Thesis project guidelines: Praxis Master’s Programme in Exhibition Studies
These are the guidelines for completing the artistic and the written component included in a thesis project for the Praxis Master’s Programme.
Contents, objectives and schedule of the thesis project
The thesis project for the Praxis Master’s Programme consists of the planning and practical execution (curating) of an exhibition or an equivalent event as well as a written component. Alternatively, the thesis project may consist exclusively of a written thesis. The thesis project also includes a public examination event.
After completing your thesis project, you have the necessary skills to carry out an extensive artistic project and to discuss its contents orally and in writing. You are also able to reflect on your work in the context of contemporary art.
The student is awarded 40 credits for the successful completion of the thesis project.
Structure of the thesis project
The thesis project for the Praxis Master’s Programme may consist of:
A) One or several project management plans and their implementation, such as an exhibition or an equivalent event (practical component), with appropriate documentation and a related written component.
B) a written thesis
Alternative A: a practical and a written component
Planning and executing one or several projects, such as an exhibition or an equivalent event (practical component), and a written component which includes the documentation relating to the practical component.
The written component should be approximately 30 pages long (about 2,000 characters per page). The documentation should include a visual recording that gives a comprehensive and accurate portrayal of the event.
In the written component, you provide a reflective analysis of the process, its execution and questions related to its contents, assess the correspondence between the project plan and the actual implementation of the project and contextualise your own work in relation to contemporary art. When examining the relationship between the thesis project and contemporary art, you can discuss the work process, the contents of the project or the goals and implementation of the project in relation to art and artistic research. You can reflect on the relationship between the curated event and the audience, topical discussions in society, or space and the environment and also bring up any role models and factors that may have influenced the project and present various kinds of conclusions related to the work process and the execution of the project.
You are responsible for inviting the examiners of the thesis project to all exhibitions/events where the practical component of the thesis project is exhibited or performed. The invitation must clearly state that it concerns a component of a thesis project. If the practical component is carried out in another way, you must inform the examiners about how and where this will take place.
Alternative B: a written thesis
You must produce a written thesis (about 60–80 pages) that shows profound knowledge of a theme that is relevant to the Praxis Master’s Programme. In addition to discussing your topic from the perspective of a field with a long tradition in fine arts, such as art theory, philosophy and history, you can also approach the topic from the perspective of another field, such as visual anthropology or social science. Just like in Alternative A, the thesis in Alternative B must include a discussion of how the work is contextualised within the field of contemporary art.
Schedule for the thesis project
Recommended schedule for the thesis project:
First year of master’s studies, autumn term
- Start of the Praxis MFA thesis seminar (K-MP331)
- Thesis project plan: Planning the composition of the thesis project and selecting the supervisor
- Arranging the first supervision meeting
Second year of master’s studies, spring term
- Selection of the examiners
- Continued attendance at the Praxis MFA thesis seminar
- Start of the Instruction in written expression course (K-MP332)
- Practical component (e.g. as part of the Kuvan Kevät Degree Show)
- Seminar organised in connection with Kuvan Kevät
Second year of master’s studies, autumn term
- Continued attendance at the Praxis MFA thesis seminar
- Continued attendance at the Instruction in written expression course
- Finalising the written component
- Submission of the thesis project and the maturity test for pre-examination by the beginning of September
- Submission of the written component of the thesis project by 1 October
- Public examination (see section 4.3.)
Remarks on the schedule:
- The Praxis thesis seminar focuses on theoretical and practical questions relating to the thesis project. The student will also take part in the course “Instruction in Written Expression”, which will support their work on the written component of the thesis project.
- The examiners are selected either at the beginning of the spring term of the second year of master’s studies or when the date for the execution of the practical component of the thesis project and the schedule for the completion of the project have been established.
- At least three weeks should be reserved for preliminary examination, but you can also submit the thesis project for pre-examination already before that (see section 3.1: Pre-examination of the written component).
- Please check the submissions schedule for the written component as well as the meeting dates of the Academic Council on Artsi!
Written component of the thesis project
You must follow the citing conventions of a well-established academic style guide in your thesis project.
Use of images in the thesis project
All images used in the thesis project must be accompanied by detailed information about the image and its source. It is important to include this information even if you have personally made the works depicted in the images or taken the photographs yourself. Make sure that all images are used in accordance with the prevailing copyright laws. In general, images can be used more freely in student theses than in commercial publications, but you should nevertheless check the detailed instructions pertaining to the publishing of images in the ImagOA resource guide. You should not use an image in your thesis project unless you are certain that you have the right to publish it.
