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On 2 March 2011, elections in Estonia saw the victory of the incumbent coalition government comprised of the Reform Party in conjunction with the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL). At the same time, the centre-right coalition released Governance Programme 2011-2015, an ambitious outline of its medium-term goals. With regards to higher education, the programme’s objective is to increase university spots by providing “tuition-free Estonian-language openings at universities and state professional educational institutions for students who have passed admissions requirements”. Current Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas stated to Estonian Public Broadcasting that, over the next two years, 3 500 new university openings in bachelor’s and master’s programmes will be targeted to economics, law and information technology (IT) disciplines. Meanwhile, in a statement issued to ACA, Katrin Kiistler, head of the Higher Education Development Centre at the Archimedes Foundation, heralded the plan and noted, “This is a major turn in the liberal education policies we (Estonia) have seen so far. The numbers alone say little to an outsider, but in the Estonian context this means a 40% increase of government-subsidised student places in all study levels. In fact, should this take place, every year more new students would be enrolled to the higher education institutions at the government’s expense than there are secondary school graduates in Estonia”. Moreover, the new plan proposes to reform state funding for higher education and research.
Concurrently, on 27 March the IRL confirmed its ministerial candidates and Jaak Aaviksoo will replace Tõnis Lukas as the new Estonian Minister for Education and Research. Aaviksoo, who is the current Minister of Defence, also served as Rector of University of Tartu from 1998-2006 and board member of the European University Association (EUA) for two terms.
IRL Governance Programme 2011-2015