Minister of the Interior and chairman of the coalition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Mart Helme sees no reason to respond to a joint statement condemning comments he made regarding Tallinn University (TLÜ).
"These people are not researchers," Helme told BNS. "Those were trade unions, junior researchers and other relatively informal organizations. I have nothing to say to them."
The party chairman added that a criterion for truth is practice, and, according to him, "Practice demonstrates that a number of plagiarized works and those suspected of plagiarism have come from [TLÜ]."
Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Centre) and Tallinn City Council chairman Tiit Terik (Centre), both alumni of the university, stated earlier this month that Helme's claims are unwarranted, as TLÜ has educated a large share of Estonia's teachers, educational leaders, social workers and experts in several other fields.
Helme said that Aab was incorrect in claiming that TLÜ had educated teachers as well as in calling it a dignified university.
"The [university] that educated teachers was Tallinn Pedagogical University — a university Rein Raud ruined by turning it into a liberal leftist propaganda organization, which is an entirely different matter," he continued.
"I'm not criticizing teachers, and I'm not criticizing real researchers; I'm criticizing this propaganda organization that has, in certain areas, lowered its standard of teaching beyond all acceptable standards," Helme said. "If anyone wants to contest that, then by all means, let them contest it."
Joint statement: Elected leaders should value education
Early last month, the Estonian Young Academy of Sciences, the Estonian Chamber of Research and the trade unions of the University of Tartu (TÜ) and TLÜ condemned comments made by Helme in a joint statement addressed to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre), members of the Riigikogu and the Estonian public.
"Such fact-ignoring declarations targeting Estonia's research and educational establishments by someone holding a ministerial position are unacceptable and destructive," the statement read. "The minister's defamatory position insults both the university as well as its graduates and undermines the motivations of the people who are doing important work for the Republic of Estonia on a daily basis."
The organizations said that the research quality of Estonian universities is assessed by independent international experts, while assessments and accreditation of the quality of teaching in colleges is carried out by the Estonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education (EKKA).
"In his statements, the minister has called into question the work of said institutions and the experts thereof," the statement continued. "Our position is that those who have been elected to govern the Republic of Estonia should be accurate and respectful in their statements regarding research and educational establishments, and also value education. We call on the prime minister to instruct members of his Cabinet regarding how to express themselves in a way that is fitting of their position, and how to remain committed to their field of work, as well as urge them to apologize to Estonian universities."
Editor: Aili Vahtla