Quality Manual of the Department of Computer Science

Basic education

Education goals

The department offers an extensive basic scientific education in its Bachelor programme, and expert education based on its key areas of research in its Master's programmes. This is one of the basic missions of the department that were specified in the chapter Strategic premisses and operational goals.

The broad aim of teaching is to support the students in their development into expert computer scientists with the know-how, skills and social readiness for research, development and application work in companies and research institutions. The means for reaching this end include monitoring and, when necessary, reworking degree requirements regularly every 5 years or so, while adapting international recommendations (the curriculum development work of ACM and IEEE) to Finnish conditions; incorporating courses that especially develop working-life skills in the degree programmes; and applying many different teaching methods to introduce the students to teamwork, an essential skill in this field of work, from the beginning of their academic career. The department's primary goal is to turn out Masters, but the BSc degree is also important since the pull of the job market draws students away from the department before they have completed their Master's degrees. Students typically attain their highest level of expertise as members of one of the research groups and in one of the graduate schools, attended by some of the department's Master's graduates and some BSc graduates from other institutions, especially abroad.

During their basic and intermediate programme modules, undergraduates are introduced to the basic information as well as the broad foundation of concepts and skills on which they can build their specialization in the field. The major-subject curriculum is mainly the same for all BSc students. However, undergraduates may aim their studies according to their interests through optional courses (typically some 10 % of each module) and the topic they select for their BSc thesis.

Graduates carry out their Master's studies in one of the three sub-programmes or two Master's programmes offered at the department. The sub-programmes in computer science include algorithms, distributed systems and data communications, software engineering, information management, intelligent systems, and data communications software. Students following the two latter programmes closely may attend an international Master's programme (Cross-Border University/Information Technology). The basic and intermediate modules of computer science also offer a sound basis for the Master's programme in bioinformatics given in English (MBI), where the department is one of the main partners.

The sub-programmes and Master's programmes reflect the focal areas of research and teaching at the department, and they have their separate degree requirements geared towards attaining specialised skills in each area and a scientific basis to build on. The number of compulsory courses is relatively small in most sub-programmes, giving the students every chance to specialise in the area of computer science in which they are interested. The Pro gradu (Master's) theses are often based on the needs of industrial partners or written in collaboration with one of the research groups at the department. The Master's level teaching is closely connected to the research in the area, offering excellent chances for post-graduate work, as well. The many projects carried out by the research groups at the department also have many ties to the corporate world.

The goals for post-graduate education is presented in Post-graduate education.

All undergraduates majoring in computer science take either mathematics or method sciences - which consists of mathematics and statistics - as a minor subject. Computer science undergraduates are free to choose any additional subjects for their minor modules.

Since computer science is of general importance, it is open as a minor subject for any undergraduate up to the extent of 55 credits, and the right to study it for a larger module may be gained by application. The minor study modules consist of the same courses as major-subject modules, with a few restrictions. The percentage of minor-subject students, especially in basic and to some extent intermediate courses, is substantial. Due to the varied backgrounds and needs of minor-subject students, the teaching cannot be tailored to the needs of any one interest group. Minor-subject students may integrate computer science courses into a minor method-science module along with mathematics and/or statistics.

Teaching methods vary, and courses are organised according to different arrangements. The department has chosen as its strategy to use teaching methods that activate the undergraduates, and the teaching arrangements support this goal. Most course include, besides lectures, tutored exercises sessions or self-instructed projects or written assignments. These activities have their own impact on the final grade along with the course exam. The exercises are usually organised into study circles of a few students per circle, giving emphasis to peer learning. For some courses, the lectures have been replaced with web content, and the course work may consist of self-access studies, online chatting with an instructor and other students, and exercises integrated into the online material. The project courses support the learning of project work through personal and group instruction and various forms of peer learning. As they work in groups, students learn social skills. The degree of work in study circles and individual exercises vary according to course, and in most courses, learning is supported with lectures.

Administration of teaching

In accordance with the general mission plan for the department, the long-term educational principles are included in the strategy and agenda. During on-going planning periods, the policies can be adjusted flexibly, and new projects can be started and implemented.

