Institute of Law and Welfare

In Finnish

The Institute of Law and Welfare brings together welfare-related legal research, expertise and education from the University of Eastern Finland. The Institute, consisting of over ten researchers, is the field's major research and educational centerpoint in Finland.

We emphasize multidisclipnary research and work closely with both national and international researchers and institutions who are active in promoting and researching welfare and welfare services in general.

We focus on the rights that have a connection to the well-being of an individual at all stages of the life cycle. For example, we are interested in the different legal aspects of welfare services; how they are defined, organized, produced and supervised.

Law and Welfare is not a separate field of law; it refers to the entirety of legal research that focuses on the regulation of – for example – income support, social welfare and physical and mental health. It is possible to illustrate it's connections to several fields of law:


Anna Mäki-Petäjä-Leinonen, Director of the Institute

Anna Mäki-Petäjä-Leinonen (LL.D, docent) is Senior Lecturer in Elder Law. Her research has focused on Elder Law combining jurisprudence (Civil Law and Social- and Medical Law) with social and medical sciences.

Mäki-Petäjä-Leinonen is sub-consortium PI in an international research project focusing on the specific issues concerning people who develop dementia or mild cognitive impairment while still working (MCI@work). She is also sub-consortium PI in national research project scrutinizing home-based palliative care of the elderly (MeRela).

Mäki-Petäjä-Leinonen teaches Elder and Guardianship law and is a teacher in course “Social Law Clinic”., 040 511 8841, Biography

   Twitter: @Annamakipetaja

Henna Nikumaa, Coordinator

Henna Nikumaa (Master of Social Services) works as a Lecturer in Elder Law and coordinator of the Institute. She focuses on autonomy and supporting the legal capacity of people with dementia in her doctoral thesis.

Nikumaa has worked for 20 years in various positions in the field of elder care. Most recently, she has led projects that developed and strengthened later life legal planning and the rights of people with dementia.
She has published, in particular, articles and textbooks for social and health care professionals.

In addition to the subjects of her doctoral thesis, Nikumaa is also interested in the equality of elderly and disabled people as well as challenges of autonomy and protection of people with dementia., 040 581 2151, Biography


Suvianna received her PhD (law) from the University of Helsinki in 2009. Her PhD thesis was on tort liability of public authorities. Suvianna’s post-doctoral –research (2012) deals with children’s rights and duties at school. In that research she analyses the legal position of a pupil based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Suvianna’s research interests have lately lied primarily in the field of modern child law and liability to compensate human rights violations. Suvianna has recently published articles on best interests of the child in immigration issues (with Katariina Sovela), non-medical male circumcision from the point of view of children’s rights (with Merike Helander) and on children’s rights in health care. In 2018 she edited a book on children’s rights in health care and published a first Finnish textbook on the legal status of a child and children’s rights in Finland (Lapsioikeuden perusteet, Alma Talent). In 2018-2019 Suvianna has been involved in a Nordic project on constitutional rights of children in Nordic countries.

At UEF Law School Suvianna is in charge of courses “Children’s Rights”, “Education Law”, “Tort Law and Insurance Law” and “Central Topics of Tort Law”. She teaches also on courses “Family Law” and “Health Care Law”. Suvianna trains for example social workers, health care professionals and teachers on children’s rights.

Suvianna is a member of the Child Advisory Board of the Ombudsman for Children. She is also the chair of Child Law Lawyers association and a member of the board of the Finnish Lawyers’ Association., 0400 947228, Biography, Solecris


Eeva Nykänen

Eeva Nykänen (PhD) is a professor in Law and Welfare and Legislative Studies. Her research interests include the legal aspects of the social and health care reform and social and health care system, social rights as fundamental and human rights as well as refugee law and immigration law.

Nykänen teaches social law and immigration law. She is a member of the human rights delegation appointed by the Ombudsman., 029 524 7901





Toomas Kotkas

Toomas Kotkas (LL.D.) is doing research on social law from both doctrinal and socio-legal/historical perspectives. He is especially interested in the evolution of social rights and governmental rationalities in the welfare state.

Toomas is teaching social law, legal theory and legal sociology. He is also the Head of the Doctoral Programme in Law. At the moment he is on leave of absence until the end of 2019.

