Ulpukka Isopahkala-Bouret profile picture
Assistant Professor, Department of Education


+358 29 450 3883
+358 50 501 7306
Assistentinkatu 5

Areas of expertise

higher education
adult education
equality and justice in education
access to higher education
graduate employability
educational life course


I have been a principal investigator in several projects, team leader in a Nordic Center of Excellence, received over 660 000 euros of funding, and written more than 65 publications. Since I had my PhD in 2005, I have worked at University of Helsinki in various relevant positions (post-doctoral researcher, university lecturer, senior researcher). In 2017, I moved to University of Turku, where I am currently holding an associate professorship, with special focus on equality and justice in education. In addition, I have been a visiting scholar at University of Iceland (Iceland), University of Surrey (UK), and Northern Illinois University, (USA. 

Since the beginning of year 2019, I have been a Chief Editor of Aikuiskasvatus [Adult Education], a well-established, peer-reviewed, Finnish research journal that has published four issues per year since 1981. The publication supports open access https://aikuiskasvatus.fi/.


My strong contribution to the fields of education policy, educational equality and justice, and educational pathways comes through the undergraduate and graduate courses, in which I have been teaching equality in education, lifelong learning policies, life course agency, discursive practices and gender. I have been a principle lecturer in a number of graduate courses at University of Turku and University of Helsinki:

  • 'Educational Equality and Justice’ (2018, 2019), 
  • ‘Current Issues in Education Policy and Equality’ (2019), 
  • ‘Education, gender and power’ (2016), 
  • ‘Orienting literature on theories of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu’ (2015-2016), 
  • Over dozen different courses on ‘Qualitative/Narrative research’ (2011 - 2019). 

Regarding undergraduate courses, I have been a principal investigator in:

  • ‘Cultural approach to research on education and social difference’ (2016), 
  • ‘Education in a life course’ (2006 – 2010, 2012 – 2015), 
  • ‘Introduction to Adult Education’ (2016), and 
  • ‘Teaching and Learning’ (2011).

Moreover, I have given a lecture in several other courses: ‘Aspects of Sociology and Politics’ (2018, 2019), ‘Educational Policy’ (2019), ‘Education and diversities: perspectives of cultural studies’ (2013), ‘Education, working life and equality’ (2011) and ‘Discursive approaches’ (2009 and 2011), and ‘Adult education and working life’ (2017, 2018).


I have developed over time what one might describe as a cumulative research agenda. My research interests focus on equality and justice in/through education over the life course. I am specialised in qualitative research, especially narrative and discursive analysis. My specific research topics include post-secondary educational choice, access to higher education, graduate employability, educational credentialing, institutional stratification, age(ing) and gender, professional expertise and career transitions. I have conducted empirical studies on these themes in various contexts. My research is particularly relevant to the fields of education policy, sociology of education, adult education, and life course studies. I apply theories from social sciences and cultural studies and most of my research projects are multi-disciplinary. I have recently expanded the research literature, especially on:

  1. credentialism and the relative value of degrees,
  2. fairness of access and non-attainment to higher education, and
  3. adult graduates’ employability.

CURRENTLY, I am leading a research project: ‘Higher education graduates’ employability and social positioning in the labour market’ (duration Sep 2018 – Aug 2022), funded by Academy of Finland as a consortium between University of Turku and University of Eastern Finland.


2016-2019 ‘Reputational status hierarchies in Nordic higher education’, the project is carried through within the Nordic Centre of Excellence: ‘Justice through education in the Nordic countries’, NordForsk, http://blogs.helsinki.fi/just-ed/,

2016-2018 ‘Cross-cutting themes and issues in the Nordic higher education research’, NordForsk

2011 – 2015 'Ageing and expertise. Narrative inquiry into the experiences of older workers who acquire Master's degrees in their fifties', Academy of Finland

2009 – 2010 'Competence and the dual model of the Finnish system of higher education', Ministry of Education

2009 – 2013 'Citizenship, agency and difference in upper secondary education - with special focus on   vocational institutions', Academy of Finland


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