For more information, please check the ImagOA resource guide:
The student can choose to complete the written component of the thesis project in Finnish, Swedish or English. The written component must be written in one language only. Read more about the selection of the language in section 2. Thesis project plan and the selection of supervisors and examiners.
The title page of the written component must indicate:
- your name
- school (Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts) and its logo,
- a text indicating that the written component is part of an MFA thesis project
- date of submission of the thesis project
The first pages of the written component must clearly indicate:
- What the practical and written components include and how emphasis is placed between them.
- All the information relating to the works related to the practical component and their presentation
- The supervisor(s) and examiners of the thesis project.
- If the thesis project, or any part of it, has been produced in collaboration with other students, the first pages of the written component must include a description of the division of labour between all the contributing students.
An alternative way of documentation for special cases:
Under special circumstances, you can produce your written component in the form of some other verbal, recorded presentation than that of a written text. You must provide the reasons for choosing an alternative method in your thesis project plan, and your decision must be approved by the professor of your subject area. If you suffer from dyslexia or have other special needs that affect learning or self-expression, you can request a medical certificate about this or discuss the circumstances with your teacher. This way, the condition can be taken into account when your thesis project plan is approved and when your thesis project is assessed, and you can also be offered further assistance according to your needs.
MFA maturity test
You must write a one-page (about 2,000 characters) summary of your thesis project, which simultaneously constitutes the maturity test of your degree. The summary must briefly describe the essential contents of your thesis project, and you must include a short account of both the practical and the written components of your thesis project. The summary is intended to provide a concise description of the most important parts of the thesis project to someone unfamiliar with the project. The summary should have “Summary” as the title. The summary is not the introduction section of your thesis project, and if you wish, you can write a separate introduction to your thesis project, and the title of this introduction can be chosen more freely. Place the summary to the beginning of the written component of your thesis and submit it for pre-examination together with the written component.
Thesis project and printing grants
The Academy of Fine Arts supports the completion of the thesis project with a separate thesis project grant. The exact sum awarded is established at the beginning of the autumn term. The thesis project grant is intended to cover the costs related to the implementation of the thesis project. You can start using the grant funds only after your thesis project plan has been approved. In principle, the sum is awarded to students as a grant. The Production Services are responsible for all matters pertaining to the grants.
In addition to the thesis project grant, each student can be awarded a printing grant of max. €120 for the printing costs of the written component of the MFA thesis project. More detailed information is available from the academic affairs team of the Academy of Fine Arts.
Thesis project plan and selection of supervisors and examiners
Thesis project plan
Compile the thesis project plan by using an online form, which can be found on the Artsi intranet. The academy recommends that you use the same language for both the thesis project plan and the written component of your thesis project.
The thesis project plan comprises an overall plan for the execution of your thesis project.
The plan should include the following information:
- A short description of the themes of the thesis project and the execution of the project
- The schedule of the thesis project (incl. the date of the practical component and the target date of the submission of the written component and the public examination of the thesis project)
- Language of the thesis project
- The supervisor(s) of the thesis project and their contact information
- Information about alternative ways of documentation if the written component is not in text form
The plan is approved by the professor of your subject area. You will be notified by email when your thesis project plan has been approved. You are allowed to receive supervision and use the thesis grant only after your thesis project plan has been approved.
You must discuss any changes to the thesis project plan with your professor and notify the academic affairs team and the production team of the changes. If necessary, you must also inform the examiners of your thesis project of the changes (e.g. if there are changes to the project schedule or the language used in the thesis).
Expiry of the thesis project plan
A master’s thesis plan expires within three years of the date when the plan has been approved, unless you have submitted your thesis for examination. If the plan expires, you must write a new plan with an updated schedule and supervision information, and have it approved by your professor. If the supervisor of the thesis project changes, the updated thesis project plan must also be submitted to the Academic Council.
Thesis supervision and selection of the supervisor
Selection of the supervisor
You are entitled to receive a maximum of ten hours of supervision for your thesis project. The hours can be allotted to a single supervisor or shared between two supervisors.
You must discuss the suitable supervisor(s) for the thesis project in advance with your professor. If the supervision duties are divided among two supervisors, the division of the working hours will also be decided at this time. It is the professor’s duty to ensure that you are assigned a suitable supervisor/suitable supervisors.
