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Estonian student unions submit university reform proposals

Juhan Tere, BC, Tallinn, 05.03.2012.Print version
The Federation of Estonian Student Unions (EÜL) has submitted six proposals to the Cultural Affairs Committee for amending the university reform, which was vetoed by the president on the first go-around, the Estonian news broadcasting corporation ERR reported.

Among the most important, the first one relates to the financial autonomy of universities. EÜL said the grounds and procedure for state funding should be specified more precisely, based on the existing concept of base-line cost, writes LETA.


It also said the condition for free tuition should be full-time study or completion of a cumulative 85% of the curriculum in the standard period of study.


Academic leave should remain up to the universities to decide, or academic load provisions should be the basis for regulating academic leave, the EÜL stated.


The conditions and procedure for reimbursement of tuition should be clearly specified for those who failed to complete a subject and those who exceed the mandated period of study, according to the Federation. And it said draft legislation on the reform and study allowances should be read by Parliament in parallel so that they can be adopted simultaneously, or study allowance provisions should be added to the draft reforms.


As reported, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves decided to not promulgate the controversial higher education reform law at the late February that the parliament approved of at the beginning of February, saying that the law contradicts the Constitution.


"I acknowledge the work done to reform higher education, which has been led by the education ministry and Riigikogu culture committee, unfortunately it emerged during the legal analysis of the law that some of its provisions are not in line with the Constitution," said Ilves.


Primarily, the problem concerns giving the government powers to set restrictions on the workings of universities, by deciding how they get funded, while only the parliament should have that right, since by laws, universities are entitled a level of autonomy enabling it to secure research work and freedom of teaching. Also the principles of demanding money from students have to be stipulated by law to make the system clear and thorough.


The Estonian Riigikogu approved the higher education reform despite the opposition of students, which provides free education to the students who fulfil the study plan fully. The law will come in force in 2013. According to the law, only students who have 100-percent study burden, i.e. who collect 30 credit points per semester can study for free. Universities have the possibility, but not the obligation to charge a fee from students who do not fulfil the 30 credit point requirement. Students then only have to pay for the credit points not collected.

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