The degree regulations of the faculty, the degree requirements, the decision on applicant approval, and other administrative regulations set important goals and terms for the implementation of teaching. At the department, the steering committee, the head and assistant head, the professors in charge of sub-programmes, the head of studies, and the committee for teaching development participate in preparing, deciding and implementing matters of education. Important forums for preparing these issues are the annual strategy events, the monthly staff meetings, and the staff negotiations at least twice a year, as well as the professors’ meetings. The main goals are recorded in the department’s policy, and the staff policy governs the use of teaching staff.

The position of the steering committee is focal: according to practice at the department, significant improvement projects and principles are always discussed by the steering committee, even though the head of the department has the final word. Issues that directly relate to teaching and come under the governance of the steering committee according to the administrative ordinance are the degree requirements and the amount of new undergraduates (the decisions are made by the faculty on the basis of a report by the steering committee), as well as resolving the teaching programme of each term and the approval of Pro gradu (Master’s) theses.

The Head of the Department coordinates teaching in accordance with his or her general jurisdiction. One important mission is the directing of strategies and policies through their preparation, as well as the decisions on starting improvement projects. The Assistant Head has the main responsibility for approving Pro gradu (Master’s) theses and for the coordination of post-graduate studies.

The professors in charge of sub-programmes and Master’s programmes prepare the contents of their programmes along with most of the teachers and researchers in that programme. They are also in charge of the division of work among the teachers, which is based on the annual development talks. The teaching planned according to sub-programme is the basis for the strong bond between teaching and research at the department. Each professor in charge also approves the topics of the theses written in their sub-programmes, the credits for advanced modules, and the study plans of post-graduates, as well as deciding on the complementary studies of undergraduates.

The Head of Studies plays a major role in the preparation, implementation and monitoring of everything concerning education; degree requirements in cooperation with the professors in charge of sub-programmes, the coordination of the teaching programme for the academic year and presenting it to the steering committee for approval, detailed adjustments of the teaching programme for each term (in collaboration with the department planner), editing the study guide, employing part-time teachers, the preparation and updating of study instructions and regulations based on the faculty’s degree regulations, etc. The Head of Studies approves the basic and intermediate study modules and credits completed at other institutions.

The committee for teaching development set by the steering committee is in charge of developing traditional as well as more progressive teaching methods, the regulations required for their implementation, issues on the pedagogical education of tutors and teachers, as well as the preparation and coordination of projects to develop teaching. The committee for teaching development also makes a proposal of two teachers who should receive the ‘Good teacher’ award to the steering committee annually . The students have a strong representation in the committee. A separate committee for virtual teaching concentrates on improving the conditions for developing online courses.

The participation of students is considered very important, please see Opportunities for students to influence decisions.

Please see Chapter B.2.1.2 Koulutuksen johtaminen (government of teaching) of the university’s quality manual for more details.

Development of teaching

In the long term, the work of the committee for development of teaching and the strategy events or in separate task forces is in a key position. More extensive improvement projects are presented to the faculty in order to gain added resources.

Scheduling of teaching

The faculty council confirms the degree requirements after the proposition of the steering committee. The steering committee consolidates the teaching programme of the following academic year in May at the latest. The professors in charge of the sub-programmes prepare the teaching of their own sub-programme for a longer period than just the following academic year; the guidelines for at least the two following academic years of the implementation plans for each course are published to promote the planning of studies. The Head of Studies compiles the propositions from the sub-programmes and presents the teaching programme to the steering committee. Before being ratified, the teaching programme will be discussed at one steering committee meeting. Students may present their suggestions during the steering committee discussion, and in a freer form before that, including during the strategy events.

When the teaching programme is compiled, course pre-requisites and other dependencies between courses are taken into consideration, along with how suitable the teaching schedules are for the students. Due to their position as compulsory minor subjects, the schedules for the introductory courses in mathematics and statistics are considered when planning the major subject courses at the same level. The department tries to consider any scheduling wishes that the students may present. Naturally, the scheduling plans of the teachers and the classroom situation, especially when classrooms are shared with the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, pose their own restrictions.

