Rural Studies – Multidisciplinary Master´s Program Marja Kerttu Kurkela

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Rural Studies – Multidisciplinary Master´s Program

  • Marja Kerttu Kurkela

  • Study Planner


  • Ruralia Institute

  • Lönnrotinkatu 7, FIN-50100 Mikkeli

  • Tel: + 358 (0)44 300 1293

  • E-mail:

The structure of the presentation

Establishing the Rural Studies Network

  • a group of people who wished to promote the status and increase the number of university level education programmes in rural issues (year 2000) set as their goal the development of a study program realised through co-operation

  • the importance of the network-based model was seen right from the start (there was some courses scattered in different universities, but no unite program)

  • officially established in 2002 (in the beginning there were seven, now ten member universities)

  • based on a contract between universities


  • After joining the EU there were more job opportunities in rural development projects

  • The initiative of the program was included in the third Rural Policy Programme (years 2001 – 2004)

  • Financing for the first year (2001) was received from Rural Policy Committee and after that the years 2002 – 2003 from European Social Fund (ESR)

  • At the moment the programme is being financed by the Ministry of Education

About the Rural Studies program as it is now

  • a multidisciplinary program for graduate students interested in rural issues

  • provided by a network of ten Finnish Universities


  • offers students specialised knowledge and understanding on rural change, development policies and practises, rural culture, environmental issues and also methodologies and latest trends in rural research

  • while studying in the network, the students remain students of their home universities, where they also take their master’s degrees (This way the network is a true resource for the member universities)

Rural Studies “Philosophy” & Teaching in the Network

  • Lecturers are university teachers, experts in their in own fields of interest.

  • The connections to the field are strong (people working in rural development, research and policy fields)

  • Part of the teaching takes place in the countryside, and non-academic rural development specialists are invited to lecture, too


  • Distance learning (e-learning) is used in almost every course and many of the courses are held just via internet and in special web-based learning environments (eg. WebCT, Optima)

  • In addition to formal knowledge, also learning development skills (the art of doing) is emphasised

  • Studying together in groups (group work, role play etc.)

Corner Stones of teaching in the programme

      • Multidisciplinary
      • Interaction between theory and practice
      • Internationality (still on process)
      • Multiformity of teaching (different methods)

Structure of the Rural Studies Programme

  • Modules (each including 2-3 courses):

  • 1. Introduction

  • 2. Rural change

  • 3. Research and development skills

  • 4. Rural policies

The Students

    • Graduate students from the member universities (from numerous disciplines, mainly geographers, but also natural sciences and humanities are represented)
    • Rural Studies as a secondary subject (combining it with for example career of a journalist)

Primary motives for applying in the programme

    • Rural childhood and/or parents farmers, or self a farmer
    • Dreams about living in the countryside some day
    • The active people in the countryside who seek better understanding on the present and future challenges of the rural areas
    • Students from the cities interested in environmental and rural topics (like myself for example)
  • After finishing the studies the students are competent to work within rural development, rural research and rural policy. The employment rate of the graduated is high.

The difficulties and good practices

  • The main difficulties

  • The administration of the network in each university is complicated and registering the study points varies a lot in each university

  • travelling to and accommodation at the different course places costs to the students

Good practices

  • Jointly produced network creates a more competent and qualitative structure to the program than none of the universities alone could develop

  • Decentralised administration means that members are equal partners

  • The human resources operating in the Rural Studies network consists of students, teachers, the network board and the coordination unit

  • The programme offers the students the opportunity to tie important bonds already from their student days both to the academic and more practical rural development professionals

The coordination of the network

  • There is a representative from each member university in the board

  • The board meets two times per year together and holds additionally meetings via Marratech-video conference systems when needed

  • Also decisions can be made via email so the need for actual meetings for all the members around Finland is minimized

  • Rural Studies Programme is coordinated by the Ruralia Institute where there is two fulltime and one half time employers,

  • Torsti Hyyryläinen, Network Director, DSc (Admin.)


  • +358-44-308 5322

  • Marja Kerttu Kurkela, Study Planner, BSc (Admin.)


  • +358-44-300 1293

  • Eeva Uusitalo, Programme Coordinator, MA


  • +358-44-336 6910

  • Thank you for your attention!

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