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Estonia:Higher Education Funding

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Overview Estonia

Contents

Estonia:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Estonia:Historical Development

Estonia:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Estonia:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Estonia:Political and Economic Situation

Estonia:Organisation and Governance

Estonia:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Estonia:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Estonia:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Estonia:Organisation of Private Education

Estonia:National Qualifications Framework

Estonia:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Estonia:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Estonia:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Estonia:Funding in Education

Estonia:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Estonia:Higher Education Funding

Estonia:Adult Education and Training Funding

Estonia:Early Childhood Education and Care

Estonia:Organisation

Estonia:Teaching and Learning

Estonia:Assessment

Estonia:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Estonia:Single Structure Education (Integrated Primary and Lower Secondary Education)

Estonia:Organisation of Single Structure Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in Single Structure Education

Estonia:Assessment in Single Structure Education

Estonia:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Single Structure Education

Estonia:Upper Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Higher Education

Estonia:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Estonia:First Cycle Programmes

Estonia:Bachelor

Estonia:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Estonia:Second Cycle Programmes

Estonia:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Estonia:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Estonia:Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Distribution of Responsibilities

Estonia:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Estonia:Main Providers

Estonia:Main Types of Provision

Estonia:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Estonia:Teachers and Education Staff

Estonia:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Estonia:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Estonia:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Estonia:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Management and Other Education Staff

Estonia:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Estonia:Management Staff for Higher Education

Estonia:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Estonia:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Quality Assurance

Estonia:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Estonia:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Educational Support and Guidance

Estonia:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Estonia:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Estonia:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Estonia:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Estonia:Mobility and Internationalisation

Estonia:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Mobility in Higher Education

Estonia:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Estonia:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Estonia:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Estonia:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Estonia:National Reforms in School Education

Estonia:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Estonia:National Reforms in Higher Education

Estonia:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Estonia:European Perspective

Estonia:Legislation

Estonia:Glossary

Funding

In the academic year 2015/2016, there were 24 educational institutions in Estonia which provide study based on higher education curricula. 8 of these are private schools, 6 state universities and 10 state vocational educational institutions or state institutions of professional higher education. The higher education schools are mainly financed from the state budget through activity support for covering study costs, administrative costs, investments and assigned operating costs. In addition, the budgets of higher education institutions include funds received from economic activities and domestic and foreign support; in case of universities, also from the provision of payable services related to their main activity and from research and development and other income. 

Up to 2013, higher education schools were financed on the basis of state commissioned education, i.e. based on the number of admitted students agreed with the ministry. Since 2002, outcome-based funding had been applied where a higher education school has to prepare a certain number of graduates in a certain study level. The schools were mainly ordered to prepare specialists at Master’s or Doctoral level.     

Since 2013, funding of national higher education has been performed on a new basis. Since then, higher education schools receive activity support for provision of instruction at the level of higher education which, in general, in the first and second level study is no longer related to the number of specific study places or graduates. An educational institution shall decide, on the basis of its profile, the assigned tasks and the existent training capacity, in which fields and how many study places are created. The central idea of the financing reform was to make the funding of universities dependent on the quality and effectiveness of the education, taking into account of the needs of the society. Increase in the funding by 25% compensates for the partial loss of paid study. Financing reform is implemented within the four years of transfer period. The new type of financing model is implemented in full in 2017.

In 2013, the allocation of means from the state budget to the educational institutions for provision of instruction at the level of higher education took into consideration the volume of state commissioned education presented to the educational institutions in 2012 to the extent of at least 80 per cent and the indicators related to the students reimbursing their study costs, provision of Doctoral studies and activities supporting the studies of national importance to the extent of up to 20 per cent. In 2014 and 2015, allocation of resources from the state budget for the provision of instruction at the level of higher education took into consideration of the volume proportions of the activity support allocated to the education institutions the previous year to the extent of at least 80 per cent and the extent, quality and efficiency of the provision of instruction in the educational institutions, provision of Doctoral studies and activities supporting the studies of national importance to the extent of up to 20 per cent. From 2016 onwards, indicator-based financing will be applied to the extent of up to 75 per cent (e.g., the number of admitted students and that of full-time students, the quality of provision of instruction, the number of graduates from a university and the number of graduates in broad groups of studies of national importance, specifications for provision of instruction according to curricula and broad groups of studies, etc.). Universities and institutions of professional higher education are financed from the state budget.    