There is a model for completing the compulsory courses of the BSc degree in three years in the study guide. The times for the course exams are scheduled so that there is no foreseeable situation related to completing courses at the same time that could prevent students from taking the exams in the required courses. Furthermore, by publishing pre-requisites and learning goals for each course, we try to steer undergraduates towards finding a schedule that suits them, even if they do not follow the model (and that happens often).

For nearly all courses, the sub-programme best suited for it has been charged with planning them, which means that the teacher in charge of the course and other teaching staff who need the special skills of a certain sub-programme are selected when the work schedule is outlined among the teachers in the sub-programme. At the Master’s level, the significance of the sub-programmes is emphasised (besides lecturers, group instructors); at the Bachelor’ level, the teaching administration team recruits most of the group instructors from among advanced students. There are deadlines in place for registration to these duties.

Please see: Teaching arrangements, Chapter 3 for details.

Improvement of teaching methods

The teaching methods are developed to support in-depth learning. The primary goal is to attain learning based on the understanding of the matter being taught, when students can assimilate new concepts and skills based on previously learned things. Methods where students are activated through teaching methods based on teamwork and peer learning play a major part.

The committee for development of teaching prepares the implementation of new teaching methods, and individual teachers are encouraged to experiment with new methods. When the department is gathered for common events, like the strategy and monthly afternoon meetings, current teaching development projects are presented and discussed.

This work is based on both academic pedagogical research and studies carried out at the department, the most notable of which are published. The development of teaching methods is made in cooperation with pedagogical experts at the faculty.

Implementation of teaching

Implementation of courses

The implementation of courses has been described in detail in Chapters 3-7 of the Opetusjärjestelyt (teaching arrangements) guide.

The teacher in charge of a course (the lecturer) will make a preliminary plan of the teaching and studying methods that will be used to attain the course goals for the study guide. The most common forms of lecture courses include lectures, supervised exercises, project work, or written assignments. During each course, the teacher in charge is assisted by a team of exercise assistants, whose duties vary according to the nature of the course and the need for group and individual supervision (Chapter 3 of the Opetusjärjestelyt (teaching arrangements) guide) The exercise sessions are often arranged in the form of study circles, for which there are detailed guidelines for teachers.

During the project courses, both individual and team work are in focus, supported by the exercise assistant and peer learning.

Seminars are arranged at the advanced level under the instruction of 1-2 teachers (seminaariohje (seminar guide)).

Along with the diversity in teaching methods, the ways in which students may complete the courses vary (Chapters 4.1-4.3 of the (Opetusjärjestelyt (teaching arrangements) guide A common way to complete a lecture course is to take 1-2 course exams and to complete other assignments announced during the course. Most courses can also be completed by an alternative separate exam that is independent of the classroom teaching. Students may also try to improve the grade they gained in a course exam through the separate exam. There are different routines for completing a course while it is being taught; they are detailed in Evaluation of teaching.

The teaching material for each course (lecture slides, exercises, topics for projects and their instructions) is typically available on the web; in some cases the online material replaces the course book completely (Chapter 6 of the Opetusjärjestelyt (teaching arrangements) guide

Assessment of learning

The learning goals for each course that are necessary for the assessment of teaching and especially learning have been set for all compulsory courses in the basic and intermediate modules, and will eventually be set for all courses. The evaluation of learning has been incorporated as a form of learning into the completion of any course. The supervision process in both project and study circle work incorporates individual feedback to the students at different stages. During most courses, the main emphasis on learning assessment lies in the course exams.

The principles described in Chapter 4 of the teaching arrangements guide are applied in many ways for evaluating courses (Chapters 4.1-4.3 in the Opetusjärjestelyt (teaching arrangements) guide The details of the assessment criteria vary, but they are naturally described carefully before each course starts. Some methods that complement or replace traditional exams include project work, take-home exams, essays, course diaries, posters, and active participation in exercises. The above-mentioned guide contains recommendations for persons in charge of a course (Chapter 5 of the Opetusjärjestelyt (teaching arrangements) guide

There are detailed criteria and grading principles for Pro gradu (Master’s) theses, and similar instructions will be written for Bachelor’s theses. The assessment of seminars is based on written and oral presentations as well as how actively students participate in the seminars themselves (seminaariohje (seminar guide)). During some seminars, a poster or a manuscript for a scientific article are drawn up.