All supervisors are expected to have the necessary expertise in fine arts and contemporary art. The supervisor must be significantly more advanced in the field of supervision than the supervised student. The supervisor cannot be studying for the same (or a lower) degree as the supervised student during the supervision process. The language used in the thesis project should also be taken into account in the selection of supervisors. The supervisor must understand the language used in the thesis project, as the Academy of Fine Arts will not have the thesis project, nor any texts included in it, translated for the supervisor.
After discussing your thesis project with your professor, you should contact the potential supervisor(s) and ask if they are willing to take on the job. The Academy of Fine Arts academic affairs team will then be in touch with the proposed supervisor(s), confirm their participation, and send them the instructions for thesis supervision and a copy of your thesis project plan.
You are advised to arrange the first supervision meeting within a month after the supervisors have been confirmed.
Supervision of the thesis project
The supervisor of the thesis project is responsible for mentoring the student’s work, supervising the contents of the work, and following the progress of the project. The supervisor must inform you and your professor in a timely fashion if they think that the work does not conform with the requirements set for a thesis project and if it cannot be submitted for assessment within the schedule that you have set.
The Academy of Fine Arts will compensate the supervisor for a maximum of ten hours of supervision, unless otherwise agreed. In order for the fee to be paid, the supervisor must provide the academic affairs with current information relating to the bank transfer and a valid tax card.
All students who are working on their master’s thesis projects receive instruction in how to write the written component of the thesis project at the Praxis MFA thesis seminar and through the course Instruction in written expression.
The professor’s task is to support the thesis project and to serve as the preliminary examiner of the written component of the thesis project.
Selection of the examiners of the thesis project
Two examiners are assigned to each thesis project. The examiners are required to have the necessary expertise in fine arts and contemporary art to perform examiner’s duties. The examiner cannot be studying for the same (or a lower) degree as the supervised student during the supervision process.
You and your professor discuss and make the decision on the examiners in cooperation. Any potential grounds for disqualification must be carefully considered prior to the selection of the examiners. For example, the supervisor of the thesis project cannot serve as an examiner, nor can the examiner comment on any part of the thesis project prior to the completion of the entire project.
If your professor is also the supervisor or the examiner of your thesis project, they cannot give their support for the selection of the examiners. In such case, another professor in your subject area or the vice dean can provide their support for the selection. The selected examiners will then be confirmed by the Academic Council of the Academy of Fine Arts.
The language of the thesis project must be considered in the selection of the examiners, as the examiners must be able to understand the language used in the written component of the thesis project. The Academy of Fine Arts will not have any texts included in the thesis project translated. The language used in the examiner’s statements should also be agreed upon in advance, as the Academy will not have them translated for the student. In cases of doubt, please consult the academic affairs staff for further information well in advance.
After you and your professor have reached an agreement concerning the examiners of your thesis project, you will contact the examiners and ask if they are willing to take on the job. You will then fill in an online form with the relevant information on the selected examiners, which will be forwarded to the Academic Council for approval.
The Academic Council discusses thesis projects and their examiners at all its meetings.
The Academy of Fine Arts will be in touch with the proposed examiners and confirm their participation. They will also send them instructions for the examination of a thesis project, a copy of your thesis project plan, and the target schedule for the completion of the thesis project (e.g. the date of the public examination).
If the examiners of the thesis project change, you must fill in a new online form detailing the changes.
If there are changes to the schedule of your thesis project, you must be in touch with the original examiners and inquire whether they are still willing to serve as examiners. If necessary, you must choose a new examiner, or examiners, contact the professor of your subject area for approval, and submit the updated details via the online form used for reporting the selection of thesis project examiners.
If the examiners change after the public presentation of the artistic component of the thesis project has taken place, you must send the new examiners all the necessary material pertaining to the public presentation.
Submission of the written component / thesis
Prior to the final submission of the written component of your thesis project, send it to the professor of your subject area for pre-examination. In the pre-examination, the professor reads the written component of your thesis project to ensure that its contents meet the criteria set for the thesis project. You will receive support to finalise the written component, if necessary. You should be in touch with the professor concerning the schedule of the pre-examination well in advance. A minimum of three weeks must be reserved for the pre-examination.
As part of the pre-examination, the professor reviews the summary of the thesis project, which serves as the maturity test of the thesis project, and approves the report produced by the Turnitin plagiarism detection software.