Biography, 050 355 2632




Pauli Rautiainen

Pauli Rautiainen (Ph.D., MA, M.Soc.Sc.) holds a tittle of docent of law and welfare at the University of Eastern Finland. He works as an associate professor of public law in Tampere University. His main area of expertise is constitutional law and the general doctrines of human and constitutional rights. Rautiainen has completed twice an external review of Finnish National Human Rights Action Plans). Rautiainen’s current research focus is on law and society.

Twitter: @PauliRautiainen






Maija Aalto-Heinilä

Maija Aalto-Heinilä has since the defense of her doctoral thesis ("The Concept of Showing in Wittgenstein's Tractatus", 2007) focused on philosophy of law. She is particularly interested in theories of rights and how they relate to moral and political philosophy. Her second field of research is legal interpretation., 050 442 0611, 050 329 9393 (personal)





Katja Karjalainen

Katja Karjalainen (PhD) is a postdoctoral researcher in private international law and comparative law. She has focused on cross-border family law and differences in national legal systems. Karjalainen works as a researcher in the MCI@work. Furthermore, she teaches private international law.




Tarja Koskela (LL.D) is a senior lecturer and post doctoral researcher in criminal law and criminal procedure law. She teaches criminal sanctions and research methods in criminology. She teaches also Animal Law at the University of Eastern Finland, University of Helsinki and Police University College.

Koskela’s doctoral thesis “Optimal protection of animals in the criminal procedure and the public administration” is criminal policy oriented legal research. Her research was primarily focused on whether the purpose of the Animal Welfare Act and objectives prescribed in the Act are achievable in the criminal procedure. She is widely interested in juridical questions about animal welfare and human welfare issues connected to animal neglect.

Koskela is a member of board and secretary of international affairs in the Finnish Society for Human Animal Studies, member of board in Finnish Animal Rights Law Society, member of board in Global Journal of Animal Law -journal and member in Trophy Free EU Group. She is also a member in international organizations: Educational Group for Animal Law Studies (EGALS) and Global Animal Law Projects., 0503369236, linkki CV-sivulle



Matti Muukkonen

Matti Muukkonen (Dr. Adm. Sc., M.Soc.Sc., M.A. in Law) is a postdoctoral researcher. His specialties are self-governing communities, especially municipalities and associations. As part of the postdoc study of municipal law, Muukkonen's research topics concern municipalities as institutions, as local government organizes its administration and finances, and the activities of municipalities. The approach also highlights links to norms on municipal service production, the most recent causes of the crisis in elderly care.

Previously, he has worked as a researcher and senior assistant in both administrative law and European law. Outside the university, he has worked as a chief municipal officer of three municipalities among other things.

   SoleCrisUEF//Connect, +358 50 352 2394
    Twitter: @mattimuukkonen



Miisa Törölä

Miisa Törölä (Dr.Soc.Sc.) works as a postdoctoral reseacher at UEF Law School. She teaches on courses “Research in Law and Welfare” and “Research Methods in Criminology”.

Miisa received her PhD (Sociology) in 2019. Her PhD Thesis was on evaluating the pathways of Finnish offenders into forensic psychiatric hospitals. Her ongoing postdoctoral research deals with welfare of prisoners convicted by reason of diminished responsibility. Her research interests are sociological research of criminal responsibility, sociology of mental health and illness, and criminological issues.

UEF//Connect, 050 388 6576



Marjo Ylhäinen

Marjo Ylhäinen (PhD) is an associate professor in labour law. She takes part in internatiols projects such as MCI@work which focuses on the specific issues concerning people who develop dementia or mild cognitive impairment while still working and also in The Future of Work project, which concentrates on the Nordic labor market model and changes in work.

Ylhäinen teaches labour law and private law. She is also a member of the Doctoral Programme in Law., 050 324 7589, Biography





Jonna Kosonen

Jonna Kosonen (M.Sc (Admin.), M.A.) is a lecturer in administrative law and a doctoral candidate.

Kosonen teaches the general administrative legislation, education law and focuses on vocational and higher education.

Kosonen's dissertation is about the study right of a student. Her research interests vary from the topics relating to the organizational structures of universities and polytechnic universities to the rights of an individual and their realization.




Heidi Poikonen

Heidi Poikonen (Lecturer, Social Law, M.Sc.) teaches and researches social and health care law at UEF Law School. Starting from autumn, she will also work for the Department of Social Sciences.