A common grading scale (0-5) is used; only in a few cases is the grading pass/fail used.

After each course, a feedback session for the students is arranged to explain exam answers and grading generally, and individually if any student wants their own grading and answers analysed. Model exam answers and grading scales are posted on the web page of the course (except if there have been very few participants).

The lack of interest among students to avail themselves of the formal feedback has been a problem. In order to increase the meaning of the feedback, we are looking for ways to bring assessment and learning closer to each other.

Administration of courses

Students register for courses through the department’s online ILMO system. For some courses where the scope of the course and the division into teaching groups is most important (seminars, software engineering project, BSc thesis supervision during the course Scientific writing), registrations are made at the end of the previous term.

During each course, the progress of the students (how active they are during exercise sessions, exam grades) are recorded in a departmental teaching database with the help of the Kurki system. Online learning environments (Moodle etc) or special software developed for the course are used for the management of different parts of the course and its contents. The Kurki system is a versatile aid for compiling the results of courses: with the help of the records kept by the teacher in charge we can automatically put out final grades and result lists on the basis of partial grades. The final results can be moved to the Oodi system semi-automatically. This teaching database allows us to monitor and report on teaching at the department in more detail than would be possible e.g. using the university-level Oodi system.

The results of each course are published on a notice board and online (in the department’s intranet). The methods for publishing on the web are being developed (publicity, guidelines from the faculty).

Bachelor’s and Master’s theses

The thesis that is part of the BSc degree is written according to scheduled group supervision during the course Scientific writing, which also includes compulsory courses in the student’s first language and Research-information seeking, a part of the information and communication technology credits. The long-reaching significance of the course Scientific writing is emphasised by the fact that there is no separate, systematic teaching (lectures or group projects) of these matters for undergraduates writing their Master’s thesis.

There are fairly detailed guidelines for students writing their Pro gradu (Master’s) thesis (Graduohje). For undergraduates planning to start their thesis work, an info meeting (‘Start your thesis’) is arranged at the start of every period for a general discussion on how to select a topic and the thesis work itself. Topics given by the research groups at the department and especially by the companies where students work are fairly common. The professor in charge of the sub-programme, along with the future supervisors of the thesis, will assess the suitability of the topic in view of teaching goals. All topics suggested by the industry are not suitable.

Typically, two supervisors are appointed for each thesis, one of whom is the primary supervisor. The thesis work is divided into two stages: in the planning stage the writer maps the source material, specifies the topic by outlining different methods of analysis, and typically writes the beginning of the thesis (introduction, background and methods, etc).

When the plan has been checked and some feedback given, the writer can safely continue towards a fully completed thesis. The supervisors are available regularly in both the planning and the writing stage.

In some cases, the sub-programmes will arrange thesis seminars where undergraduates can have direct feedback on their topic and share experiences on topics and thesis work with other students at the same stage. In addition, students may apply for grants for the duration of the thesis work (Thesis grant). Employers support the thesis work of undergraduates in various ways through working time arrangements and, in some cases, financing it in the form of a stipend based on a deed of donation.

There are detailed guidelines for the supervisors of theses, discussing supervising routines and grading as well as related administrative steps. Every stage of the thesis work, from start to finish, is recorded into the thesis database that the supervisors update directly.

The Pro gradu (Master’s) theses are stored in the Kumpula Science Library and BSc theses at the department (the archiving routines are being developed).

Minor subjects

According to the new degree requirements, a minor module in mathematics or method sciences, which comprises mathematics and statistics, is a compulsory minor subject in the BSc degree. Other minors may be selected freely. Undergraduates may direct their degree according to their interests by their selection of minor subjects.

In addition to the minor subjects available in the faculty and the rest of the university, undergraduates may apply for admission to other universities through the system of flexible studies (JOO), e.g. to study economics (see Studying at other institutions for details). In accordance with the degree regulations, it is possible to approve some other minor subject according to the principles of the steering committee [1] even for courses that do not form an official subject module at the institution where they are taught, but can be considered to make sense as a minor-subject module as part of the major-subject degree. The decision is made by the Head of Studies.

