TALLINN - A recent suggestion by Tallinn's new mayor, Tonis Palts, that Tartu University could become an affiliate of the new Tallinn University has enraged many Estonians.
Hannes Astok, deputy mayor of Tartu, said on Tuesday that Palts' statement was insulting.
"By this statement Palts insulted the whole academic family of Tartu University, all graduates of the alma mater and residents of Tartu," he told the Baltic News Service. Only a person blinded by money and power can naively think that an academic tradition of 372 years can be obliterated by a couple of strokes of the pen, Astok explained.
"Universities at such a high academic level as Tartu University are not established in the back rooms of party bureaus but with centuries-long work in laboratories and lecture-rooms," Astok, a member of the liberal Reform Party, said.
Palts, who is a member of the ruling Res Publica party, had said in a meeting with the rector of Tallinn Technical University, Andres Keevallik, that he supported the idea of a Tallinn University and suggested it was possible that Tartu University could one day become a college of the new academic establishment in the capital.
"If a strong university wants to be born in Tallinn, we have to contribute to it - not oppose it. I am convinced that higher education is on the way up in Tallinn. It is today possible to get the same result with less money in Tallinn than studying at Tartu," Palts said.
Tartu University, one of the oldest universities in northern Europe, was established by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1632.
Both Res Publica and the Reform Party are in the present Estonian ruling coalition and have in recent weeks been discussing whether or not to proceed with unannounced merger plans that the two had agreed upon earlier this year.