TALLINN - The Estonian Ministry of Education and Research plans to stop paying PhD students a doctoral allowance and instead offer them junior research fellowship with an increased salary, the initiative would require additional financing in the amount of tens of million of euros per year.
The ministry is preparing a reform of doctoral studies to foster doctoral students' becoming junior research fellows by turning the doctoral allowance to a junior scientist's salary and providing students with contractual employment, it appears from the newly published state budgetary strategy.
"The purpose of the planned changes is to improve the efficiency of doctoral studies and increase the number of theses defended. In order to achieve that, doctoral students' economic situation must be improved to reduce their excessive employment in other, often non-scientific positions," Margus Haidak, head of the higher education department of the Ministry of Education and Research, said.
The ministry's intention to amend relevant legislation includes a prior analysis of the changes required and their possible effect.
"Studies so far have indicated that the main prerequisites for successfully graduating from doctoral studies is students' sufficient involvement in research teams and a stable income," Haidak said.
The preliminary plan outlines that the university and student enter into an employment contract. The student's salary is subject to taxation, however, their remuneration would notably exceed the current doctoral allowance.
The gradual transition would be carried out over several years. If the system is fully launched with 1,200 students receiving the average salary, the initiative would require around 18 million euros of additional financing per year.
"The implementation of the changes depends on whether or not instruments exist for it. If no additional funds can be allocated, then the reform will most likely be postponed and the current system will remain in effect," Haidak said.