Information on studying

The study guide of each academic year contains the main rules and instructions, as well as the teaching programme along with lecture and course schedules. The study guide is also available online, with a more detailed teaching and exercise group schedule for each term. The web is the primary information channel for more detailed general and current information. All courses have their own page linked from the teaching programme; the course pages contain shared and regulated parts (learning goals, course description, how to complete the course) and other material (lecture slides, exercises, topics and instructions for projects, course exam questions, grading principles, model solutions, links to software and additional material, and often old exam questions) to the extent that the teacher in charge of the course deems necessary. The information of previous teaching of each course is also available online.

Everything about studying at the department has been gathered into one page "Opiskelu laitoksella" (studying at the department) with a column for current information and events. There is also a mailing list for the students, where the most important and urgent notifications will reach all students.

Teaching languages

The teaching language for the basic and intermediate modules is Finnish, while in the advanced module, many courses are taught in English. Exercise sessions or other supervision in English are arranged for courses taught in Finnish whenever necessary. The teaching language and any special arrangements in English are announced in the teaching programme of the study guide. It is possible to have exam questions in English and answer in English in all courses.

There are very few students with Swedish as their first language. For them, there is tutoring in Swedish during the course Scientific writing, where they write their maturity test in Swedish, and HOPS tutoring. It is possible to have exam questions in Swedish and answer in Swedish in all courses.

Undergraduates write their BSc thesis in their first language, foreign students in English. Master’s theses may be written in English with the approval of the professor in charge of the sub-programme, as long as the student can write well enough in English.


Students are guided both through the instructions available on the web and individually in many different ways. There are detailed instructions on the transition to the new degree system, and several public events have been arranged to discuss the new degree system and transition case scenarios.

There are 3-4 experienced teachers (mostly lecturers) giving student counselling [2] nearly every day according to a set rota. There are separate counsellors for Swedish-speaking and foreign students. Especially during the transition between the old and the new degree requirements, many students are in contact with the Head of Studies, too, as the study guide urges them to do because of the various interpretations of transferring between the requirements.

Undergraduates at the BSc make up their personal study plans, the so-called LuK-HOPS, as a continuous process starting from their first term at the university. The plans are made in groups supervised by teachers or researchers called teacher tutors. The personal study plan at the Master’s stage, the FM-HOPS, is supervised by a teacher tutor who may be the thesis supervisor or another teacher or researcher in the sub-programme. In the Master’s programmes and in the sub-programme of applied computer science in the old degree system, the professor in charge of the programme is the person who can approve an undergraduate’s study plan.

During courses, any tutoring is mostly given during the exercise sessions, which are often organised into study circles of a few students per circle (Opintopiiriohje (study circle guide)). During the four term periods, a helpdesk is on duty for a couple of hours most days by the department’s workstations, for help on compulsory exercises (and more general help if there is time).

Since the possibility to complete degrees according to the old degree system ended in the summer of 2008, a so-called Master’s clinic was organised for undergraduates at the final stages of their degree. This gave us an opportunity to gather experiences for how to organise supervision in ‘normal’ conditions.

Opportunities for students to influence decisions

In order to develop the contents and forms of education and to recognise problems that occur among students, the undergraduates’ feedback on teaching is considered very important and is invited in different ways. There is a web form for systematic information gathering that is used for each course (Course feedback). The teacher in charge of each course analyses the feedback; in addition, the Head of Studies keeps an eye on the feedback, and the teachers and their immediate supervisor (typically the professor in charge of the sub-programme) will discuss the feedback during their annual assessment talks.

Feedback is gathered separately for study circles. The HOPS work also includes regular feedback and self assessment, which can help to pinpoint successes or problems related to teaching and studying.

Teaching arrangements and, to some extent, the choice of teachers are influenced by the feedback. Some of the challenges to the feedback system are the speeding up of the feedback cycle (gathering and actions while the course is still being taught), activating the students to give feedback, and more systematic organising of how to react to the feedback.

