On September 8, the Cabinet approved draft legislation according to which Estonia will implement free higher education to students who maintain a 100 percent study load.
In order to be eligible for free tuition, the students entering the university starting from September 1, 2012, will be required to complete 30 academic credits per semester. If a student cannot or does not wish to take on a full study load, the university can charge him or her partial tuition up to the limit stipulated by the state.
The Federation of Estonian Student Unions has previously pointed out that demanding that students maintain a full study load restricts their ability to work on a part-time basis and to organize their curricula flexibly.
However, the Cabinet says that the new legislation will improve the cost-effectiveness of the curricula, decrease fragmentation, and increase the universities' responsibility for the quality of education.
According to the draft legislation, current state-commissioned education will be replaced with state subsidies for universities. In the future, each institution will be able to decide for itself based on its profile and duties how many students it will accept in each field of study. If the state has a pronounced need for specialists in some field, it will be possible to address it with a performance contract. Doctoral studies will be financed according to the old regulation.
The government's action programme allocates 6.1 million euros in 2013, 18.8 million euros in 2014, and 33.0 million euros in 2015 for implementing the draft legislation. In addition, approximately 135,000 euros has been set aside for making database changes.