You can still make changes and corrections to the text during the pre-examination process. You are personally responsible for all the changes made to the thesis project, and you also decide the extent to which you will amend your thesis project based on the feedback that you have received before you submit your thesis project for examination.
Submission of the written component / thesis
When the pre-examination of the written component has been completed and you have made the final changes to the work, you must submit it to the Academy of Fine Arts academic affairs. After submitting it, you cannot make any further changes to the thesis project. When submitting the written component, you must also submit a signed thesis submission notification.
The written component is submitted in three printed paper copies and as a single PDF/A file sent as an e-mail attachment to email@example.com (max. file size: 10Mb). The file should include the written component in its entirety, i.e., the title page, abstract, text, images, and a list of references and works cited. The printed and electronic versions should be identical, and the printed version must be in a form that can be archived. If the work is submitted in the form of another verbal, recorded presentation than that of a written text, it should be submitted in three copies.
You can learn more about saving the electronic version of the written component in PDF/A format in the following link under the heading ”PDF/A conversion”. There are also many other guidelines available online.
Approval of the thesis project and registration of credits
Once the public examination of the thesis project has taken place and the examiners have submitted the examiner’s statements to the Academy of Fine Arts, the thesis project is submitted to the Academic Council for discussion. The Academic Council decides on the approval of the thesis projects. If the Academic Council finds it necessary, you may be requested to supplement the artistic and/or the written component of your thesis project. In such case, you will be provided instructions for how to supplement your thesis project.
Once the MFA thesis project has been approved by the Academic Council, you will receive a notification of the decision together with the examiner’s statements.
The credits for the thesis project will be registered after the Academic Council has approved the thesis project. Credits for the thesis project or its components cannot be awarded prior to its approval. As stipulated in Uniarts Helsinki’s Education Regulations, completed studies are valid no longer than 10 years, during which time they can be included in a degree.
Fail as the proposed grade
If either one or both of the examiners propose that the thesis project should receive a grade of Fail, you will be notified of the proposal prior to the public examination of the thesis project.
In such case, you can either
- suspend the process and ask the professor of your subject area for instructions on how to amend the thesis project. In this case, you will make corrections to the thesis project and then resubmit it for examination. The examination of the resubmitted thesis project can only start after the professor of the subject area has granted their permission.
- continue the process and provide the Academic Council with a written response to the examiner’s statements, which the Academic Council will take into consideration in their discussion of the thesis project.
Request for rectification
If you are dissatisfied with the grading of your thesis, you may apply for a rectification of the grading from the Academic Council within 14 days of receiving notification of the decision. If you are dissatisfied with the decision regarding the appeal, you may appeal the matter to Uniarts Helsinki’s Academic Appeals Board within 14 days of receiving notification of the appeal decision.
Archiving and publicity of the thesis project
The written components of the master’s thesis projects are stored in the Uniarts Helsinki Library on the Sörnäinen campus for the duration determined by the current storage regulations, after which they will be archived by Uniarts Helsinki. Thesis projects are public documents, and they can be examined at the library; however, they are not loaned out. The theses are catalogued in the ARSCA database maintained by the Uniarts Helsinki Library.
The written component of the thesis project will be published in the Taju publication repository if you grant your permission and the written component does not contain material that cannot be published due to copyright restrictions. All publications stored in Taju must be in PDF format. With your permission, the thesis is also archived in a plagiarism detection system (Turnitin).
You can find more information on copyrights on the Artsi intranet platform and in the student agreement that each student signs at the beginning of studies.
Instructions for the examiners of the thesis project
The examination of the MFA thesis project for the Praxis Master’s Programme consists of the assessment of the written thesis or the practical and written component of the thesis project. The examiners should be given a minimum of four weeks to write their examiner’s statements after they have received the written component of the thesis project or the thesis.
After this, a public examination of the thesis project will be organised, and in the event, the examiners present their statements. After the event, the examiners have three days to make amendments to their statements. The Academy of Fine Arts will notify the examiners of the requested schedule when the written component is submitted to them for examination. If the examiner is unable to comply with the schedule, they must inform the academic affairs team and the student of the delay well in advance.
After the public examination, the finalised, written examiner’s statement is addressed to the Academic Council of the Academy of Fine Arts and submitted to the Academic Affairs Office. The Academic Council will take the statement into consideration in the grading of the thesis project and the decision on its approval.
