Ergma hopes to substitue politics for academic leadership

  • 2007-01-17
  • By Joel Alas

Ergma believes Estonia needs to prioritize its education system.

TALLINN - After finishing a close third in Estonia's presidential election race, Ene Ergma is vying for another of the nation's most prestigious posts 's rector of Tartu University. Ergma, the current deputy speaker of the Parliament and a renowned astrophysicist, will stand for election on Jan. 18 in the UT Assembly Hall.

She will run against two serving academics, Volli Kalm, professor of applied geology, and Birute Klass, professor of Estonian language and the university's current vice rector for academic affairs.

Only six weeks ago, Ergma told The Baltic Times she was not seriously considering the position. The parliamentarian said she had too many enemies in academia because of her outspoken views on standards.
Despite her doubts, Ergma is now considered a front-runner for the post.
"When I was part of Tartu University's academic commission in the early 1990s, I was perhaps too sharp in my demands for establishing quality standards for professors," Ergma said on Nov. 29, adding that Estonia's academic reputation is at risk because too many unqualified candidates are given professorships.

If elected, Ergma is expected to initiate a rigorous overhaul of academic qualifications.
"We have too many professors… We need to establish quality norms, and not only for the professors at Tartu, but for all professors in the Republic of Estonia. Otherwise, we will have poor academic situations everywhere," she previously told The Baltic Times.

Indeed, some of those Ergma has taken aim at will decide her fate. All professors are included on the university's 295-member electoral college, who will meet at 12 p.m. on Jan. 18 to cast their vote. The electoral college also includes the members of the university's governing council and the faculty councils. Whichever candidate receives 148 votes will be recommended to the national Cabinet, who must make the final decision on the appointment.
The position of Tartu University rector is considered one of the most important offices in Estonia because of the institution's 375-year history.

The previous rector, Jaak Aavkisoo, was also an early-round nominee in the recent presidential race, and left his office to run as a candidate in the forthcoming general election.