The Ministry of Education and Research in Estonia has announced its hopes to confine all legal education in Estonia to Tartu University, starting from Autumn 2019. It is not yet clear how this will be carried out, however.
A recent proposal communicated to Tartu University from the Ministry stated that ''Legal curricula are to be the sole responsibility of Tartu University. We are of the position that other universities are not to use state-funded grants in order to provide free study in the legal curriculum.''
Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education and Research, Indrek Reimand, has said that there is a desire on the part of the ministry to clarify areas of responsibility assigned to Estonian universities.
However, the move has met with opposition, not to mention confusion. Human Rights law Professor Mart Susi of Tallinn Univeristy believes that such a concentration of legal education in Tartu alone would prove academically destructive, and the University has turned to both the Ministry of Justice and the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) for support.
''We live in a civil society in which an individual's life cannot be commanded or restricted in such a way, by any public authority – in this case a ministry,'' Mr. Susi said.
Not clear exactly what ministry wants to change, other than streamlining existing situation
In any case at this stage, discussions between the ministry and higher education institutions in Estonia are still very much on the table and cannot be unequivocally commented on.
Indrek Reimand has said that ''The whole objective of the process is to align the higher education insitutions and their courses more closely with the needs of the labour market.''
''This includes cutting excess activity where there is a perceived need to do so, and conversely increase those areas where a societal necessity clearly exists,'' he went on.
What the ministry's aims are and how it plans to implement them are still not abundantly clear however, since in practice the legal education in Estonia is already solely or largely under the aegis of Tartu University.
The highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of Estonia, is also located in Tartu, and not Tallinn.
Tartu University's own view
Tartu University Law Faculty director Peep Pruks, who is an advocate of this Tartu-only approach to legal education, has said that the reason is a need to align funding to reflect that responsibility.
''Under the present system universities are given a pot of money, so to speak, and can then decided for themselves how to use this and on what types of teaching,'' he explained.
''This new proposal and the changes it would bring mean that we will start to allocate money according to areas of responsibility,'' he went on.
And back to the ministry...
For his part, however, Indrek Reimand, refutes this.
"The number of students in a given field of responsibility is one indicator, but this does not areas outside that field of responsibility cannot under any circumstances be taught, or that no funding will be given in these cases,'' he explained.
Thus the situation remains highly unclear. Whether and how the Ministry can manage tertiary education to that extent, not only in the law field but in all areas, should have more light shed on it by the end of the year.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: ERR Uudised