Studies at University of Oulu 2015-2016

The University of Oulu offers study opportunities with a solid academic foundation ranging from 5-6 year degree programmes and master’s programmes to doctoral training. There are also several possibilities such as open university studies, executive training and continuing education for developing and maintaining skills and competencies.

In addition to a variety of student exchange programmes, international master’s degree programmes in English are offered in six fields of study, making the university an international study environment.

Other Master's Programmes (2015-2016)

Biology, Master of Science, 120 ECTS Credits

Profile of the Degree: 

Biology studet can choose from two majors which are:

In these majors student can also choose subject teacher education which qualifies to to teach in basic education, upper secondary school or other educational institutions.

Major Ecology

Animal ecology studies factors affecting the distribution and abundance of animals. Discipline can be divided into several specialties including for example, systematics and taxonomy which are associated with the classification of animals, the morphology with the structure of the animals, biogeography with the distribution and behavioural ecology with the functions of the different behavioural traits. In evolutionary ecology the main research interests are the factors and adaptations affecting the individuals’ survival and reproductive success. Population ecology explores changes in population size and density and reasons behind them. Molecular ecology uses DNA-methods in studying evolutionary and ecological questions. Community ecology studies several species simultaneously and also interactions between different trophic levels.

Animal ecology in Oulu is mainly focused on evolutionary, behavioural, population, molecular and community ecology. Particular research interests are social interactions, sexual selection, individual and population level responses to climate change and the survival of the threatened and declining populations in human modified habitats. The central themes of community ecology are associated with the loss of biodiversity and stopping in with the help of ecosystem restoration.
The most important research environments are the boreal forests, freshwater and sea shores and running waters.

Plant ecology studies plants in relation to their environment which often is highly variable in time and space. Plants have adapted to this variation by means of plasticity in their physiological responses and growth patterns. They tolerate suboptimal conditions, and effectively utilize favourable growth conditions. Often their success depends on interactions with other plants, animals, fungi or microbes. Sometimes they have to disperse to new growing sites. Plant ecological research in Oulu emphasizes adaptation to the north, population and community ecology and conservation biology.

In addition to basic research, applied plant ecology has gained increasing attention. Plant ecological knowledge is especially important when planning the sustainable use of natural resources, the conservation and management of endangered species, communities, and ecosystems. New areas of applied plant ecology are restoration ecology and urban ecology. Teaching and research in plant ecology is supported by the Botanical museum and the Botanical gardens of the University and a network of northern research stations.

Advanced studies in plant ecology emphasize evolutionary, population and community ecology, especially in relation to challenges of boreal, subarctic and arctic environments.

Major Physiology and Genetics

Animal physiology studies the vital functions of animal at the level of cells, tissues, organs and whole organisms. The theoretical paradigms of physiology are adaptation, regulation and evolution. According to the system under study, physiology can be divided e.g. into neuro- and electrophysiology, endocrinology, metabolic physiology, respiratory and circulatory physiology, and muscle physiology. Evolutionary physiology and ecophysiology study the adaptation of populations and species.

The methodological toolbox of physiology is probably the widest in biology. In addition to traditional biochemical, physical, and microscopic methods, more and more tools of molecular biology are used. The object of study can be, for example, a cell culture, blood sample, isolated tissue or organ or a whole animal. Both conventional laboratory animals and wild animals can be used as study objects. Animal physiologists also collaborate with medical physiologists in studies of human physiology. The master’s program in animal physiology offers courses that deal with these approaches to physiology.

The subject of master´s thesis is selected from the topics of the research groups. These include molecular regulation of body weight, energy metabolism in birds and mammals, the mechanisms and evolution of thermogenic mechanisms, hormonal regulation of body fat stores, adaptation to cold, and various forms of torpor, neural photosensitivity and circadian rhythms.

At Plant Physiology (Plant Biology), we are studying how plants function at molecular, cellular and whole plant level. The research topics are focused on plant developmental biology, plant-microbe interactions and plant biotechnology. The research is mainly implemented at gene expression and / or regulation level i.e. the research is conducted from transcriptome to metabolic level. Biotechnology tools (e.g. clonal production of plants and cryopreservation) open doors for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches and practical applications.

Most of the research topics are related to plant developmental biology. Applied research is focused on e.g. environmental effects of genetically modified plants and bioactive plant secondary metabolites.

Genetics investigates how the message coded in DNA is transmitted from generation to generation and how it directs the growth, development and functioning of organisms. Genetics also includes the study of changing and enrichment of the genetical message during evolution.

