The Estonian Ministry of Education and Research said that the higher education reform has to a great extent fulfilled its purpose as access to higher educations has improved and admittance to several specialities, the specialists of which are lacking on the labor market, has increased.
Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps said that more students are studying in free student places than before the reform. “We can also see that students are graduating from higher education faster and dropping out less,” Reps said. “The relevance of what is studied to the needs of the labor market has improved and national speciality scholarships definitely play a role here. The share of students in the field of information technology and healthcare has increased and the share has decreased in the field of business, administration and law. At the same time, we must continue to make efforts to ensure that more young people opt for the profession of teacher or engineer,” the minister added.
With the decline of the general number of students, there are currently six percent more students studying for free than during the 2012-2013 academic year before the reform and 20 percent more than a decade ago. The total number of students has declined by approximately a third in 10 years, mostly for demographic reasons.
The dropout rate has fallen from 15.6 percent in 2013 to 13.6 percent in 2018. The rate of graduation during the nominal period has risen from 43.2 percent in 2016 to 52.7 percent in 2019.
The Ministry of Education and Research said it does not agree with the general conclusion of the National Audit Office that the relevance of education to the needs of the labor market has not increased. Following the reform, the share of students in the fields of business, administration and law has decreased. At the same time, admittance has increased to several specialities lacking most on the labor market. In the field of ICT, the share of students has doubled — while 10 percent of students were studying in the field of ICT in 2018-2019, the share was only five percent in 2008-2009. The share of students in the field of healthcare has increased by a third — in 2018-2019, 12 percent of students were studying in the field of healthcare, while the share was nine percent in 2008-2009.
The ministry said it definitely does not support returning to the organization before the reform, where some students were able to study for free and institutions of higher education were able to open paid student places according to demand.
The concern of institutions of higher education about the financing of studies in the longer perspective is justified. As the government’s work plan stipulates, the ministry is analyzing funding opportunities for higher education, the analysis is to be completed by the end of 2019.