On 26th of October, after lengthy negotiations, six public universities signed contracts under public law with the state for the period 2022–2025.
While at the beginning of the year, the rectors had collectively decided not to conclude the contracts under public law, as the low level of state funding would have made it impossible to meet the contractual obligations, the state has now promised an additional €10 million for higher education this year, as well as an annual increase of 15% in operating grants over the next four years.
The extra money pledged from the state budget will keep higher education funding at around one per cent of the GDP, but rectors say it will not solve the funding crisis in higher education. While vital for universities in slowing the decline, the extra funding will not make up for the deficit created over the years nor does it take inflation into account. However, the rise in electricity and heating prices costs alone will cost universities around €10 million more this year.
Rectors also say that Estonia invests significantly less in higher education as a share of the GDP and per student than other countries with free university education. The leaders of public universities therefore believe that the debate on the future of higher education must continue. The long-term question is how to ensure that 1.5 per cent of the GDP is invested in higher education.