The Estonian university system is regulated by the Universities Act, passed in 1995 and last amended in 2014. It lays out the organisation of teaching and education in universities; the rights and obligations of students and regulates the establishing, managing, funding and supervision of universities.
There are two other specific laws that regulate specific institutions: the University of Tartu Act and the Tallinn University of Technology Act, which lay out the differences between each of these institutions and the other universities in the system. Two out of six ‘public’ universities have their own regulatory frameworks. Since 1995 the University of Tartu has been regulated differently, while the Tallinn University of Technology emancipated from the Universities Act in 2014.
The University of Tartu and the Tallinn University of Technology enrol nearly half of the students in the system.
- Governance changes for two universities, introducing dual structures with the creation of a board/council
- Abolition in 2013 of tuition fees for students enrolled in full-time programmes taught in Estonian
Organisational autonomy: high
The law prescribes that rectors must be professors and serve for five years. Other aspects are regulated by the internal statutes. Universities have decision-making senates in which they can include external members. Changes to the governance model have been implemented in two large universities.
Financial autonomy: medium high
Estonian universities receive annual block grants for which they control the internal allocation. They can keep surpluses and borrow autonomously, and own their buildings. Universities have lost the capacity to set and charge fees to domestic and EU students since 2013 when these were abolished by the government.
Academic autonomy: high
Universities essentially decide on student numbers and can design their own admission criteria. Accreditation is undertaken at institutional level by the agency chosen by the university. Autonomy is only restricted in this field insofar as universities are assigned individual academic profiles. Otherwise universities are free to design the content of their programmes and may introduce programmes in other languages.
Staffing autonomy: high
Universities are highly autonomous in the management of their human resources, whether in relation to recruitment, salaries, promotions or dismissals.
Organisational weighted 87% unweighted 82%
100% Selection procedure for the executive head
The selection of the executive head is not validated by an external authority
75% Selection criteria for the executive head
The law states that the executive head must hold an academic position
100% Dismissal of the executive head
The procedure for the dismissal of the executive head is not stated in the law
0% Term of office of the executive head
The exact length is stated in the law
100% External members in university governing bodies
Universities can decide to include external members
This applies to one other country: United Kingdom