At present, it is nearly impossible to achieve a good overall view of biology without a genetics background. Genetics studies give a good start for understanding the functioning of organisms at the level of molecules, cells, individuals, and populations. The studies enable applying methods in the laboratory as well as those of data analysis. The training offers possibilities to find employment in biotechnology, bioinformatics, or the utilization or protection of biodiversity and natural resources, mainly in the fields of education, research, or industry.

Both ecology and Physiology and genetics student can orient to subject teacher. Compulsory minor studies in MSc degree include pedagogical studies 30 ECTS (30 ECTS in BSc degree) and subsidiary entity for subject teacher 35 ECTS (mimimum 25 ECTS in BSc degree).

Courses Required for the Degree: 

MSc degree (120 ECTS) consists of Ecology or Physiology and Genetics major (80 ECTS). The degree does not include compulsory minor studies. Instead the student can choose optional advanced major courses, optional minors and single courses which are important for the student’s personal study plan.

Specialisation Subject Teacher: MSc degree (120 ECTS) consists of Ecology or Physiology and genetics major (60 ECTS). Compulsory minor studies include pedagogical studies (30 ECTS) and subsidiary entity for subject teacher 35 ECTS (25 ECTS in BSc degree).

Learning Outcomes: 

General learning outcomes

The Master of Science in Biology

  • is able to master, produce and interpret scientific knowledge
  • can apply theory into practice: produce new biological data and make conclusions
  • can comment and participate in scientific discussion and can justify his or her own opinions on scientific questions
  • is able to view the existing knowledge analytically and critically
  • is able to analyse, present, make conclusions and apply skills in his or her special field (genetics, ecology, physiology, environmental research, cell biology and molecular biology) with the help of extensive methodological competency and good scientific knowledge
  • knows how to apply appropriate methods in statistics
  • can independently plan and carry out experiments testing specific hypotheses or solving specific problems, and is able to critically discuss the outcomes of the experiments
  • is well trained for reporting scientific results to scientific and other audiences both in writing and verbally
  • biology teacher is able to educate his or her pupils the broad range of biological questions
  • is able to work well in an international context

Specific learning outcomes in Ecology

The Master of Science in Ecology

  • knows the important scientific theories and methods in ecology
  • masters the latest theories within his or her field of expertise: behavioural ecology, evolutionary ecology, population ecology, molecular ecology, community ecology or ecophysiology
  • is able to apply these theories when studying the adaptation of organisms to their environment and when researching the structure and conservation of biological communities.
  • is highly educated in natural history and species identification also outside his or her area of expertise
  • can explain the function and development of boreal ecosystems and is able to evaluate the environmental effects of human activity in the area
  • is well trained for the laboratory and field work of his or her area of expertise

Specific learning outcomes in Genetics and Physiology

The Master of Science in Genetics and Physiology

  • has a profound knowledge in his or her field of specialisation in genetics or physiology, including knowledge of the research literature, theoretical background and specific methods
  • knows the molecular biology and genetics of the cell and is able to follow the developments in the field
  • knows the basic principles of developmental genetics of multicellular organisms
  • is able to find relevant genetic or physiological information on his or her research object, can construct the research questions needed and is able to design the necessary experiments
  • is able to analyse the data obtained using the methods of biochemistry, molecular biology and physics
  • knows the theory and practice of the central laboratory methods in his or her area of expertise and recognises the challenges related to the rapidly developing field

The Master of Science specialising in Genetics

  • masters the paradigm of classical, population, and quantitative genetics
  • is able to analyse data with the methods of genomics, bioinformatics and population genetics

The Master of Science specialising in Animal Physiology

  • is able to describe the physiological systems at the level of cells, organs and organ systems in major animal groups
  • knows the concepts of regulation, adaptation and homeostasis, and can apply them in the analysis of physiological systems
  • is able to use cell and tissue samples or test animals as the objects of study, and knows the advantages and shortcomings of each model
  • knows the practical and ethical issues related to the use of experimental animals, and is able to perform minor animal operations

The Master of Science specialising in Plant Physiology

  • has good knowledge and theoretical background on plant morphology and physiology
  • can describe factors affecting the growth and development of plants interacting with environment and other organisms
  • can apply his or her knowledge of plant biology on applications and research in the biotechnology, plant propagation, and production of genetically modified plants and their use in research




Arrangements for Recognition of Prior Learning: 

The recognition of prior learning and credit transfer will take place in the beginning of the studies. If the student already has a university or other degree, and if he/she would like to apply his/her prior learning, he/she has to contact the amanuensis.

The recognition of prior learning follows the main principles as defined by the University of Oulu.