In addition to the steering committee, the students are permanently represented in the committee for development of teaching, at the department’s strategy meetings, at the target negotiations with the faculty, and at any events primarily discussing studying at the department. Temporary taskforces for education issues often invite students to participate in them. The students’ view is also present through the fact that group supervisors are often undergraduates in the final stages of their basic degree. The representatives of the student organisation for computer science, TKO-äly, have a direct and informal channel of communication to the leadership of the department, which tries to consider the students’ problems and find solutions for them.

Please see Chapter C.1.2. Opiskelijoiden vaikutusmahdolisuudet (opportunities for students to influence decisions) and Chapter C.1.3. Helsingin yliopiston ylioppilaskunta, osakunnat ja muut opiskelijajärjestöt (the Student Union, students’ associations and other student organisation at the University of Helsinki) in the university’s quality manual for more information.


Most new students are admitted through the annual ‘joint entrance exam’ organised in cooperation with five other departments of computer science (Admissions). Admission is based on the exam, on the matriculation diploma, or both.

Students may also gain admission on the basis of ’previous studies’ (most commonly at the open university, a polytechnic degree, or computer science credits from another university) in the separate application organised twice a year. Through the separate application, undergraduates from related disciplines (mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology) can also apply to change their degree programme from the old discipline into computer science.

Students who have completed their school abroad are either admitted directly, on the basis of a previous degree, or through the entrance exam.

The faculty’s admissions board, with two representatives from the department, decides on admissions. The board also decides on the grounds for admission, as prepared by the department representatives. The steering committee proposes how many undergraduates are to be admitted (the admissions quota) and the faculty makes the decision. All more extensive changes to the admission criteria are discussed by the steering committee.

For postgraduate admissions, please see Advanced education.

Degree students in other disciplines at the University of Helsinki have full access to the basic courses in computer science; for more advanced courses they can apply for extended admission on the basis of good progress in their studies [3].

Students at other universities may have access to some courses at the department on the basis of the JOO agreement. Applicants may also gain access to individual courses in order to improve their professional or academic qualifications [4]. A department representative of the admission committee will process applications.

Foreign students are admitted to the department for 1-2 terms on the basis of international exchange contracts (general instructions, the department’s exchange contracts). The Head of Studies will process applications.

Studying at other institutions

Students may take courses at other universities on the basis of the system of flexible studies (JOO) according to criteria set by the faculty, as long as the credits can be incorporated in their degree and the subject is not available at their own university. The Head of Studies approves the applications.

Credits from other institutions may be recognized as compulsory or optional major or minor subject courses or other studies.Please see the guide for general principles on how degrees from polytechnics and other common degrees are credited at the department. The Head of Studies makes the decision on recognition of credits.

Interest groups

Contacts to other departments in the faculty for the scheduling of teaching have been described above under Scheduling of teaching.

The Open university of the University of Helsinki offers basic education according to the degree requirements of the department during the summer, and as web courses during the terms. Undergraduates at the department can avail themselves of the summer courses for free. The faculty approves the credits gained in the open university on the basis of a statement from the department, and several of the summer course teachers are members of the department staff.

Contacts to upper secondary schools are maintained by informing pupils in the metropolitan area about the opportunity to study at the department and about admissions, both at events organised by the university and directly to the schools. The department has an agreement with some (13) upper secondary schools on a science-teaching collaboration, based on which pupils at these schools can apply for admission to the basic courses at the department. The credits are usually admissible as optional school courses and will later be transferred to their degree if they enter the university.

There are many forms of contact to the job market:

  • The credits for compulsory traineeship at the BSc level and advanced traineeship at the MSc level in accordance with the new degree system may be gained by presenting a letter of reference and a description of the experience in a job fulfilling the criteria on working in the IT field to the Head of Studies (Work experience). Similarly, extended and varied work experience may be credited instead of the compulsory course Software engineering project in the intermediate module, on the basis of a detailed disquisition.
  • The topic for the Master’s thesis may come from the corporate world, or it may even serve an employer’s needs directly, as long as the contents are suitable for a scientific thesis.
  • A lecture series on current issues in IT for corporate and administrative use is organised periodically (the latest one was called ‘Information technology: Now!’).
  • As part of the trainee funding of the university and the faculty, a summer traineeship in IT research institutions are organised for a few undergraduates each year.

