Questions posed to rector candidates
- Studies and science
- General administration and future of the university
- Equal treatment and related issues
1. STUDIES AND SCIENCE
1.1. What changes should be made in order for the scientists at the university to be able to do less paperwork and more scientific work?
Volli Kalm: The help of support staff, greater trust in them, technological developments (in addition to the already implemented changes, developments in DHIS, the electronic billing system, SIS2, e-Seal, digital workflow and personal files), more counselling and less project competitions in the university and faculties. The latter measure requires more trust in the proposals of the heads of institutes, faculties and administration as regards the investment of the university's money. After management and structural reforms, positive changes can be observed in the mindset of academic administration, who favour collaboration and joint objectives.
Margit Sutrop: In my electoral manifesto I promise that as Rector I will help reduce bureaucracy and duplication of reporting. To this end, it is necessary to review the current administrative arrangements and see if they are reasonable. We need to develop information systems and enable databases to become interoperable. Both national information systems (e.g. ETIS) and those of the university (e.g. SIS) should be structured so that by entering data once the information is usable in other functions as well. We shouldn't have to gather and enter the same data time after time for applications, reports, attestations and evaluation reports.
1.2. How do you plan to reduce the amount of students who drop out of university?
Volli Kalm: We can do this by teaching professors, providing supervision of greater quality, valuing supervision more (when assessing dissertations) and making changing fields of study between levels of education as well as within BA curricula more flexible (although not always possible, e.g. in medical studies!). The university can also make the curriculum correspond more to real life by increasing the amount of practice and entrepreneurship studies, make the student feel more responsible for getting their education (good practice in learning) and positively discriminate successful students (by offering scholarships, including scholarships from the UT Foundation). I encourage students to inform tutors or programme managers early on about problems they are having advancing in their studies because it is important to offer advice and help as soon as possible. We have increased the amount of counselling secondary school students receive with the objective of lowering the number of unsuccessful subject choices caused by being uninformed.
Margit Sutrop: It all begins with an informed choice of field of study. We should probably raise awareness at schools so that these choices are better thought through and future students can learn which competences are expected and what is taught in different fields of study. Individual student counselling should definitely be given more attention, not only regarding organisational questions but also to help students set goals for their studies and to understand what they are interested in (fields of study, minor field of study and choosing optional and elective courses). Furthering time management and study skills would probably also be beneficial.
In addition, we need a national analysis about whether free higher education supports or impedes studies. It is possible that the fear of having to pay for insufficient credit points makes students discontinue their studies. People think that they are unable to study full-time and that part-time studies do not pay off. This leads us to the problem that many students cannot afford to concentrate on their studies due to their financial status. The university should ensure that students have a sufficient social guarantee that allows them to commit to their studies despite their family's finances.
1.3. A lot of money meant for projects is lost due to fees and taxes, and the project managers in charge are left with ridiculous sums. How do you plan to improve this situation?
Volli Kalm: For the university as an organisation, the money is not lost but used to fund the library, museums, botanical garden, Student Club and UT Youth Academy, or directed towards the capital budget. The university's main fund (which finances the aforementioned institutions/activities) will receive 19 million euros (13.83% of the budget) in 2017, of which 4.7 million will go to the capital budget (Delta academic building, Nooruse 7 residence hall, Ujula 4 extension, the library, Narva residence hall, the Old Anatomicum, the Biomedicum, Viljandi Culture Academy and Riia 23 academic building). Currently, tuition fees contribute 13.8 million euros to the main fund, and research funds 5.1 million euros. The University Council wants to amend the ratio of these contributions in favour of tuition fees. The university has repeatedly calculated the actual amount of expenses and had these calculations checked by an independent audit bureau. In the previous two budgets we made the overall expenses that contribute to the main fund of the university equal to those that go to the funds of the faculties/institutes, irrespective of their amount. We have enlarged the proportion of the base funding that directly contributes to the faculties and have decided that no funds will be allocated to support structures or the rector's office. The further growth in base funding will be distributed according to the same principle. The lowering of the current general expense rates would mean that some activities or institutions that receive funding now would be shut down. This requires broad-based consideration. An important objective is to increase the stability of the distribution of money from the budget and base funding.
