Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said he did not agree with ideas floated by the University of Tartu to introduce a tuition fees for students studying in the Estonian language.
Speaking on Vikerraadio's Stuudios on peaminister, Ratas (Centre) said he did not support the introduction of €1,000 a year fees. But said salaries of teaching staff at universities had fallen behind other educational staff.
He said the government will provide €5 million in next year's state budget for university higher education contracts, which could go towards increasing the salaries of lecturers and associate professors.
"It's been asked before, why is it that university lecturers are leaving for upper secondary schools? The reason is that the government has raised the minimum wage for teachers for the last three years, and the salaries of university lecturers and associate professors have not risen. Now with this additional €5 million, universities can contribute a little more," Ratas said.
Presenter Arp Müller said €5 million is not enough money for the universities, which is why the University of Tartu has suggested introducing a universal tuition fee.
"No, I do not support the idea of paying for higher education. It has been free and must remain so," Ratas replied.
Political support is needed to introduce fees for full-time higher education courses taught in Estonian as it would require a change of law. Several politicians have already spoken out against introducing fees. Higher education has been free since 2013.
Presenter, Mirko Ojakivi, asked whether the income of universities could be increased without reducing duplication? He then asked if the universities could not agree amongst themselves, should Minister for Education, Mailis Reps, be given greater powers to do so?
"Mailis Reps is not a one man show. She does not say that only the University of Tartu must do this and Tallinn Technical University must do something else. But we should have a debate on whether the current funding ratio should be changed," said Ratas.
In April, members of the former Centre-Isamaa-Social democrats coalition agreed to increase public spending on research and development to at least 1 percent of the GDP. After the election, this deal was broken as the new coalition said they did not have the money to increase funds.
Currently, it is at 0.71 percent and will increase to 0.74 percent next spring.
Editor: Helen Wright