Early Commitment to Baltic Sea Region Studies
The Baltic Sea Region Studies (BSRS) Programme at the University of Turku started in the autumn of 1997 on the basis of the Eastern European Studies Programme organised by the Department of History. In 1997, the Finnish Ministry of Education charged the University of Turku with the task of coordinating the relationships of Finnish Universities with those in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as throughout the wider Baltic Sea region. This process enhanced the existing plan of establishing a new programme. From 1997 to 2000, the programme received funding through the Finnish Ministry of Education, the Social Fund of the European Union and the University of Turku.
The Baltic Sea Region has emerged as a visible entity on the map of Europe and the region has a new status in the process of European integration. The programme is introducing a fresh regional perspective to look at European culture, history and politics, and thus it offers a required diversity of perspectives within the enlarged EU. The programme is a contribution to constructing a new regional identity within the enlarged European Union.
The focus of the programme comprises comprehensive studies on the whole region, its historical and current political, economic and cultural development, national and international co-operation in and among the countries of the region, as well as the region's perspectives in the context of European regionalisation and globalisation.
Content of Studies
The language of instruction is English and required reading material is in English, and it has an interdisciplinary approach.
The programme is coordinated by the Faculty of Humanities but it is not limited to the subjects offered by the Faculty. Since its inception, the programme has offered courses related to History, Politics, Social sciences, Culture, Nationalism studies, European integration, Environmental studies, Human Geography and international economics. All courses are based on the academic expertise and research interests of the participating departments.
One cornerstone of the programme is to organise teaching using the scholarly expertise of other faculties and universities in Turku, the programme’s partner universities, and beyond. This has been implemented actively.
The BSRS programme increases the University’s international contacts while simultaneously offering an international study option to Finnish students who are not willing or able to study abroad.
The programme has three components of acitivities. It offers two tracks of studies: non-degree studies and a two year International Master’s programme, and the third one is active participation in international collaboration.
The programme’s non-degree track offers courses that complement students’ undergraduate or postgraduate studies. It is open for Finnish degree students and for foreign exchange students in Turku. Some courses are also open to participants of the Master’s programme organised by the network university, Aleksanteri Institute.
Until 2005, the non-degree programme was the primary focus of the BSRS programme’s activities. It is based on the academic interests and activities of individual departments of the University of Turku. The courses offered are integrated into their regular curricula. The range of courses offered each year has been historically diverse covering fields from history and culture, intercultural communication, society and economics as well as geography and environment. In 1999-2003, the programme also offered courses in Lithuanian and Latvian languages.
Since 2005, partly due to reduced funding and partly due to the increased teaching requirement of the new Master’s programme, the number of credits offered annually has been cut back to 20-30 ECTS.
The non-degree programme has offered the departments a structured opportunity to provide courses in English, to increase their international contacts and to provide their young teachers and researchers the possibility to work in an international classroom.
Distance Education (in 1999-2003)
Distance education has played a significant role in developing international cooperation. The first steps were taken in 1999. The BSRS programme has developed a concrete model for academic collaboration using Open and Distance Learning (ODL) methods. The programme has organised and coordinated ten courses, mainly in the field of urban geography and urban history, since the spring of 1999. The participating universities represented four countries: Tartu (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), Vilnius and Klaipeda (Lithuania), Helsinki and Turku (Finland).
The courses were based on collaborative course design and production between the University of Turku and its partner universities. The study groups at each university were working under the guidance of a local academic tutor using the ODL methods and a web-based study environment specially designed for them. The groups gathered for audio conferences every three weeks.
The key elements were web-based learning, individual study with textbooks and other material, local small study groups as well as the audio conferences between the groups. Most of the learning occurred collaboratively on the web, using Web-CT software. Students were involved in concrete projects that were done in international teams. Local tutors took responsibility for coordinating local activities.
From Master’s Studies to a Master’s Programme
The first MA students were admitted in the autumn of 1998. The total number of students admitted from 1998 to 2004 is 43 of which 30 graduated successfully untila 2007. The first Master’s degree was granted during the summer of 2000.
From 1998 to 2004, the Master’s degree focused on students majoring in General History, Cultural History, Contemporary History, Folkloristics, Ethnology, Geography or Finno-Ugric languages. Students worked closely under the guidance of a professor or an academic advisor in their major subject. Individual study programmes were organised based on course work, seminars and a Master’s thesis.