Margit Sutrop: I understand this issue but we also have to remember that the university has a lot of project management expenses that need to be covered. I consider it important that the institutional overhead policies of the University of Tartu motivate the acquiring of additional resources for the university instead of inhibiting its development. Institutional overheads and taxes need to be taken into account as early as during the process of drawing up projects and we need to thoroughly consider which labour costs to include so that people get worthwhile pay for their work. Very small-scale projects, which are still a lot of work, shouldn't probably be applied for at all!
|1.4. In your opinion, what needs to be changed in the current rules of the distribution of operating grants?|
|Volli Kalm: I suppose this refers to operating grants for education. Considering the changes that have recently been implemented – calculating the workload of academic units based on the credit points awarded and not on the number of students; increasing the grants for awarded credit points for studies in foreign languages from 12 euros to 13 euros; awarding up to 10% of the operating grant to improve the quality of curricula; and decreasing the amount of grants going to the UT Development Fund – I don't think additional changes are necessary, because faculties also need budget stability.
Margit Sutrop: Above all, it needs to be made a rule that the principles for distributing operating grants are not changed yearly. If these basic principles are changed then they need to be thoroughly analysed first, which includes assessing their possible effects. Only after that should a decision valid for at least three years be made. The idea should be "measure twice, cut once"! Constant rushing, adjustments and invention of new factors waste a huge amount of energy and create a lasting feeling of anxiety and uncertainty in the structural units. This environment does not encourage the making of exhaustive changes in the curricula or teaching methods. The work of the Budget Committee needs to rely on the strategic decisions of the university: what direction the university is heading in and what obligations we decide to take on. All of this is happening in a situation where the government gives quite a lot of freedom to the university, but takes no responsibility for the results.
|1.5. The university is, in addition to many other things, an organisation that is mainly founded on academic activity. Science is done by scientists, with the rector's office having little to contribute. However, scientists need infrastructure for their work.
How do you plan to contribute to the development of scientific infrastructure during your time as rector? What are the main problems at present, and what solutions would you propose?
And a very specific question about a field that neither candidate is connected to: How do you plan to contribute to the development of the infrastructure of social sciences?
Volli Kalm: The university and the state (in national RDI infrastructure roadmap objects) invest in scientific infrastructure. A national investment doesn't guarantee the replacement of existing scientific infrastructure in the event of it becoming physically or morally outdated. The university has to find means for this, and two principles are important when doing so: the investments made in infrastructure now and in the future have to be more focused and less fragmented. The principles of shared-resource laboratories approved by the senate provide a good basis for this. The second important decision concerns the question whether the fund for infrastructure (and insurance or reparation) investments is formed centrally by the university or by faculties/institutes separately. I prefer the central option, which is similar to the format of the capital budget. We will talk this through and decide how the budget should be formed.
Of course, the scientific infrastructure of the Faculty of Social Sciences is as important as that of any other faculty, which is why the principles of grants, the necessary conditions and funding agreements will be similar to those of all other sciences – this means the same focuses in development, following the principles of the shared-resource laboratories, prioritising infrastructure in the faculty and then co-financing. I will stress that many important development plans in the Faculty of Social Sciences are in the launch phase, e.g. the Delta academic building on Narva Road and the community halls for Narva college. The spatial problems of other units, e.g. the academic building on Salme Street, are also being considered.
Margit Sutrop: We have received a lot of help to date from the European Union structural funds to develop scientific infrastructure, but after 2022 it will become a lot harder. This is also a question for the government. In the university, the agreement that a fraction of the base financing money goes to the development of infrastructure does help. We should agree upon the principles of joint use of laboratories; saying that financing will be agreed upon in the consortium contract is simply not enough. The question really is whether the term "laboratory" is too strict. We should decide in each particular case which subdivisions of infrastructure need funds at the national level and which at the levels of the university, the faculty or the institute.
|1.6. Since Morgenstern: what does a research library mean to an international research university? Can the university be defined without the library? How long will the university remain only a partly functioning university? Is anyone responsible for this situation? Why is the real content of the university – science, scientists and students – overshadowed by budget tables and other such things? A secondary problem such as renovation should have been planned and carried out differently, without disabling the main functions of the library. Could the resignation culture that has taken root in democratic politics also spread to the academic hierarchy?|
|Volli Kalm: It is very unfortunate that due to the national procurement the library was put in the hands of such an incapable contractor. It should also be taken into consideration that the library is a poorly built Soviet-era building with inadequate documentation, which makes the renovations more difficult than expected. I apologise to everyone who is affected by the situation, and to the acting director of administration and the estates office, and I will try to make sure we do our best to come to an agreement about all the details of ending the current contract and find a new contractor in the next few days. The university cannot be defined without a library, irrespective of the fact that the library has a different function compared to Morgenstern's time and that most users (55 thousand) use the information stored in the library or mediated by it without coming to the physical library itself (16.7 million virtual visits per year). We have 28 branch libraries, which are not affected by the renovations and have remained open, in addition to the temporary reading room in the former national archive building at Liivi 4. The role of the library as an Open Access database and a depository of creative publications is rapidly increasing.