The assessment of all the components that are part of the thesis project are included in the examiners’ written statements. The statements also include the examiners’ proposals for the grade of the thesis project (Pass/Fail). The grade proposal should be explicitly expressed in the statement. The weighting of the thesis components must be taken into consideration in the assessment.
The examiners will write their statement once they have assessed the thesis project in its entirety. The Academy of Fine Arts does not accept statements on individual parts of the thesis project. The examiners are not allowed to comment on any part of the thesis project until the entire project is completed.
The assessment must be based on these guidelines for the Master of Fine Arts thesis project.
If the examiner recommends the grade Fail for the thesis project, they must inform the Academy of Fine Arts academic affairs of the grade proposal at least one week prior to the public examination of the thesis project.
The examiner’s statement consists of the following:
- Title: Examiner’s statement concerning an MFA thesis project
- Name of student
- A brief account of all the reviewed components of the thesis project
- The actual examiner’s statement
- Proposed grade: Pass/Fail
- Date of the statement
- Examiner’s name and signature
The requested length of the statement is 2–5 pages.
The examiner can write the examiner’s statement in Finnish, Swedish or English. The student’s language proficiency must be taken into consideration in the language used in the statement, as the student has the right to receive the statement in a language that they can understand. The language of the statement is discussed when the examiner agrees to undertake the examiner’s duties. The Academy of Fine Arts will not order translations for thesis projects or the examiner’s statements. If the examiners have been notified of a medical certificate concerning the student’s dyslexia or some other kind of learning disorder, they must take this piece of information into account in their assessment.
Assessment criteria and grades
The thesis project is assessed as a whole. The thesis project is assessed with the grades of Pass or Fail. The examiners can discuss the grade proposal with each other if they so wish.
The curating project(s) as well as their concept and execution are of an excellent, good, or at least fair standard in their expressive quality, and they indicate knowledge of the methods and theory of curating and exhibition studies. The project(s) demonstrate(s) professional skills and an ability to plan and implement exhibitions. The work shows that the student is able to put learned skills into practice and reflect on what they have learned in relation to their own thinking and contemporary art.
The written component or the written thesis (Alternative B) is thematically motivated, and its contents are of a good or at least fair standard. The goals of the written component or the thesis are, overall, clearly explicated, and the adopted approach is motivated. The sources used are appropriate to the topic. The text demonstrates an ability to reflect on previously learned skills in relation to one’s own thinking, contemporary art and artistic research. The written expression is, on the whole, communicative, dynamic and interesting, and the related visual material is relevant to the written component.
The curating project/projects or the concept and implementation of the proposed project fail to reach the artistic standards set for the Master of Fine Arts degree and indicate a poor command of the relevant theories, methods and professional skills. There are severe deficiencies in the student’s ability to plan and implement exhibitions on a larger scale. The work demonstrates insufficient ability to put learned skills into practice and to reflect on them in relation to one’s own thinking, work and contemporary art.
The topic of the written component or thesis (Alternative B) is not relevant, and its contents are of poor standard. The goals and the approach of the written component or thesis are obscure. The contents of the written component or thesis are poorly structured, and the references are not well selected for the topic. The text indicates insufficient ability to reflect on what the student has previously learned in relation to their own thinking, contemporary art or artistic research. The thesis is poorly structured and vague in expression, and the visual material is not naturally related to the written component.
Public examination of the thesis project
The student will present the thesis project in a public examination event after the examiners have reviewed all the components of the work. Public examination events are open to the public. In the event, the student presents their thesis project, and the examiners give their statements orally. There will be time for discussion after the statements. The professor of the subject area, or a person appointed by the professor, will serve as the custos of the public examination. If the examiner is unable to attend the event, the examiner’s statement must be submitted to the academic affairs team in advance to be read at the public examination.
The public examination can last for one hour at most. The student has 20 minutes to present their thesis project, while each examiner is allotted approximately 15 minutes.
The examiners write their statements prior to the public examination. If they wish to elaborate on their statements after the public examination, they must do so within three days of the event.
The Academy of Fine Arts pays a fee to the examiner for acting as an examiner, writing the examiner’s statement and participating in the public examination. The examiner’s fee is €350 if the examiner takes part in the public examination and €300 if they do not. The examiner’s fee is taxable income. No fee is paid to a salaried member of the teaching staff of the Academy of Fine Arts.
In order for the fee to be paid, the examiner must provide the academic affairs team of the Academy of Fine Arts with up-to-date bank transfer details and a valid tax card.