilho Paavo Nurmilahti became the first person in Finland, and the Nordic countries, to receive a PhD. The first Licentiate of Economics graduated from the School of Economics on 26 November 1949.

In 1945, the School of Economics was granted the right to hold formal ceremonies to confer degrees. The first such ceremony was held in 1946 and since then, the School has held a ceremony once every five years.


In 1950, once construction of the main building, designed by Hugo Harmia and Woldemar Baeckman, had been completed, the School of Economics moved into its present premises on Runeberginkatu in central Helsinki. The main building is an impressive example of architecture from Finland’s post-war rebuilding era. The construction of the main building was funded for the most part through donations of alumni and support from the business world. The main building went through a major renovation which was completed in the autumn of 1998.

In 1969, the School purchased a former girls' school, located next to the main building, which today is called Chydenia. The building was completed in 1923 and it was designed by architect Onni Tarjanne.

After nationalisation

After the nationalisation of the university in 1974, it was renamed the Helsinki School of Economics. At the time, nationalising the university evoked debate: on one hand, nationalisation ensured funding for institutions of higher learning, on the other some feared it would be an end to the tradition of autonomous institutions of higher learning.

As a result of nationalising the university, its administration had to be reorganised, which many believed would damage the traditional and important relationships that schools of economics had developed with the business world.

Aalto-yliopiston kauppakorkeakoulu

In the case of the Helsinki School of Economics, this issue was resolved by transferring some of the wealth from the formerly private university to the Helsinki School of Economics Foundation (HSE). The HSE Foundation still operates today.

One positive outcome of nationalisation was that it finally ensured legislation specifically for institutions of higher learning. The Helsinki School of Economics was the first to receive its own legislation, which came into effect on 1 August 1974.

Aalto University formed

The School of Economics went through its last makeover in 2010 when it merged with the University of Art and Design Helsinki and the Helsinki University of Technology to form the multidisciplinary Aalto University.

The change meant that the School of Economics was no longer a separate university focused on economics and business, but a part of a larger, multidisciplinary university. It was also no longer a state-owned accounting office but an independent foundation. Co-operation between economics, technology, and art is being fostered in order to create a world-class standard. New international career systems, learning environments, forms of co-operation with businesses and operations culture are helping Aalto move toward this objective.

Another important goal is to become an internationally recognised school. With this in mind, the English name of the School was changed from the School of Economics to the Aalto University School of Business on 1 August 2012 to better highlight the School's broad operations in all fields of business, as well as give the School of Business a name that was similar in form to most world-class schools in this field.

More information:

School of Business

Page content by: | Last updated: 05.12.2016.