Master's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning, MSc in Architecture
Urbanisation is a global phenomenon with direct impact on the future of our societies. Most of the key challenges of contemporary societies are encountered and addressed in cities. Cities provide enormous economic, technical and cultural opportunities, but they are also places of social conflicts and segregation as well as environmental and health problems. The magnitude of such challenges implies that no single field of research or profession can tackle them alone. Urban development requires an integrated approach. To this end, two prominent Finnish universities, Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, have joined forces in this unique and interdisciplinary master’s programme. Application through Aalto University’s admissions process is oriented towards applicants with a bachelor’s degree in planning, architecture, landscape architecture and urban and real estate economy.
The studies are part of a transdisciplinary master's programme jointly executed with the University of Helsinki.
This admission track is for students aiming for the M.Sc. (architecture) degree.
General Knowledge and Skills
After completing a degree in the master’s programme in Urban Studies & Planning, the student will be able to:
- Excel as a professional, capable of understanding and addressing complex urban development challenges,
- Identify theories, concepts and empirical research methods relevant to urban studies and planning from related fields of social sciences, humanities, ecology, engineering, architecture, design and art,
- Demonstrate a working understanding of the role of urban government, policy-making and planning in urban development,
- Critically and creatively pose and answer significant research questions relevant not only within but across multiple fields of theory and practice,
- Gather, process and develop relevant conclusions based on information from multiple sources
- Produce, collect and analyse cases and data relevant to urban phenomena,
- Use digital and other tools to collect, analyse and share data,
- Develop responses to urban problems using relevant tools and techniques for representing, modelling, prototyping, testing and evaluating solutions,
- Understand and develop integrated approaches within and across urban research and applied planning,
- Communicate understanding of and responses to urban phenomena visually, graphically, verbally and in writing,
- Write academic, professional and popular texts on urban themes based on relevant literature,
- Apply and develop skills for co-production of knowledge and co-design,
Work productively and cooperatively in multidisciplinary, multiprofessional and international, environments.
Knowledge and Skills Related to Specialisations and Professions
After completing a degree in the master’s programme in Urban Studies & Planning, the student will be able to:
- Apply general knowledge and skills introduced, developed and demonstrated within courses and thesis work,
- Situate urban analyses and proposals in relation to his/her own specialisation as well as contextualize in relation to others,
- Identify, differentiate and articulate relations among various theories and methods relevant to his/her own specialisation,
- Develop and reflect on his/her competence in urban studies and planning in relation to his/her professional role,
- Carry out independent research on urban issues in his/her field using adequate research methods and respecting responsible scientific practice,
- Analyse phenomena and develop solutions through the use of digital and other tools, such as GIS and CAD,
- Fulfil specific professional degrees in accordance with respective professional codes and directives (such as those of architects, landscape architects and urban planners), as relevant,
- Demonstrate competence in working as a professional and/or researcher in urban studies and planning,
- Communicate professionally and constructively with different experts, practitioners and stakeholders in the field of urban studies and planning,
- Articulate his/her professional identification in terms of established and emerging roles relevant to urban studies and planning.
All teaching is given in English.
Major or specialisation fields
The programme combines several degree options from Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. The target degrees are listed in the section ‘Qualifications’. The target degree is to be selected in the application process, and the application should be directed to the suitable university and according to the target degree. The applicability of previous studies is assessed according to the selected target degree.
For example, a student aiming for a Master of Science (architecture) degree at Aalto University must have suitable previous studies to qualify for the target degree, and the application must be submitted to Aalto University. The chosen target degree cannot be changed.
The programme prepares you to be a professional in a field that is meaningful, growing and in demand. You will acquire the knowledge, skills and experience needed to fill both traditional and emerging planning roles (such as urban planning and design, real estate development, strategic planning, environmental planning, landscape architecture, policy and service design). To these established or emerging roles, you will bring an integrated understanding of, and training in applying, more interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to urban development. As a graduate you will be prepared to compete for local and international positions within public, private and non-profit organisations, planning, architectural and policy advisory firms, research institutes and NGOs.
The programme offers different degrees from two universities—from the University of Helsinki, Master of Science (nat. sci., environ. sci.), Master of Arts (humanities) and Master of Social Sciences, and from Aalto University, Master of Science (architecture), Master of Science (landscape architecture) and Master of Science (technology)—that ensure sufficient expertise to work in established and emerging expert roles in urban development in the public and private sectors, in Finland and internationally.
For architecture specialisation, the degree given is Master of Science (architecture). The learning outcomes are based on the regulations of the EU directive that applies to pursuing the professional activities of an architect (Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the recognition of professional qualifications). According to the directive, an architectural degree meets the expectations of the construction industry and also enables a career outside Finland.
Degree qualification in architecture is provided for students who have a B.Sc. in technology or architecture (or equivalent).
Post-graduate study options
After completing a degree in the Master’s Programme in Urban Studies & Planning, you can apply for doctoral programmes at the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, and other top international universities.
At the University of Helsinki, the relevant doctoral programmes include:
- Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences DENVI,
- Social Sciences,
- Sustainable use of renewable resources AGFOREE,
- Political, Economic and Regional Change,
- History and Cultural Heritage,
- Philosophy, Arts and Society,
- Political, Societal and Regional Change (PSRC).
