Kalle Hein, finance director of the University of Tartu, explained that the universities’ decision not to sign new public-law contracts last fall does not mean that costs should be cut immediately.
“The university has a budget of 211 million euros this year, of which 62 million euros in activity support are linked to its contract with the government. As long as the contract for the new period is not signed , the university will receive one-twelfth of last year’s budget activity support volume, therefore, we still receive support every month.
The fact that funding for higher education has fallen from 1.5% of GDP to 1.1% over the past ten years will require cuts in the future as inflation tears holes in university budgets and forcing them to limit admissions or stop offering certain fields of study.
“Even if the number of high school graduates is increasing, the University of Tartu will not increase admissions. And if things stay as they are, we will have to find other ways to reduce costs,” Hein said. .
The problem is getting worse, especially for smaller universities offering arts education. Rector Ivari Ilja of the Estonian Music and Theater Academy (EMTA) explained that the education provided by his school is extremely expensive due to the need for individual instruction.
“We teach a lot of different subjects. All of them – whether we are talking about musical science, theater – are crucial for Estonian national culture.
Universities hope to see a 15% increase in funding for higher education by the fall. Provided that doesn’t happen, EMTA will have to shut down some specialties, Ilja admitted.
Mart Kalm, director of the Estonian Academy of Arts, also said that budget cuts were necessary if additional funds could not be obtained.
“I don’t have anything concrete yet. We are in the middle of relevant discussions but there are no agreements yet. A 15% increase would prevent the relative importance of higher education funding from falling further” , Kalm said.
It is likely that no solution to raise funding for higher education to 1.5% of GDP again can be found before the Riigikogu elections in 2023.