For allocation of activity support to universities, a contract under public law shall be entered into for three years between the university Rector and the Ministry of Education and Research. The contract shall specify the rights and obligations of the parties, liability and procedure for the allocation of activity support. For the performance of the contract under public law, a performance agreement shall be concluded each year as an annex to the contract under public law. The performance agreement sets out basic obligations arising from the mission, objectives and functions of a university and necessities of the state, including the obligations regarding the extent, quality and efficiency of provision of instruction at the level of higher education and the conditions of financing thereof; exceptions to the partial reimbursement of study costs; bases and volume of allocation of student scholarship fund; volume and financing of Doctoral studies; curricula on the basis of which a university is allowed to conduct only part-time study and activities of national importance supporting the provision of instruction at a university.

The purpose of the activity support system is to create equal possibilities for studying to all capable and motivated students and to ensure financial resources necessary for the educational institution. Performance agreements ensure a better possibility for specifying the areas of activity arising from the functions of the higher education institutions, enable to decrease the unreasonable duplication through the effect of financing indicators and support the areas of development of national importance. In addition, other criteria characteristic of competitive higher education can be taken into consideration – to assess the internationalisation of universities, support services for students, cooperation with business sector and development of common curricula and to allocate funds on the basis thereof.    

Higher education institutions are, to a small extent, financed from the budgets of local governments. Higher education schools may accept donations, scholarships, etc. as well as financing from third persons (entrepreneurs, graduates, etc.). 

Financial Autonomy and Control

Upon implementing the activity support system, the notion of state commissioned education in higher education and the complicated mechanism of coefficients and base costs forming the basis of the former were dropped. Financing was no longer linked to quality accreditation conditions. Since 2012, quality assessment has been based on the system which gives the right to provide instruction to only those institutions that have positively passed the assessment of groups of curricula.

Performance agreements better ensure the financial autonomy of universities and higher education institutions understand the preparation of budgets. Educational institutions have an extensive autonomy in managing their funds, staff,  land and buildings.

The head of a school has the primary responsibility for finances. Supervision is exercised pursuant to the procedure established at state level. According to the Accounting Act, supervision is exercised by audit companies and the National Audit Office of Estonia is the supreme body supervising the use of public money.    

Fees within Public Higher Education

Since 2013, studying at all universities in public law, state institutions of professional higher education and the Estonian Information Technology College in private law is free of charge for all students who commenced their studies in the academic year 2013/14. An educational institution is not entitled to demand the reimbursement of study costs from a student who studies full-time following a curriculum (the curriculum is cumulatively completed in the amount of at least 75%), the language of instruction of which is Estonian and who has by the starting semester cumulatively completed the study load subject to completion under the curriculum in the previous semesters (30 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System credit points in a semester, 60 credit points in a year). Thus, from the second semester, the reimbursement of study costs depends on the volume of completed curriculum. The Government of the Republic of Estonia establishes upper limits to the partial reimbursement of study costs per credit point, on the basis of which a higher education institution establishes the procedure and rates for a specific partial reimbursement of study costs (since the academic year 2013/14, it is 50 euros per one credit point; with certain curricula the rate of reimbursement is higher – in the field of study of arts, 100 euros, in medical training, dentistry training and veterinary training, 100 euros, and with aircraft pilot curriculum, 120 euros per credit point).

An educational institution may demand reimbursement of study costs from a student who studies part-time (curriculum is cumulatively completed to the extent of 50-75%) or who follows a curriculum, the language of instruction of which is other than Estonian or who has been deleted from the matriculation register and matriculated again at the same curriculum within two years. A student who has studied within the state commissioned education and completed at least one half of the standard period of a curriculum can start studies at the same academic level without reimbursement of study costs within a period equal to three times the standard period of the curriculum.

The students who had been matriculated before 2013 shall be subject to the rules that were valid upon their admission, i.e. students study either in state commissioned or non-state-commissioned education.

In general, the state does not allocate activity support to private higher education schools. Therefore, students studying in private higher education schools shall pay the tuition by themselves. Private educational institutions are free in establishing the volume of training services.  

Financial Support for Learners' Families

Permanent residents of Estonia may deduct training expenses from their taxable income. If the learner him- or herself has no taxable income, the parents of a student of less than 26 years of age can deduct the costs from their taxable income. 

Financial Support for Learners

Since the academic year 2013/14, need-based study allowance has been granted to a student who is an Estonian citizen or is staying in Estonia on the basis of a long-term or temporary residence permit or on the basis of a permanent or temporary right of residence in order to cover expenses related to the acquisition of education. In addition, students can also apply for state guaranteed study loan.  

