Of the more than 40,000 Estonian university students, around 100 find the time to follow two simultaneous programs. For most of them, Estonia currently pays for both courses. Kristi Raudmäe, head of higher education at the ministry, told ERR that a proposed amendment would put an end to that.
“This is currently at the expense of admitting other students who want to join the program,” Raudmäe said.
If the amendment is passed and goes into effect next fall, students will only be eligible for one free higher education. For example, a master’s student in forestry could not pursue a bachelor’s degree in mathematics for free at the same time.
“The change aims to improve access to higher education for people who have lacked it until now,” Raudmäe reiterated.
The change is part of a larger package that will not solve higher education funding problems but should demonstrate that universities and the ministry are making efforts to reduce costs, she suggested.
“We motivate students to weigh their choices better, to be more responsible in choosing the field with the aim of increasing student responsibility,” said Raudmäe, adding that this will result in more efficient use of the resources of the university. ‘Higher Education.
Dropouts should pay for work done
For example, the ministry is concerned when students enroll in a plethora of courses only to drop out before the end of the semester. Teachers have devoted their time and study aids to it, while society does not benefit.
The bill suggests that students who interrupt their studies should pay the credit points in progress. A single credit point costs €50, with 30 points accrued at the end of an average semester.
Students do not have to pay if they leave a course before the end of the half of the semester.
“This is the period in which the student can get to know the course and decide if they have the time or the academic aptitude to participate,” Raudmäe noted, adding that simply completing the course in any way is always an option.
“Even if the person wants to give up after that, the result will be there and available to them later in life,” she said.
No gifts on third try
Between six and ten percent of students drop out in the first semester. Half of them give up after just 70 days. Some students drop out because they find they want to study something else entirely.
Currently, attempt number two is free if the student drops out before their so-called halfway equator party. Three semesters for a bachelor’s, two for a master’s.
“We are shortening the period,” Raudmäe said. “Instead of half of the nominal study period, we limit it to one academic year in Bachelor’s and one semester in Master’s.”
We are also restricting those who keep trying new programs. “We limit it to two programs, while the third would require payment.”
Those who drop out after the nominal study period already have a harder time trying again. The rules are the same for them as for alumni, having to wait years before being able to re-enroll at the same academic level.
Training instead of a second cycle of higher education
For example, going after a new bachelor’s degree has a six-year waiting period for a free place. The period is four years for a master’s program. These intervals will now be extended.
A new free study place would be offered to those who have completed five nominal study periods since their first day of university. This means that a second free bachelor’s degree becomes available 12 years after the first.
Kristi Raudmäe said pursuing a second higher education is a growing trend. “But new knowledge doesn’t necessarily require a full curriculum,” she suggested.
She added that the amendment directs people who already have a degree towards more flexible forms of study. “They could acquire additional and new knowledge in the form of micro-degrees or trainings. This is another method of freeing up study places for those who apply for this particular academic level for the first time,” said Raudmäe.
People choosing to pay for their second tertiary education would earn universities €3 million. Raudmäe described it as unlikely, suggesting that having to pay would cause most to opt out.
She added that lifelong learning remains a priority for the ministry.
“However, our aim is also to reinforce the relative importance of people with higher education in society,” Raudmäe said.
The explanatory memorandum to the bill suggests that 45% of Estonians should be in higher education by 2035. that as many people as possible get at least a higher education,” reads the memo.