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TalTech faces name change challenge

TalTech logo
TalTech logo Source: TalTech

The switch in name and branding at Tallinn University of Technology, which since late 2018 has internationally been officially known as TalTech, at least in its short form, has been the subject of debate and controversy, with many former university hierarchy claiming the switch was not done in accordance with university regulations and without proper consultation.

Tallinn University of Technology (short name: TTÜ in Estonian, and TTU or TUT internationally) had apparently been informally known as TalTech (alternatively Talltech or TallinTech), presumably a nod towards US institution CalTech, the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA, for some time.

This name change was made official to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the university's founding, in September 2018, principally in its international branding and short name, rather than at home, where it still goes under its old tag, and its old full name.

The university announced the name change, with connected branding and logo, in September 2018, and the Board of Governors approved amendments to the university's statutes, making the chance official, on 19 October. The new short name entered into force on 22 December.

Letter of opposition

The TalTech logo was furthermore officially approved by the university council on 22 January 2019, with a view to producing an updated style-book in due course, reflecting the change, in consultation with the university's council and members.

However, a letter has been sent to the board of trustees of the former Tallinn University of Technology, now TalTech, with 14 signatories consisting of former rectors, deans and others in the hierarchy, as well as an additional 34 named professors at the university, noting opposition to the way in which the change was conducted, and claiming that this was not carried out in accordance with university statutes.

A vote on the matter will reportedly take place in April, with the university's students' union likely to favour the name change, in support of current Rector Jaak Aaviksoo (see below).

 A translation of the letter to the university board, shared with university members at the request of one of the co-signatories, former rector, Andres Keevallik, is as follows:

''Dear Tallinn University of Technology Board of Trustees

We are addressing you with a worrying situation at our university. 2018 In summer, the university's short name and trademark logo was de facto changed. This was done without any prior consultation with university members or alumni. These changes were announced after the fact, so all opinions on the matter were possible only as comments on a fait accompli.

Such activities would in the normal run of things, in addition to expected consultations, also require decisions at university council and board of trustees level. In actuality, the governors' board did not take the necessary decision until 19 October, retrospectively, and on 22 January in respect of the trademark, despite the requests of 34 named professors [see below-ed.].

Thus, all activities related to the short name of Tallinn University of Technology before 19 October 2018, and activities related to the University trademark before 22 January 2019, were in conflict with university regulations.

The fact that the University's management has violated the Statutes of TÜT (eg. §1 (1) and §9 (10)) and the Rector most likely has done same in respect of the TÜT Act (eg. §6 (1)), has been repeatedly drawn to the attention of the University Council and Board members.

This opinion has also been supported by a number of independent legal assessments which have also been communicated to you. Regrettably, despite the request made by Emeritus Rev. A. Keevallik, the issue of these offenses has not been included in the agenda of the University Council. Thus, the Board of Governors remains the only body that can and should discuss this issue.

We find that the University's management has ignored the University's statutes and, consequently, has used the university's financial resources inappropriately. Such activities have undermined the morale and motivation of the university's academic family, and represent a threat to the university's positions within the Estonian educational and scientific landscape and within society at large

We address the Board of Governors of the Technical University with the following:

1. In the near future, we ask you to discuss possible violations of leadership by the Board of Governors in connection with changing the University's short name and logo. Please make explicit the position of the Board of Governors on this issue.

2. In the near future, we ask you to discuss at a Board of Governors meeting whether, in the process of introducing the University's short name and logo, management has erred in its generally accepted academic ethics, including: The Estonian Code of Good Ethics and the Academic Ethics Code of TÜT (In this matter, a referral was also made to the Ethics Committee of the TÜT on 23 January 2019.) We would like clarification on the explicit position of the Board of Governors on this issue.

3. In light of the fact that, although in a very late and retrospective debate, a large proportion of university members have expressed reluctance and disagreement over the new short name and logo (excludiung the aforementioned 34 professors, and many other university colleagues and alumni continue to support TÜT as the Estonian short name), discussion of the issues of short name and logo with the Board of Governors is needed, where listening to the different positions of the concerned parties will take place.

Tallinn, 6 Febuary 2019.


  • Olav Aarna, Academic, Rector 1991-2000.
  • Andres Keevallik, Rector 2000-2005, 2010-205, Pro-Rector 2005-2010, Dean 1995-1997.
  • Jakob Kübarsepp, Academic, Pro-Rector 2000-2011, 2014-2017, Dean 1994-2000.
  • Erkki Truve, Pro-Rector 2010-2015, Dean 2008-2010.
  • Rein Vaikmäe, Pro-Rector 2005-2010.
  • Jüri Tanner, Pro-Rector 1991-1993, 2000-2001, Chancellor 1993-2000.
  • Maido Ajaots, Director 1992-2005.
  • Kaido Hääl, Dean 1988-1994, Pro-Dean 1971-1988.
  • Siim Idnurm, Dean 2015-2016, Pro-Dean 2001-2015.
  • Valdek Kulbach, Academic, Dean 1971-1975, 1994-1995, Pro-Dean 1963-1970.
  • Priit Kulu, Dean 2005-2010.
  • Mart Min, Pro-Dean 1984-1987.
  • Arvo Ots, Academic, Director 1991-2001.
  • Karl Õiger, Dean 1997-2005.

The 34 professors who addressed the University Council: Olav Aarna, Maido Ajaots, Kaido Hääl, Siim Idnurm, Arvi Iital, Jaan Järvik, Andres Keevallik, Alar Konist, Andres Krumme, Margus Kruus, Valdek Kulbach, Priit Kulu, Jakob Kübarsepp, Andres Lahe, Jüri Laving, Rein-Karl Loide, Mart Min, Leevi Mölder, Arvo Ots, Aadu Paist, Martin Pärn, Väino Rajangu, Toomas Rang, Endel Risthein, Ennu Rüstern, Heiki Tammoja, Mare Teichmann, Erkki Truve, Enn Tõugu, Rein Vaikmäe, Mati Valdma, Juhan Valtin, Enn Velmre, Karl Õiger.

Jaak Aaviksoo view

Current Rector of TalTech/TTÜ Jaak Aaviksoo says that whilst there is plenty of support for retaining the TTÜ name in Estonian, which there is no move to his knowledge to rescind, the overall name change is for the university's board of governers' to decide on.

He also added that he could not comment on any departure from standard practice or ethics, but that he found it hard to believe that the university's management or other bodies would have made a mistake.

Jaak Aaviksoo, a former government minister and former rector of the University of Tartu, has been TalTech rector since 2015.

Students' Union view

TalTech students themselves seem to like the change.

''There are always different opinions, but most active students feel that TalTech is an open, innovative and striking logo and that the short name [ie. same] is suitable for a university which has international lecturers and students,'' the TalTech Students' Union said on Friday, in a letter signed by just over 100 students.

The letter noted that the Estonian name is still TTÜ, merely that the international short name has been replaced by TalTech.

"Here, we want to emphasise that TalTech, as a brand, is part and parcel of the university's excellent growth. TalTech is visually brave and stands out. We are not hidden away somewhere, but are modern, adaptable, courageous, and energetic," the students' union stated.

Tallinn University of Technology is the third-highest ranking university in the Baltic states, globally placing in the 601-800 bracket on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2016-17, it is reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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