Under the terms of the intergovernmental agreement, funding for higher education in Estonia is set to increase. This year, an additional €10 million will be allocated to higher educational institutions, with the amount of funding also rising by 15% annually. Although universities had requested a sum of around €25 million to ease financial concerns, rectors say that even €10 million is a good sign.
According to university rectors, while this year's grant of €10 million will not solve all their problems, it is a sign that the higher education funding issue is being taken seriously.
"What is written in the coalition agreement is, of course, to be welcomed, and above all it will help to halt the decline in funding a little, but it will not stop it completely. Perhaps the most important thing is the realization that there is also a need to increase the funding for higher education by 15% in the coming years," said Toomas Asser, rector of the University of Tartu.
Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) Rector Tiit Land said, that the money received this year would be used primarily to cover administrative costs. Mart Kalm, rector of the Estonian Academy of Arts, also highlighted the need for funding to enable an increase in staff salaries.
According to Land, the money provided under the agreement will not be enough to rectify the salary problem.
"The worst thing is the salary problem. It seems like a minor issue, but nothing is being done - how long do you want Estonian brains, that is, university lecturers, to work with enthusiasm? But, (their) salaries are embarrassingly low." Kalm said.
"This €10 million is surely not enough to reduce the most acute problem, which is first and foremost the salaries of lecturers and researchers. But it is definitely a sign that the situation is being understood, that it is being taken seriously, and that makes us optimistic," said Land.
However, the rectors do believe that university management contracts will be signed, with the precise details of the agreement becoming clearer when they meet.
"If, in the fall, the state budget strategy foresees a 15 percent annual increase and this additional promised €10 million is in hand, I believe there can be hope," Kalm said.
"Universities are in no way seeking to hold back or deliberately discourage the signing of management contracts. The issue is still that we are not in a position today to guarantee the commitments that are written into these contracts, as we simply do not have the resources to do so," Land said.
Editor: Michael Cole