New Master’s programme
When the Bologna Process was launched throughout Finnish Universities in August 2005, the BSRS programme was among the first to establish an interdisciplinary, international Master’s programme. The planning had started several years earlier with partner universities around the Baltic Sea region.
The new Master’s degree programme was launched in the autumn of 2005 as a joint programme with international partners in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Since 2005, more than 60 students have enrolled in the programme and they present round 25 different nationalities.
The programme is an interdisciplinary Master's programme in English, given in collaboration with international partner universities. The students study one semester at a partner university. The joint degree programme guarantees that credits received from partner universities are fully recognized and thus assures a structured and integrated approach to student mobility.
The programme covers a broad variety of topics and aspects related to the region, with focuses on? cultural, economic, historical and political perspectives of the whole Baltic Sea region. The programme is introducing a fresh regional perspective to look at European culture, history and politics, and thus it offers a required diversity of perspectives within the enlarged EU. Its aim is to produce experts who know the Baltic Sea Region thoroughly and who can provide expertise to companies and institutions.
The programme is focused on preparing students for later doctoral studies, interdisciplinary scholarly work and independent research as well as for the pursuit of career paths beyond academia and research. Students acquire general knowledge about the region’s history and current political situation. Further, specialized knowledge about political, economic and cultural developments at national, regional and global levels is gained.
Actively participating in academic and international collaboration in the field of Baltic Sea Region Studies has been an essential part of the BSRS programme of the University of Turku. This occurs on many different levels; from the contribution of individual researchers to larger programme-based activities. This page lists some of the international projects the programme has participated in.
In 1999 – 2006 the course The Role of the European Union in the Democratisation in Central and Eastern Europe was given as Jean Monnet European Module, by Dr Kristi Raik.
The Nordplus NABO project "International Classroom" - years 2004 and 2005
The Conference "The Baltic World as a Multicultural Space" - year 2003
In June 2003 the BSRS progamme organised and hosted the 5th Conference on Baltic Studies in Europe with the theme 'The Baltic World as a Multicultural Space'. Roung 175 scholars fromdifferent parts of world presented a paper.
In 2005-2009 the BSRS programme of the University of Turku has been a partner in BalticStudyNet. BalticStudyNet was a project funded by the European Commission and its aim was to globally promote the BSR as an area of top-quality, innovative higher education. It was an international network of eight universities from all EU countries around the Baltic Sea.
All information on the BalticStudyNet
In 2008-2013 the BSRS programme joins the Nordplus programme as a network under the title: Understanding Societal Change: A Regional Consortium for the Advancement of Transition Studies, coordinated by the Eurocollege of the University of Tartu. The network arranges annually 1-3 thematic fieldtrips/seminar for partner universities' students in the BSR countries.
Consortium partner institutions: EuroCollege, University of Tartu; Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki; Department of Government, Uppsala University; Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University; School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus; Centre for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University College; Baltic Sea Region Studies, University of Turku; Department of Political Science, University of Latvia; Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen.
This collaboration will continue under the title "Sustainable development in the Baltic Sea Region". starting the academic year 2013-14. Funded by Nordplus.
In the Autumn 2008 started a new form of collaboration with the International Masters in Russian, Central and East European Studies in the University of Glasgow. In 2011 the programme has been recognised by the European Commission as an Erasmus Mundus Masters Programme of ‘outstanding academic quality'.
See partners for more information
International Summer Schools
In May-June 2011, The San Diego State University (SDSU) organised an international Summer School “Turku 2011: Sustainability and Culture in the Baltic Sea Region" in cooperation with the Baltic Sea Region Studies programme and Åbo Akademi. Organised in Turku, the summer school, also included a site visit to Växjö, Sweden. The school examined the themes of sustainable development, the environment and culture, giving special attention to how these themes are realised in the Turku 2011 productions. For more information, see:
In the Autumn term 2010 the BSRS organised a serie of lectures under the title
Site-Specific Contemporary Art & the Archipelago
together with the Department of Art History and the actors in the Turku 2011 - Contemporary Art in Archipelago
In September 2009, 2010 and 2011, the BSRS programme participated in the international summer school 'Energy Security in the Baltic Sea Region in the 21st Century'. Held in Berlin, the Summer school is coordinated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in collaboration with Københavns Universitet, Turun Yliopisto, Tartu Ülikool, Uniwersytet Gdansk, Latvijas Universitate and Vilniaus Universitetas.