New majors, microdegrees coming to several Estonian universities this fall

Public gathering to support increasing the funding of higher education
Public gathering to support increasing the funding of higher education Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Starting this fall, several universities in Estonia will be offering new degree programs ranging from Contemporary Economics to Clinical Pharmacy. Due to lack of sufficient funding, however, universities will be cutting a total of seven programs, reducing the number of elective courses as well as introducing new continuing education microdegree programs.

This fall, the University of Tartu (TÜ) will be opening enrollment to ten new degree programs, six of which are in Estonian and four in English. All six new Estonian-language degree programs are in the field of social sciences. Of these new programs, only one is at the bachelor's level — Design Thinking and Digital Marketing, which is a paid, part-time, Estonian-language degree program offering session-based studies.

Also to be offered in the session-based study format is the new tuition-free, Estonian-language Contemporary Economics degree program, which is replacing the university's earlier Marketing and Financial Management and Entrepreneurship and Technology Management programs.

The remaining four new Estonian-language master's degree programs will all be offered in a paid, part-time, session-based format: Person-Centred Social Innovation, Contemporary Marketing, Contemporary Financial Management and Applied Behavioral Science.

All four new English-language degree programs will be offered at the master's level, including Estonian and Finno-Ugric Languages, Entrepreneurship in Economic Policymaking, Clinical Pharmacy and Clinical Nutrition.

Tallinn University (TLÜ), meanwhile, is launching two new master's-level degree programs in the session-based study format, splitting a previously combined program into two: Contemporary Culture and Comparative Philosophy.

The Tartu-based Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMÜ) is accepting admissions to one new degree program this fall: Planning and Analysis in Multifunctional Forestry, a full-time English-language master's degree program with on-campus studies.

Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech, TTÜ), meanwhile, is offering two new programs this year: Food and Biotechnology, a full-time Estonian-language bachelor's degree program with on-campus studies.

At the master's level, it is launching a full-time Estonian-language Green Energy Technologies program, which will likewise be offered in the on-campus study format.

While the Tallinn-based Estonian Academy of Music and Theater (EMTA) is not launching any new degree programs this year, EMTA Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Research Margus Pärtlas noted that several existing degree programs have been significantly revamped.

Pärtlas also added that after a two-year gap, it is accepting applications for its international English-language Contemporary Physical Performance Making master's degree program.

Estonian Business School (EBS) is introducing a new master's degree program this fall as well: the English-language, session-based Business Innovation in the New Economy, which students can attend either in Tallinn or at its satellite campus in Helsinki.

Cuts vs. microdegrees

As higher education funding has not grown as expected, the rectors of Estonia's public universities refused to sign administrative agreements regarding fall admissions. TLÜ was the first to announce that it would be reducing its degree programs by some 10 percent due to insufficient funding.

"This means that this upcoming fall, the university will not be opening six Estonian-language curriculums and, moving forward, will offer paid part-time studies for another six curriculums," explained Helen Joost, academic affairs manager at TLÜ.

At the bachelor's level, TLÜ will be closing fall 2022 admissions to its Information Science, Integrated Craft and Home Economics Technologies and Environmental Management degree programs. At the master's level, the university is scrapping admissions to its Information Science, Environmental Management and Recreation Management programs.

"To cover educational expenses, the university will be launching paid part-time studies in five programs from this fall as well: Advertising and Public Relations, English Language and Culture, Public and Business Management, and Law at the bachelor's and master's levels," Joost said.

Similarly, TalTech is scrapping the Business and Experience Management degree program it offered at Kuressaare College.

Other universities aren't currently planning on cutting any of their degree programs. They too, however, have acknowledged the need for additional funding.

"Insufficient funding has forced EMTA to critically review the amount of contact learning in its curriculums and limit its offering of electives," Pärtlas said. Nonetheless, EMTA has not considered cutting any of its programs, as nearly all of its offered curriculums are exclusive to the academy's area of responsibility.

According to Risto Mets, director of the Department of Marketing and Communication at EMÜ, the university instead intends to further develop its curriculums from a green transition and UN sustainable development perspective.

"The university funding issue is certainly getting increasingly acute, and it's certainly especially difficult in those fields not involved in research," Mets highlighted. "Not that education should be financed from research funding — which all universities are forced to do to a greater or lesser extent."

Annika Tina, director of TÜ's Office of Academic Affairs, said that their university likewise has no current plans to reduce admissions or scrap any majors.

According to TÜ Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Aune Valk, the university's current tactic has involved increasing admissions to paid degree programs, limit tuition-free spots in English-language programs and increase the proportion of paid spots in Estonian-language programs.

Starting this fall, both TÜ and TLÜ will be involving more private funding in its education by offering various one- or two-semester, 12-24 credit comprehensive continuing education curriculums, also known as microdegrees.

"Studies will take place in a session-based format or online, which is well-suited to working people, and studies are paid," said Tuuli Kaldma, head of student admissions at TÜ.

TÜ already offered 20 different microdegree programs during the 2021/2022 school year, and the list of microdegree programs available during the coming school year will be finalized by the beginning of June. According to initial plans, however, the Tartu school's range of microdegree programs will be expanding this fall, Kaldma  said.

TLÜ is launching several new microdegree programs this fall as well, including in senior work.

"This is an important field, as one in five people in Estonia is 65 years old or older, and older people are forecast to account for a third of the population by 2025," Joost explained.

As Estonia previously lacked a profession dedicated to elderly development and inclusion as well as relevant training, according to Joost, TLÜ's new microdegree program will now provide the opportunity to fill that gap.

The Tallinn university is likewise offering a new local governance microdegree in cooperation with the nearby Rae Municipality, as well as microdegree programs in human-animal interaction, performance and sports psychology, environmental management and communications, green management (in cooperation with TalTech), Baltic-German cultural heritage (in cooperation with TÜ and the Estonian Academy of Arts) and pediatric art therapy, among others.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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