Structure of studies

The credit requirement for the Master’s Programme in Urban Studies & Planning is 120 ECTS credits, which can be completed in two years. The courses are subject to change. The curriculum consists of:

Core skills and meth­ods course­work (20 ECTS cred­its)

Core skills for thesis research and professional practice are offered as basic courses. This includes skills relevant to digital representation, analysis and communication, modalities and techniques of communication and argumentation, research methods and methodologies of academic research. Students will learn, for example, how to use digital tools to analyse and study urban phenomena and how to illustrate ideas and solutions visually and graphically. They will also become familiar with theories and tools of communication and argumentation, and they will study and apply research methods. The coursework includes:

  • Introduction to Urban Studies & Planning (10 ECTS), including a series of “hot talks” on various topics:
    • Burning suburbs
    • Logics, dna & nature
    • HEL of a city – Urban representations
    • Urban without urbanity
    • Spiky world
    • The long now
    • “Nothing happens” districts
    • Not in my backyard
    • The personal is political
    • Dysfunctional urban ecosystems
    • Non-planning and self-organization
    • Programming vs. drawing
  • Research Methods (5 ECTS)
  • Urban GIS and Visual Tools (5 ECTS)

Core Urban Chal­lenge Stu­dios (20 ECTS cred­its)

Common urban challenge studios integrate multiple expert areas to study and address contemporary urban phenomena from different perspectives. Urban challenge themes are explored theoretically through perspectives from the different areas and are addressed practically through experiential learning within specific cases, sites or initiatives. Teachers represent key disciplinary areas and professions, and studios are conducted in cooperation with partners in research and municipalities.

Examples of urban challenge themes include:

  • Urban economies and the challenge of governance and welfare
  • Social integration and the challenge of urban typologies and heritage
  • Livability and the challenge of a high-speed and global cities
  • Socio-Ecological habitats and the challenge of densification

The first Urban Challenge Studio (10 ECTS) takes place in autumn semester with an anually changing theme. In 2017, the studio’s theme was: “Confused suburban identities” and included a two-night excursion to Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa on September 13-15, 2017.  The excursion offered the new USP students an opportunity to get to know each other and to gain first-hand knowledge of suburban development in the context of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

The second Urban Challenge Studio (10 ECTS) takes place in spring semester and is more advanced in terms of the breadth and depth of research and planning skills and applications. In 2018, the theme of Urban Challenge Studio II was “Helsinki-Nanjing – a tale of two cities” and included an international excursion to China on March 3-11, 2018. The first part of the Urban Challenge Studio II looked into the new Master Plan of Helsinki focusing on the affects, challenges and possibilities of densifying Helsinki. In the second part, students travelled to Nanjing, China, to learn about rapidly urbanising Chinese cities and produced concept plans for the development of a specific study site in Nanjing. Read more about the excursion here.

Spe­cial­iz­a­tion course­work (20 ECTS cred­its)

The three study lines offer courses for student to specialize within one of three competence areas foundational to the broad field of urban studies and planning. Both universities will offer courses for each study line, courses which will be adapted to support the advancement of students with various background knowledge and skills. Courses cover topics such as urban geography, urban sociology, urban ecology, urban economics, urban ethnology and history, environmental policy, urban planning, urban design, landscape architecture, real estate economics, service and strategic design, etc. Study-line specific courses include:


  • Urban Sociology (5 ECTS)
  • Designing for Urban Governance and Services (5 ECTS)
  • Urban and Planning History (5 ECTS)
  • Transnational Spaces of Planning and Politics (5 ECTS)


  • Planning Theory (5 ECTS)
  • Urban Economics for Real Estate (5 ECTS)
  • Urban Transitions and Futures (5 ECTS)
  • Urban Ecosystems Ecology (5 ECTS)


  • Complex Adaptive Systems (5 ECTS)
  • Green Urban Systems (5 ECTS)
  • Digital Urban (5 ECTS)
  • Urban Ecosystems Ecology (5 ECTS)

Read more about the study lines here.

Elect­ives (30 ECTS cred­its)

Students can select elective courses according to their agreed personal study plan. Electives can be used to deepen the student’s knowledge in a specialization or to broaden exposure to additional areas relevant to planning. For architects and landscape architects, some electives will guarantee students’ development according to the EU directive for the professions. Courses can also include those in other Finnish universities, student exchange abroad or internship in city planning and development. Recommended elective courses include:

  • Urban book club
  • Urban challenge studio 3 (read more about the course in autumn 2018 here!)
  • Master’s seminar
  • European metropolitan cultures
  • Urban immaterial-soft systems
  • Urban modelling and simulation

Mas­ter’s Thesis (30 ECTS cred­its)

For more info click here.

Please note that the courses are subject to change.