International contacts

There are courses (mostly optional) taught in English as part of the degree teaching. For courses taught in Finnish, exercise sessions or other instruction may be offered in English according to need and feasibility. For courses with no teaching or instruction in English, the department organises the opportunity to complete the course based on separate material in English. In order to ease the scheduling of studies, the teaching language is announced in the study guide.

Teaching that is carried out wholly in English is concentrated to the advanced courses, which are taken by post-graduates, and especially to the Master’s programmes. The majority of students who enter the department at the Master’s level (even outside the Master’s programmes) are foreigners, while they are a very small minority at the BSc level.

In organising teaching in English, the department's and HIIT's (domestic and foreign) researchers play a major part.

The department has a bilateral student exchange contract with 15 European universities (Opiskelijavaihto (student exchange)). Which students are to go on exchange are selected in March for the following academic year (later for cancelled places). Foreign students coming to Finland apply through the international student services of the university, in May or November; the faculty approves the applicants on the basis of a statement from the department. At the department, exchange programmes are coordinated by the Head of Studies.

Some exchange contracts include teacher exchange, usually for a very short period (1-2 weeks). Teacher exchange offers the opportunity to arrange intensive courses, e.g. in subjects that none of the department’s teachers teaches.

The foreign student advisor counsels foreign degree students and exchange students.

Rules and regulations

Education and studies are governed by general rules and regulations at the university level (the legal protection regulation on grading courses and exams as well as the board of examiners) and at the faculty level (especially the degree regulation, the rules for transition between old and new degree system).

In many cases, the general rules have been expanded with the rules of the department, and the most significant issues have been approved by the ruling of the head of the department or the steering committee. The rules and regulations will be published either in the study guide, on the department’s web site Studies, or both.

The central rules and regulations on studying at the department:

Education quality assurance, indicators

The most comprehensive analysis of the quality of education is made through participation in the general assessment of the quality of education on the university level (every 6 years), and in the appointment of centres of excellence by the university or the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council. The department has fared well in these assessments. The application process in itself steers the department towards compiling information on its operations and draws attention to areas of improvement.

The numerical data and application areas that are gathered for the annual report constitute some natural individual indicators:

  • number of new students and total number of students: tailoring extent of teaching
  • completed study weeks or credits: the total amount roughly represents the extent of the department (but the number is fairly sensitive to the effects of any exceptionally popular course)
  • number of degrees: general indicator; the number of BSc degrees also indicates how undergraduates are approaching their Master’s degree to some extent
  • number of credits from other institutions recognised by the department: represents the backgrounds of new students, as well as how much the department’s students study at other universities

The statistics in the annual report mainly represent the past; more important than individual numbers are the patterns they form with time.

More specific quantitative indicators than above, used intermittently:

  • number of participants in courses, group sizes: show how the tailoring of groups has succeeded, unexpected changes, e.g. problems with completing the prerequisite courses
  • progress of new students (number of credits): the ETAPPI sampling made by the faculty shows the number of credits, the number of credits from individual courses may show bottlenecks due to e.g. failures in scheduling lectures etc.
  • credits for key courses: affect the teaching of subsequent courses and degree goals
  • how graduates have placed themselves in the job market: monitoring of general statistics from Statistics Finland and graduate inquiries made by the faculty
  • the correlation between activity during exercise sessions and final grade: motivating students to complete assignments
  • percentage of majoring and minoring student on each course
  • credits for optional courses: deciding on when the course will be lectured again

The course feedback given by students is a significant gauge of both how successful the teaching has been and to discover problems. In addition to the numerical assessments, free written feedback will reveal features of the teaching that would not become evident any other way.

When new teaching methods are tested, feedback is gathered and the experiment is assessed more actively than normally. The decision on whether the teaching method will be used in future is made on the basis of the results. At best, the significance of teaching methods has been studied so intensely that the results have been published (Opintopiireilläkö onneen? (do study circles lead to happiness?)).

Subject to improvement

  • the indicators are just an initial outline
  • guidelines for dealing with plagiarism and student ethics under construction