Need-based allowance is granted to a student who studies full-time and has by the starting semester cumulatively completed the study load subject to completion under the curriculum in the previous semesters or studies full-time in the first semester. Need-based allowance is related to the size of the family of a 24-year-old student and the average income per family member. The family members of a student are deemed to be his or her parents, sisters and brothers, half-sisters and half-brothers in case the student is not married or a parent or a guardian of a child; the spouse of the student and/or a minor child whose parent or guardian the student is. The maximum average income calculated for the receipt of the need-based study allowance of students and the amount of study allowance are established by the State Budget Act of the respective year. In 2016, the maximum average income was 358 euros and the amounts of study allowance were as follows. If the average income per family member is up to 89.50 euros, the size of study allowance is 220 euros. If the average income per family member is between 89.51−179 euros, the size of allowance is 135 euros and the average income per family member of 179.01−358 euros ensures an allowance of 75 euros.    

Students matriculated before the academic year 2013/14 (except for Doctoral candidates) have the right to, until the end of academic year 2015/16, apply for basic allowance and supplementary allowance in the framework of the so-called result-based study allowance system. A student has the right to apply for a basic allowance if he or she studies according to a curriculum which foresees student places formed on the basis of state commissioned education in full-time study and has not exceeded the nominal period of studies. A student who complies with the above requirements and whose place of residence is located outside the local government in which the educational institution is located and outside the bordering local governments can also apply for an additional allowance.     

A Doctoral candidate is entitled to apply for a Doctoral allowance if he or she is an Estonian citizen or is staying in Estonia on the basis of a long-term or temporary residence permit or a permanent or temporary right of residence, is enrolled in full-time Doctoral study or part-time Doctoral study in case the reimbursement of study costs is not demanded from him or her and if he or she has not exceeded the nominal period of studies according to the curriculum.

The size of allowance is established by the state budget, study support funds are allocated to an educational institution from the state budget through the budget of the Ministry of Education and Research. 

Estonia has undertaken to create additional possibilities for supporting the studies abroad of students and individual development of the academic staff of higher education schools. In 2003, the Ministry of Education and Research, in cooperation with Archimedes Foundation launched the scholarship programme Kristjan Jaak, the objective of which is to support the studies of students of Estonian higher education schools enrolled in Master’s or Doctoral study at foreign universities and assignments abroad of students and teaching staff related to study and research. In 2009, the possibilities for studying abroad expanded even further due to the programme DoRa funded from the Social Fund. The programme DoRa supports study migration of teaching staff, study and research of Master’s candidates and Doctoral candidates in foreign universities and their participation in a professional conference, seminar or course taking place abroad. 

Both students studying at universities in public law and those studying at universities in private law who are enrolled in part- or full-time study and work as teachers and participate in part-time teacher training programmes have the right to obtain a study loan. The students who comply with the requirements can apply for a study loan to the extent that corresponds to the nominal period of studies of the course to the extent of a maximum rate per year (in 2016/17 the maximum rate is 1,920 euros), which has been at the same level for the last four years. 

Study loan is granted by credit institutions. The government secures the institution granting the loan the interest and the principal amount of the loan in case of insolvency of the recipient. In order to apply for a loan, a student is required to provide a guarantee or find a surety. The interest rate applied to loans is commercial interest rate, which is established by law but shall not be less than 5 per cent per year. At the same time, the interest rate payable by students is fixed as 5 per cent. If the actual interest rate exceeds the fixed interest rate, the government shall compensate for the difference.    

The repayment of a loan commences 12 months after finishing or interruption of studies. Under certain conditions, repayment of a loan is suspended – e.g., for parents of children up to 3 years of age or for the period of obligatory military service. During these periods, the central government shall pay interest payable on the balance outstanding on the amount of the study loan balance of the recipient of the loan.   

Need-based study allowance does not cover all costs related to studying, such as expenses on study materials or subsistence expenses. Most of higher education schools offer students dormitory places that are cheaper than rental apartments offered at the real estate market. Library services are also available. 

Need-based study allowance does not cover all costs related to studying, such as expenses on study materials or subsistence expenses. Most of higher education schools offer students dormitory places that are cheaper than rental apartments offered at the real estate market. Library services are also available.

Private Higher Education

From the 24 higher education institutions, 8 are private schools, one of them a university. A private school can apply for activity support and if the allocation of activity support is considered of national importance, the expenses of the private school related to the provision of instruction at the level of higher education in the framework of the according curriculum are covered to the extent of the activity support on the basis, conditions and in accordance with the procedure applicable to state professional higher education schools and public universities provided for in the legislation.

Legislative References

Income Tax Act

Study Allowances and Study Loans Act

Private Schools Act

Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act

Universities Act