The renovation of the library was originally planned so as to affect the academic year as little as possible; it was supposed to end on 3 October. Resignations, even that of the director of administration, would not have made the situation any better for library users.
Margit Sutrop: Of course the library is of the utmost importance and the way the renovations turned out is deplorable.
|1.7. Do you consider it justified that associate professors and senior researchers are paid a different hourly wage for teaching at the same level of education?|
|Volli Kalm: I think it is right to reward both teaching and other tasks necessary for the university depending on their quality and how purposeful they are. So teaching an equal amount of hours might not always amount to an equal level of work, but if it does, then the salaries should be equal. I fully support the right of the heads of units to implement personal salary policies that take into consideration the contribution of the employee.
Margit Sutrop: Salaries definitely need to correspond to the qualifications and contribution of employees. At the moment the salaries of Associate Professors are higher because they are expected to do as much research as Senior Researchers, but invest more time in studies. If a Senior Researcher does the same amount of work, then their salary should be equal to that of an Associate Professor.
|1.8. What can the University of Tartu do in order to make the system of publishing research results in prestigious scientific magazines better and more reasonable? So that not only results that are interesting and catch the reader's attention get published but also 0-results, which are results as well – more analysis of research results is needed.|
|Volli Kalm: The university can support people who publish their work in prestigious magazines by evaluating, choosing and promoting staff members, but centrally we do not need to take on the work that should be done by the editors and reviewers of the magazines. I know that many supervisors and heads of work groups personally check the level of the manuscripts that are being sent out. I tend to see a problem with situations where a PhD student, a younger colleague or the supervisor has no resources to cover the costs of publishing (e.g. in Open Access) and the manuscript ends up being sent to a magazine of lower quality. Provided that the manuscript is strong, the institute should help out with publishing. In addition, doctoral schools have resources from the ASTRA programme to prepare the manuscripts of PhD students for publishing.
Margit Sutrop: There are magazines that publish so-called negative results. These are also considered valuable because they help us avoid wasting large sums on dead ends. Research institutions cannot interfere with the publishing policies of scientific magazines, but we can agree, for example at the level of the PhD dissertation defence committee, that negative results will also be taken into account if they are published and presented with a corresponding fruitful discussion.
|1.9. Can we improve the quality of research, and if so, how?|
|Volli Kalm: By employing the best people from among the potential candidates, by investing collectively in agreed areas and by supporting writing project applications for international collaboration and endorsing all international scientific collaboration with prominent TA institutions. The quality requirements of the institutes and research groups themselves, which don't accept low quality, help a lot. Regarding the career model and salary policies, we primarily need to support strong people by providing them with technological devices and advice to reduce their administrative workload.
Margit Sutrop: The quality of research is determined by the researchers, the available resources and the environment. Endel Lippmaa once said that nothing grows from nothing. That is why it is important that leading specialists are chosen for the positions of professors – otherwise the quality of the students' education will be low. Forming international contacts should definitely be promoted; we should look for strong collaboration partners and cooperate on joint projects. We ought to systematically bring back the doctoral and post-doctoral researchers who defended their dissertations in a foreign country as well as Estonian researchers who work in foreign universities. Maybe they don't even need to reside in Estonia: it would be enough to maintain contact with them, ask them to give lectures, assist, offer their advice. That might generate ideas for joint research projects.
In order for our researchers to be up to standard, they should be well informed about what has already been done or is currently being done around the world (reading scientific literature and participating in conferences), they should have sufficient financial resources (funding research and infrastructure), an inspiring environment (valuing new ideas, research spirit, commitment, active debate and discussion) and an unlimited time to delve into problems (a dilemma, how to combine research, studies, supervision and administrative work). We should look at what the problems and potential in each field of study are. One change could be implemented throughout the university: we can give researchers more uninterrupted time for their work by limiting the time they spend on face-to-face teaching. Then the professors will have more time for research and the students more time for their theses or practical training.
|1.10. What kind of changes should the university make in the coming years to help PhD students defend their dissertations within the nominal period of study?|
|Volli Kalm: The university should help PhD students commit to their dissertation full-time, which means they need to be guaranteed a decent income (the average salary in Estonia) during the nominal period of study and they should more justifiably be given/assigned a successful supervisor and an appropriate topic. We should also be more demanding when assessing the work connected to supervising, the attestation of the supervisor and the yearly attestation of the PhD student. Doctoral schools contribute in this field by offering courses for writing academic articles and finding co-supervisors without the help of foreign universities. There is also room for development in offering university-wide optional subjects in the PhD curricula, and I know that all faculties are working on this.
