Government creating framework to reform doctoral studies

Students at the University of Tartu.
Students at the University of Tartu. Source: Andres Tennus/Tartu ülikool

The government wants to increase the attractiveness of doctoral studies in Estonia by reforming the system and has sent a bill to parliament to amend legislation.

The objective of the bill is to increase the attractiveness of doctoral studies, render the study process more efficient and ensure a new generation of researchers both in academia and Estonian society, spokespeople for the Ministry of Education and Research said on Thursday.

If the amendments are passed, doctoral students will be able to find work within their field of specialization related to their doctoral thesis in the public or private sectors.

The main objective of this is a knowledge transfer that can produce top specialists with a doctorate for the labor market outside the academic sector and foster cooperation between businesses and universities.

Doctoral students will also be able to keep the option of conducting their research without working. In these cases, they will have student status and fulfill their curriculum according to an individual plan but without being entitled to the doctoral allowance that has been available to doctoral students so far.

The conditions of study loans will also be made more favorable to students and instead of two guarantors that are required at present for receiving a loan, only one will be needed in the future.

The bill also aims to change the conditions of the needs-based study allowance. Foreigners from third states who have been granted a temporary residence permit for the purpose of study will no longer be eligible for the needs-based study allowance.

Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) said Estonia needs more people who have obtained their skills and knowledge through doctoral studies in order to cope with the challenges the country is facing and foster research-based action in society.

"The position of our doctoral students in terms of their career as researchers will become clearer," Kersna said. "Doctoral students will be ensured the position of junior research fellow at a university or a research and development establishment. The doctoral allowance will be replaced with a salary and [doctoral students] will have the right to receive social guarantees, such as annual paid leave and the sickness benefit. When drawing up the amendments, we have been guided by the objective of making doctoral studies diverse and have them take students' background into account."

A bill has been sent to the Riigikoogu the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act and the Higher Education Act.

The amendments are planned to take effect from September 1, 2022.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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