The field of higher education needs an additional €100 million in funding, head of the Riigikogu higher education support group, professor of practical philosophy at the University of Tartu Margit Sutrop said on Vikerraadio.
Sutrop (Reform) said that while her aim is not to pit university lecturers against general school teachers, the situation today is that those teaching the teachers are often paid less. She said that pay of both professors and schoolteachers should grow.
The hosts asked Sutrop what is stopping the ruling Reform Party in a situation where it holds the education and finance portfolios and is running the government. The professor said that money gained in one area means taking it away from somewhere else.
"This year's priorities include teachers' salaries for which €30 million was allocated. Research and development funding was also hiked. While some of it will reach higher education providers, it will not be enough. Grants for doctoral students will also be hiked and they will be allowed to work as junior research fellows. They will be eligible for the average salary that will be over €1,600 next year. But the supervisors of those same doctoral students often make only a little more or even less in smaller universities," the MP said.
Sutrop said that the necessary €100 million would likely have been found in the 2022 state budget if it had not been for the coronavirus crisis and the need for investments on the eastern border.
"One possibility is to involve private capital. Is our coalition partner spending €70 million on free public transport more of a priority than higher education," Sutrop asked.
The Reform MP said that €100 million is the bare minimum needed for the normal functioning of higher education.
"The budget of Harvard University is a quarter of the Estonian state budget and something we will never achieve. But the budget of the University of Helsinki is what Estonia spends on higher education in total."
Sutrop said that higher education requires strategic decisions that rulers have been avoiding for years, especially in a situation where the number of students has fallen drastically since the last reform.
"How to reduce duplication? In which areas do we wish to be successful, where would it make more sense to send students of less popular subjects abroad. The number of students has fallen by a quarter since the free higher education reform. We cannot escape making these strategic choices if we want to offer competitive education and avoid young people going to foreign universities," Sutrop said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski