Education minister hits out at Helme Tallinn University criticisms

Minister of Education Mailis Reps (Centre).
Minister of Education Mailis Reps (Centre). Source: ERR

Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Centre) has spoken out against criticisms of Tallinn University (TLÜ) made by interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE).

Speaking at a Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) extended board meeting on Sunday, Helme, who is also EKRE leader and deputy prime minister, noted TLÜ's "utterly non-existent level of research", arguing that it was little more than a propaganda mill which did not merit any further funds towards research activities.

Reps said that Helme was not properly informed about TLÜ's activities and had based his claims on hearsay, BNS reports.

"Mart Helme engaged in a careless and offensive use of words when he described Tallinn University as a school with a non-existent level of research," Reps said according to ministry spokespeople.

"There is no way I can agree with the offensive statement by Mart Helme; facts do not support his opinion either. All Estonian higher education institutions must pass international evaluation or accreditation, meaning that the quality and the impact of the activities of higher education and scientific institutions are evaluated by international experts. As a result of the international evaluation of Estonian research institutions conducted in 2017, the level of research at Tallinn University was deemed to be high," Reps continued.

The minister also praised TLÜ rector Tiit Land.

"He has done an excellent job as rector, which is difficult to overlook. Several reforms have been carried out at the university, which have made the work of the university more effective and the quality of instruction higher," she said, adding that her ministry has no reason to hold any doubts about the institution.

"Tallinn University is a higher education institution which belongs in the top 7 percent of universities. Tallinn University is a great partner to the state in several important fields, such as the training of teachers. Furthermore, my own personal experience with Tallinn University is positive," Reps said.

Martin Helme, who said research funds should be diverted to those institutions which engaged in applied research, also referenced recent cases of alleged plagiarism, which are largely linked to Tallinn University.

The university itself had on Monday refuted Helme's claims as having no basis in fact.

Research and development (R&D) funding was frozen at under 1 percent of GDP in recent state budgetary long-term strategy plans, despite a pledge by the previous coalition (which included Centre, but not EKRE) to raise this to 1 percent.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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