The University of Tartu has admitted that it can no longer continue to operate its three colleges without additional funding, noting that Narva College is under threat of closure, daily Postimees reports.
"The closing of Narva College would open Pandora's box, and I think nobody wants that," said Mai-Liis Palginõmm, head of Narva College.
"The University of Tartu is acknowledging its inability to maintain Narva College alone," University of Tartu rector Toomas Asser said in a recent letter to Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Centre).
The university cited the decrease in the number of students as the reason for its difficulties. The operational support allocated to universities is also no longer sufficient, as the college also fulfills the role of a sort of embassy in Narva, the daily writes.
The Ministry of Education and Research, on its part, is not disagreeing. On the contrary — the ministry also believes that in addition to an educational role, Narva College also plays a significant regional role. But the fulfilment of this role costs money, and the question now lies in where the funding should come from. This question currently has no answer, according to the daily.
"Narva College definitely has a much broader role than only the provision of education," said Raul Eamets, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and professor of macroeconomics at the University of Tartu. "If the state wants universities to implement regional policy as well, there should be money for this. Implementing this policy with money meant for educational purposes simply goes beyond the capabilities of the university."
According to Margus Haidak, head of the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education and Research, the future of higher education funding has been discussed with rectors. He agreed that the role of the regional college extends beyond teaching, and that money for fulfilling additional tasks must be found by the state.
"The Ministry of Education and Research is currently unable to support regional colleges separately," Mr Haidak said, adding that it has been agreed with university rectors that the ministry will submit an additional application for funding for higher education to the negotiations for the next state budget strategy.
Editor: Aili Vahtla