Margit Sutrop: This is an equation with many variables: the amount of the doctoral allowance, the quality of supervision, the cooperation between members of work groups and the opportunities the degree offers on the job market are all important. I think that it is vital that we ask PhD students from all fields of study themselves what would allow them to successfully defend their dissertation and what could hinder them from doing so. We recently had a discussion day with the Doctoral Schools of the Faculty of Humanities and Arts where PhD students had to think about what might be beneficial to them in completing their dissertations. The supervisors discussed how they could support the students. Many interesting ideas came up in this discussion, many of which are already being actively implemented. We also commissioned a special survey from the Centre for Applied Anthropology of Estonia (CAAE) to determine what causes students not to graduate, how the university could help them in the future and what kind of supervision PhD students need. The report that was compiled as a result of the survey will be presented on Friday 10 March at Jakobi 2-114.
The low national doctoral allowance granted to PhD students is certainly a real issue. 422 euros per month does not allow them to commit to their doctoral studies. The university needs to champion an increase in the allowance or find funds for awarding scholarships. It is also important that PhD students are appreciated on the job market. The government could set an example by making having a doctoral degree a condition of being considered for senior positions in the public sector. The salaries of research fellows and lecturers also need to rise, otherwise it could be the case that the allowance a PhD student receives is higher than the salary they will get once they begin working at the university.
|1.11.a) How do you view the balance between academic and practical study at the University of Tartu? What steps would you take to make studies at the university more academic or more practical?
b) In your opinion, how should we give more practical knowledge to students so that they can start working in their field of study during their time at the university or immediately after graduating? How can we ensure that they do not find themselves in a situation where their skills and abilities are not compatible with the job market's needs after graduating?
c) Is the University of Tartu strictly oriented towards offering academic education? What steps are you planning to take to ensure better cooperation between the university and companies? How can you guarantee that graduates will be able to compete on the job market?
|Volli Kalm: a) There is no skill more practical than the ability to think and analyse. UT is and will remain a research university, which means that studies are conducted on a scientific basis and professors have experience of scientific work or are practising scientists. Despite this, we can increase the percentage of practical studies in the curricula, and we have already done so. We can also promote the idea of choosing dissertation topics that are more connected to real life. Offering entrepreneurship studies and including entrepreneurs in studies allows us to bring practical and academic aspects together. We cannot reduce academic exactingness or the scientific basis of things as a whole, but we have to make the best use of the already increased amount of practical studies in curricula. We have to rule out bringing ourselves down to the level of a higher vocational school. The university has to provide an educational basis for repeated retraining and requalification in later life. This is especially important in a situation where society is changing very rapidly and will continue to change in the future, making it difficult to make exact evaluations as to what kind of skills and jobs will be needed the most.
b) I already pointed out increasing practice in the previous answer. The content of curricula have to be tailored to meet the expectations of the job market, but we definitely shouldn't reconsider the principles of day-to-day university education on the basis of the current situation of the job market. Current students will be in the job market in 40 years’ time, too, and the competences that will be needed then are not being taught at the university at the moment. But a basis for future studies will be established. Counselling before enrolment helps students make choices that take developments on the job market into consideration. Career days, sTARTUp days and entrepreneurship fairs that are regularly held at the university help students find practice activities and jobs.
c) See also the answer to the previous question. The ability to compete on the job market is mainly guaranteed by the student's own good work, which includes being demanding when it comes to the curriculum, professors and supervision. Collaboration between entrepreneurs and the university has grown quickly in recent years (the Adapter entrepreneurial platform, the Centre for Applied Social Sciences, a partnership programme with large companies, the Idea Lab and the Spin-off entrepreneurial programme) but opportunities for collaboration differ depending on the field of study. A good example of teaching and developing entrepreneurship in the creative industry in the Faculty of Humanities and Arts comes from Viljandi Culture Academy.
