Master's thesis commissions

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This article concerns all degree students regardless of whether they are studying in the new degree programmes or according to the old degree structures. 

Commissioned Master’s theses are completed in cooperation with employer organisations.

Why a commissioned Master’s thesis?

Your Master’s thesis can be a marketing asset when looking for the first job after graduation. By writing your thesis in cooperation with an employer, you ensure the practical applicability of your work. This way, your Master’s thesis will not be left gathering dust on the library shelf.

By completing your Master’s thesis in this manner

  • You will establish useful ties with professional life and improve your employment opportunities
  • You will apply your learning to practice
  • You may receive monetary compensation for your work, or at least support from the work community
  • You will get a boost for graduation from a predetermined schedule and defined topic!

Master’s theses completed as commissions provide many students with direct paths to employment.

Seeking thesis commissions

First determine your goals.

Consider your own fields of interest in more detail before contacting potential thesis clients. Also familiarise yourself with the provisions set by your degree programme.

  • What topics interest you?
  • What kind of research cooperation would benefit you in the future?
  • What kind of a job interests you?
  • What topics are current and potentially interesting to thesis clients?

Question formulations set by Career Services can help you in considering your personal interests. Your own motivation to complete the thesis is very important.

Seeking clients

Seeking employers is most efficiently done on your own. You may already have good contacts: your former summer employer, for example, might be interested in research cooperation. Ask your friends and family for tips.

Look for potential businesses, agencies and institutions with an open mind. Many businesses have Master’s thesis banks of their own, to which you can put forward your thesis topic for utilisation.

Make use of various job-seeking portals. Career Services has compiled some of these under the Available jobs and traineeships section. Many project-based or fixed-term jobs can lead to a commissioned thesis through negotiation. Suggest this alternative if you find a suitable opening.

At the University, topics for Master’s theses can be searched for in sites such as these:

Prepare your idea

Finding a suitable client may take some time and add extra stages to your thesis process. One of these is the preparation of your thesis topic and a practical research plan. Employers may not necessarily be that interested in the theoretical part of your Master’s thesis.

It is easier for employers to accept an idea that is more fully prepared. It frees them from guessing at the student’s special field and wondering about possible thesis topics. It is your job to tell the employer about all of this. Describe your field(s) of competence in writing.

Draw up a research plan. Contact the organisation, present yourself and describe your proposal. You can also suggest a few alternative ideas.

Prepare for the event in the same way as you would for job seeking and job interviews. Make sure you know how to discuss your interests and market the topic of your research. It is worthwhile preparing something concrete, such as a PowerPoint presentation, on the research plan and questions.

Negotiations and agreements

The negotiations include three contracting parties: you, your thesis supervisor and the commissioner. The Master’s thesis is primarily an academic piece of work. Your supervisor must approve the topic and the research question.

The commissioning party’s expectations may differ from the traditional academic approach. To some extent, you may have to strike a balance between academic requirements and the practical expectations of the client. Be ready for several rounds of negotiations and for compromises. As the student, you are responsible for the project’s progress.

Make agreements in writing

It is best to agree on procedures in writing in advance. Matters to be agreed upon include:

  • The thesis topic and research task
  • The student’s commitment to completing the work (schedule, interim reports and potential other practical accounts for the commissioner)
  • Commitment by the employer (supervision, access to and transfer of material, contact person)
  • Copyright
  • Confidentiality matters
  • Remuneration for the work and compensation for related expenses (e.g., travel and printing expenses, postage) and the funding model to be used

Determine in advance the employer’s objectives and expectations regarding the thesis. It is good to realise that clients may expect results very soon, which makes it advisable to agree in advance on the form and schedule of reporting to the client.

Publicity of Master’s theses

If material used for the thesis includes data that is considered confidential according to legislation, such as trade secrets, confidentiality stipulations can be set in a separate appendix. The actual thesis is public, which should be conveyed to the client. 

Agreement template (at the moment in Finnish)
This agreement template can edited to suit your individual case.

Confidentiality agreement for the Master’s thesis supervisor (at the moment in Finnish)
Use this template in the event the client requires confidentiality also from the supervisor. Fill in all sections marked with red.  The supervisor’s confidentiality agreement is largely equivalent with regular research confidentiality agreements. Amendments to the agreement must not be made, since the template has been specifically drafted to correspond with the customary compensation and risk level of Master’s theses. The University will not assume responsibility for risks greater than this in the supervision of commissioned Master’s theses.

Funding options

Remuneration for work is always a matter of negotiation, so be prepared to talk about money in addition to other topics.

Keep your potential funding request within reason, but don’t sell yourself short either, since you have valuable expertise not necessarily held by the employer. Take into account:

  • The duration of the research
  • Its benefit to the client
  • The field or sector of your Master’s thesis
  • Your finances, i.e., your expenses and other income (e.g., student financial aid)

For Master’s thesis commissions made under the deed of donation practice employed by Career Services some ten years ago, remuneration ranged from €500 to €10,000.

Other funding options:

1) Employment

The employer and student can conclude an employment contract. In regular employment, the student will have the rights and obligations of an employee. They will also be directly compensated for their work.

2) Fee

The taxability of fees should be taken into consideration when discussing compensation. Taxes are determined on a case-to-case basis, taking the recipient’s other income into consideration.

3) Self-employed person/private entrepreneur

When determining compensation for a self-employed person or entrepreneur, their responsibility for pension, insurance, material and other expenses must be taken into consideration.

It should be noted that other income always also affects the study grant.