At Aalto University, the relevant degrees include Doctor of Science (architecture), Doctor of Science (landscape architecture), Doctor of Science (economics and business administration), Doctor of Arts, and Doctor of Science (technology). The relevant doctoral programmes include:
- Arts, Design and Architecture,
- Business, Economics and Finance,
Content of the studies
The Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning prepares students to excel as professionals capable of understanding and addressing complex urban development challenges. Students learn to address such challenges through a curriculum and pedagogical approach that includes interdisciplinary breadth as well as depth in core areas of knowledge, skill and practice. The programme balances theoretical, historical and conceptual knowledge with the acquisition of methods, skills and experiences. Thus, students gain a broad understanding of urban phenomena as well as practical experiences in collaborative and concrete situations. This is the basis both of the structure of the programme and of elements in the curriculum.
Taking full advantage of the joint university structure, the programme joins leading expertise from the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. Signature elements of the programme include studios that address urban challenge themes. Themes relate to current and urgent contemporary issues articulated not only in Finland but on the European and global scale, including controversies intrinsic to urbanisation. Urban challenge themes may be attached to focus areas, research projects or collaborations within our universities, municipalities and regions in order to provide a constructive and critical framework for study and practice. Urban challenge themes are transdisciplinary and trans-professional, uniting the core areas in a joint effort towards a common challenge, and emphasising an outward and forward-looking perspective.
The studies are part of a transdisciplinary master's programme jointly executed with the University of Helsinki. This admission track is for students aiming for the M.Sc. (architecture) degree.
Structure of studies
The Master of Science (architecture) degree is 120 ECTS credits. The programme includes 60 cr of major studies, 30 cr of elective studies and a master’s thesis worth 30 cr.
The master’s thesis (30 credits) is a piece of applied research conducted independently by the student. Its key goal is to solve a problem relevant to the field of study, based on existing scientific knowledge and in compliance with the principles of responsible conduct of research. Master’s theses are written on topics related to the advanced studies of the programme, agreed upon by the student and the supervising professor. A master’s thesis may be, for example, a research and development project carried out for an industrial partner outside the university, or it can be connected with an ongoing research project of the department. Completing a master’s thesis usually takes six months of full-time work.
The Master’s Programme in Urban Studies & Planning provides an international scope in many ways, taking advantage of the unique Helsinki context and diverse urban contexts around the world. Each year, new students in the Master’s Programme in Urban Studies & Planning include both Finnish and international applicants. We look for students whose varied backgrounds, experiences, and education reflect the richness of contemporary society. The teachers of the programme have international backgrounds and experience, and the programme builds on their strong international connections in their respective fields. Researchers and invited lecturers from abroad take part in the teaching of the programme.
The Master’s Programme builds on the joint University of Helsinki and Aalto University Bachelor’s Programme, ‘Urban Academy’, including its teaching faculty, international network and advisory board of leading international experts. Elective coursework can include student exchange or internships abroad, and students are also encouraged to collaborate internationally in their Master’s thesis work. All students thus have the opportunity to study in an international environment and acquaint themselves with different cultures.
For international and Finnish students, Helsinki and Finland are well-known for having progressive approaches to planning. Helsinki is a UNESCO creative city, and planning and design have strong roles within municipalities, government and the public sector. Finland is a European and international forerunner in technological research and innovation, such as open data in municipalities. Local and national policies support an experimental and participatory culture and development. In the context of urban challenges, Helsinki provides a unique case for engaging with progressive approaches to welfare state paradigms, including public-private dynamics, changing demographics and cultures, and diverse approaches to market growth and sustainability.
Corporate and other collaboration
The Master’s Programme in Urban Studies & Planning is profoundly interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral.
The programme combines the most important fields of urban studies from the University of Helsinki and Aalto University into a progressive and interdisciplinary curriculum. Courses include extensive co-teaching to ensure multiple perspectives on core topics. There are continual exchanges among disciplines and between theory and practice, for example, through dynamic learning-by-doing pedagogical approaches within urban challenge studios.
Building on the established joint bachelor’s programme, the master’s programme further develops multiple forms of collaboration with the City of Helsinki. The programme includes collaboration with other city administrations, local media, civil society organisations, heritage and cultural institutions, think-tanks and companies. At these universities, and in Finland in general, societal impact is highly valued and effectively implemented in education and research.
Students apply for the Urban Studies and Planning in Architecture specialization via the master’s degree admissions process for science and technology. Selection for a master’s programme leading to a higher degree is mainly based on studies completed earlier and is carried out as a so-called paper selection without an entrance examination.
The selection criteria for the master’s phase are an applicable earlier degree in the field of architecture, the amount of applicable studies, motivation and commitment on the basis of a motivation letter, and the overall level of the application. A portfolio (kindly integrate motivation letter and CV to the portfolio) of the applicant’s own practice work and any other personal work is a compulsory and important appendix to the application. It must illustrate the applicant's architectural design skills and artistic nature in a broad-based manner. The main focus of the evaluation is placed on design sketches and other image material.
The final admission is based on the academic assessment. The evaluation process is competitive and the number of available study places is limited. The used criteria is as follows:
- The applicability of the previous degree, i.e. bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a well reputed school of architecture
- The amount of relevant studies
- The academic performance of the applicant
- The quality of the application as a whole, including the portfolio
- The motivation and commitment of the applicant on the basis of a motivation letter.
A portfolio consisted of the applicant’s own works is mandatory. The portfolio should widely present the candidate’s architectural and artistic skills and creativity. The evaluation emphasis lies mainly on design drawings and other illustration material. It should be in paper form, easy to handle and no bigger than A3 size.
The student may be required to take complementary studies (max. 20 ECTS). These studies will be determined individually at the latest in the beginning of the studies while making the personal study plan.