Heidi’ s main research interests are the realization of rights of the most vulnerable individuals and accessibility to social welfare and health care services. Her doctoral thesis focuses on these themes from the point of view of substance abusers.

SoleCris,, 046 921 5510




Virve Valtonen

Virve Valtonen, M.Sc.(Admin.), works as a university teacher in public law in UEF Law School. In her PhD dissertation she studies what affects primary school teacher's use of discretion during disciplinary actions and how the changes in regulation affect schools.

Virve's research interest focuses on educational law, modern child law and social law from the point of view of how these rights have been fulfilled in practice., 050 512 4471



Jenni Varis

Jenni Varis, M.Sc (Admin) works as a part-time project researcher and a doctoral student in Labour Law. Her main task is a position of a head of human resources in University of Eastern Finland.

Varis’ doctoral research combines empirical and dogmatical law studies. The research focuses on employees in expert positions and how employee’s self-determination and employer’s directional power encounter in practice. Varis is interested about labour law practices and how they influence in everyday working life and well-being at work., +358 50 443 4783



Jutta Kinnunen

Jutta Kinnunen, M.Sc.(Admin.), Ph.D. student in social law, is working as researcher in UEF Law School. Her doctoral research is focusing on legal protection of patients, mainly complaint procedure. With this research, better understanding and knowledge of complaints done by patients in Finland is gained and the potential needs for development are also identified. This research is up to date and valid just now, when the social and health care system in Finland is in great change.

Jutta Kinnunen is also interested in supervision and steering methods used in social and health care, questions related to patient rights and effectiveness of legal protection of patient. Previously Kinnunen has worked as a social and patient ombudsman., 050 304 8602



Niina Gråsten

Niina Gråsten (M.Sc. Econ. & Bus. Adm.) is a Ph.D. student in social law. She is interested in the rights of persons with disabilities as fundamental and human rights and individuals´ access to their rights. In her thinking people with disabilities are holder of rights and equal members of society.

Gråsten´s dissertation is about defining the status of disability as a legal concept. Her research interest is also how disability service act is interpreted in the level of municipal social services. The empirical part of the research focuses on people with autism spectrum disorder without intellectual disabilities.

Twitter: @GrastenNiina


Maija Moisio

Maija Moisio (M.Sc) is a researcher of labour law and is involved with projects concerning persons with memory disorders as well as a social and health project concerning gender equality within a human resources framework. Moisio is preparing her research plan for doctoral disertation with a topic of individual participation within an employment framework.

In addition, Moisio has educational responsibilities with basic and advanced labour law courses in spring semester 2020., 050 323 2241



Hanna-Maria Niemi

Hanna-Maria Niemi (Master of Social Sciences, Bachelor of Administrative Sciences) works as a junior researcher at the Law School of the University of Eastern Finland. She is currently writing her PhD dissertation on human dignity as a legal concept. The thesis focuses on clarifying the content and the function of dignity as a legal concept. In addition, it includes the philosophical analysis of these legal conceptions. The perspective on the research relates to welfare law since the scope of dignity focuses on the requirements for a life of dignity in a positive sense. Niemi is especially interested in the philosophical understanding about human well-being and the practices of legally protecting this well-being.


Mia Kilpeläinen

Mia Kilpeläinen ((M.Sc. Econ. & Bus. Adm.) is a lecturer in criminal law and criminal procedure law, a doctoral candidate and coordinator of international affairs in Law School.

Kilpeläinen teaches execution of criminal sanctions, economics of criminal law and courses related to criminology.

Dissertation of Kilpeläinen is about executing unconditional imprisonment. Her research interest relate to sanction planning and equality in enforcement., +358 50 4422 631




Elisa Silvennoinen

Elisa Silvennoinen, MSc (Admin), is a junior researcher in criminal law and procedural law and the internship coordinator at the UEF Law School.

Her current teaching portfolio includes courses on legal studies and the Finnish legal system, on the victim’s position and rights in criminal proceedings, as well as the bachelor’s thesis seminar.

Her doctoral thesis focuses on the status and rights of child victims in pre-trial investigation. Her primary research interests are children’s rights to self-determination, the perception of the child in pre-trial investigation, and the status of the child in criminal procedures.






Research Assistants

Anni Kainulainen

Roosa Ylikoski