More information: Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

Modes of Study and Teaching: 

Biology studies are full-time studies and they equal to 60 ECTS per year. This is 1 600 study work hours in one academic year. MSc Degree is done in two years as full-time studies. Studies are carried out as contact teaching. Studies consist of lectures, exercises, laboratory work and field excursions. Problem solving, group works and seminars are also typical studying methods as well as self-directed learning. Studies are full-time and teaching takes place normally between 8 and 18 o’clock.

Language of Instruction: 

Teaching is mainly in Finnish. Some courses are also in English.

Examination Regulations, Assessment and Grading: 

The student completes the degree-related studies as defined in the curriculum. MSc studies in major have to be advanced studies. Minor and other studies can be general studies, basic studies, intermediate studies or advanced studies. Student does personal study plan which includes the study modules and schedule. The study plan describes the compulsory and optional courses and credits. It supports the progress of studies and helps the student to make a meaningful, personal degree.

1 ECTS is estimated as 27 hours studies. During one academic year (Autumn and Spring semester) students will perform 60 ECTS (i.e. 1 600 hours studies). Lectures are free of attendance however active participation is strongly recommended. In practical courses there is compulsory attendance.

The study units are primarily completed by attending examinations and they are assessed by the person responsible for the study unit. Typically in academic year there are three exam opportunities per course. Student has to register in weboodi system to courses and exams. The assessment is often based on the grades of final or mid-term exams. Also other assessment criteria are used, including species identification exam, oral exam, work report, practical work, seminar presentation and study journal. Study unit descriptions give more exact information on the assessment of study units.

Grades used in assessment of studies are pass/failed or numeric values 0-5 where 5 (excellent; ECTS A), 4 (very good; ECTS B), 3 (good; ECTS C), 2 (satisfactory; ECTS D), 1 (sufficient; ECTS E), 0 failed. Grades used in assessment of the Bachelor of Science thesis is pass/failed. See also The University of Oulu Education Regulations paragraph 17. The Master’s Thesis (Pro Gradu Thesis) is written final work in the degree and it is graded as 0-5. In determining the final grade for a study module, a credit-weighted average is used. The grade of Pro Gradu Thesis will not be considered when determining the average of advanced studies.

Occupational Profiles of Graduates: 

Biologists majoring in Ecology have mainly been employed by several research institutes (environmental administration, Finnish Forest and Park Service, Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute) or consultant companies. Some Masters continue as postgraduates at universities. Subject teachers majoring in ecology have mainly been employed for basic education or vocational high schools. If they have also done ecology option, they have been employed by several research institutes or consultant companies.

Physiologists and genetics are typically employed by universities and other research organizations, technical colleges, research institutions of agriculture and forestry (e.g. METLA, Agrifood Research, Lynet) and biomedical and biotechnological enterprises. The majority of subject teachers in biology work as teachers. In the biology job market, genetics expertise and the command of genetics methods is an important advantage. Especially in research related jobs, dealing with the analysis of the very large data sets provided by current genomics methods will be an advantage. Some Masters continue as postgraduates at universities.

Access to Further Studies: 

MSc degree qualifies to do postgraduate studies and degree for the Licentiate of Philosophy (PhLic) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree.

More information: University of Oulu Graduate School (UniOGS)

Graduation Requirements and Final Project: 

Student has to apply the Master of Science Degree from the Faculty of Science after finishing all the required studies. Accepted personal study plan is attached to the degree application. Master of Science degree’s compulsory and optional studies are described in the structure of the MSc studies section.

Faculty of Science instructions and forms (in Finnish)

Qualification Requirements and Regulations: 

All education in the University of Oulu is based on the principles of the joint European credit transfer system (ECTS) which facilitates the transparency of education and the recognition of degrees at an international level. All degrees awarded from the University of Oulu are recognised by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

Master of Science degree (MSc) is the higher academic degree which gives an opportunity to variety of employments. MSc degree gives a more profound understanding in the specific scientific field in biology chosen by the student. Student can influence the degree curriculum by choosing optional major and/or minor courses and traineeship place according to own interest.

The degree provides language proficiency required of personnel in public bodies in accordance with the Language Proficiency Section 6: Government Decree on University Degrees 794/2004, Language Proficiency Section 6

Basic information

Level of the Degree: 
Master's Degree
Duration of Studies: 
2 years
ECTS Credits: 
Language of Instruction: 
Graduate Profiles: 
Subject Teacher
Location of Instruction: 


Applying Information: 
The master's programme is applied for through the The language of instruction in the degree programme is Finnish. Applicants have to both apply in Finnish and be able to study in Finnish. Applicants are asked to prove their Finnish language skills in the admissions process.