TALLINN – Rectors of Estonia's higher education institutions met earlier this week to speak about cooperation and necessary adjustments as regards institutional accreditation, doctoral studies and financing of higher education.
Institutional accreditation means the evaluation of the institution of higher education as a whole, and successful accreditation is a guarantee of reliability and quality. This process is important not only for the institution of higher education, but for all parties related to the institution. At the meeting of the members of Universities Estonia and the Estonian Rectors' Conference of Universities of Applied Sciences, it was decided to prepare proposals for improving the operating model of institutional accreditation, as well as to provide input from higher education institutions with a view to its further renewal.
It was also decided to step up cooperation in the field of doctoral studies, such as industry doctorates and business doctorates. It is in the interest of both parties that there are more doctoral students, that their studies are more focused and that their contribution is more applicable to society and to the doctoral students themselves.
When it comes to the financing model of higher education, a certain contradiction was acknowledged between lifelong learning, the lack of qualified labor and the financing model. As things stand, financing and graduation in nominal time are related to strict criteria and have a fairly large share in the financing model of universities of applied sciences. Students, on the other hand, have had quite a lot of freedom of decision when it comes to interrupting and resuming their studies. The proposed amendment to the Higher Education Act will change this, and responsibilities will increase when studying for free.
"As regards funding of higher education, the very necessary decisions have been made for next year. Presumably next year, manifestations caused by the funding backlog, such as the departure of academic staff and complexity of recruitment, will stop. In fact, it is necessary to know the funding trend at least three years in advance in order to ensure the sustainable development of higher education, taking into account the expectations of the Estonian state in particular," said Enno Lend, rector of TTK University of Applied Sciences and chairman of the Estonian Rectors' Conference of Universities of Applied Sciences.
The chairman of Universities Estonia, Toomas Asser, said that while additional money is vital for universities to slow down the current decline in funding, all parties still need to work hard to reach a funding model that supports the long-term development of higher education.
"The experience of other countries shows that 1.5 percent of GDP is the least we have to spend to provide good quality free higher education in our own language. In addition to funding issues, we also share challenges with universities of applied sciences in terms of the content and quality of higher education -- cooperation between universities and universities of applied sciences is very important and will definitely continue," Asser added.
The rectors' councils met for the second time this year to form common positions on higher education and education policy and to discuss cooperation between higher education institutions.
The Estonian Rectors' Conference of Universities of Applied Sciences brings together the heads of the Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences, Estonian Aviation Academy, Estonian Military Academy, Estonian Academy of Security Sciences, TTK UAS, Tallinn Health Care College, Pallas UAS and Tartu Health Care College. Universities Estonia is the council of rectors of five Estonian universities.