Margit Sutrop: a) The University of Tartu has a reputation among student candidates that the education it offers tends to be theoretical. This depends on the field of study, but practical skills – like self-expression, time management and cooperation – should definitely be taught more. The university has begun to focus more on practical training, and this is supported by the curriculum reform as well. But we definitely need to make a greater effort in this area. Drawing up contracts with organisations who offer practical training is not enough if practice courses are not obligatory (we know from experience that students don't choose these courses in this case). In some fields it is problematic that the course forms part of the curriculum but there are not enough practice offers. We should also thoroughly consider when students can do their practical training. Reducing the time of face-to-face teaching could help in this area.
b) Practice courses should form part of every curriculum. On the other hand, we could include more practical experts in studies to explain what kind of knowledge and practical skills are expected on the job market.
c) We should compile curricula hand-in-hand with employers and professional associations. Alumni can give valuable feedback and input on how to make a curriculum better.
|1.12. Will there be any changes in the needs-based study allowance? According to the current system, many students are stripped of the allowance they need because instead of their real financial situation, the data in the national information system on their parents' income is taken into consideration. In reality, in many cases one of the parents doesn't support them. There has been discussion on this topic, but we have heard no promises about improving the situation, the reason being that the real financial situation is hard to establish. Can anything be done regarding this clearly absurd situation?|
|Volli Kalm: With the needs-based study allowance, the duties of the state have been foisted onto universities, although granting social benefits is not our responsibility. The university is not capable of establishing whether parents support their children and doesn't have the right to do so, and without checking these conditions it is not possible to choose those who are granted the allowance from among the many applicants. However, since 1 January 2017 there have been slight changes in the way this is organised: the minimum amount of the allowance was raised from 358 euros to 394 euros and a new maintenance allowance scheme was activated. The scheme provides single parents with a monthly allowance of usually 100 euros if the other parent does not pay the maintenance allowance appointed by the court. At the university, Liana Martin (Ph, r 131) counsels students about the needs-based study allowance. According to the proposals made by the university, in order to improve this system, the minimum income that forms the basis for appointing allowances should be raised and divorced parents should be obligated to pay maintenance allowance to any child in studies until they turn 25, making them part of a separate household.
Margit Sutrop: This is a case of national policy. We need to analyse whether the allowance reaches its target audience. The voice of students is important and needs to be heard. If the policies are not working, then they of course need to be changed.
|1.13. You receive a joint letter from 19 students of the Faculty of Medicine who could sit neither the examination nor the re-examination for gastroenterology due to being ill with a stomach virus at the time (all medical certificates added). They are all meant to graduate this spring, but since the professor has denied them the chance to take the exam this spring, they will not complete their studies this year. The professor is very prestigious and the only person willing to teach this class. In addition, the professor has publicly said that if his viewpoint were to be reconsidered during the appeal process, he would leave UT and go to work in Russia. What do you do?|
|Volli Kalm: When it comes to situations where the organisation of studies and exams are concerned, including the protection of students’ rights, the university follows the Study Regulations (ÕKE). If you are a group of 19 medical students who wish to graduate this spring, you should be finishing your sixth year – but to the best of my knowledge, sixth-year students do not have gastroenterology in their curriculum. As a student about to graduate, you should have been an intern for the whole year! In principle, problems concerning academic affairs, including how you can do your internship without having to sit the exam on internal diseases, should be resolved by the corresponding head of institute and the Dean. In a democratic republic the Rector cannot reject an employee’s wish to terminate their contract or prevent them from going to Russia.
Margit Sutrop: I would ask the Vice-Rector of Academic Affairs of the faculty to deal with the situation, contact the institute and find a solution so that the students could sit the exam.
|1.14. Can the study conditions of all students meet contemporary needs, and if so, how?|
|Volli Kalm: If the physical environment is meant here, then the only solution is to invest more in both constructing new academic buildings and renovating old ones using funds from the capital budget. In addition to considering the possibilities of new buildings, we have to provide students with furnished classrooms and everyday rooms in older buildings so that they can work as "smart rooms" and use modern technology. The overall spatial plan of the university requires gradually letting go of old, non-functional buildings, relocating to new or modernised renovated buildings and reducing the overall use of space (since at the moment the university occupies around 100 buildings). With the completion of the Delta building, IT and economy students will have a better work environment. Making Toome the central workplace for "green" biologists and Ujula 4 the main building for the Institute of Sport Sciences and Physiotherapy is next up. This year we will finish the renovations to the library and the community halls at Nooruse 7 as well as start construction work on the community halls of Narva College. All together 12 investments in different buildings are planned this year and these innovations will make the students' study conditions better.
Margit Sutrop: We definitely need to work towards this. But believe me, a lot has improved already.
|1.15. How informed are you when it comes to the quality of education/teaching in the Faculty of Medical Sciences? Do you think graduates of the faculty are as smart and competent as their peers in the USA, Germany or the UK? How do you think you can influence the quality of education in the faculty?|
|Volli Kalm: The international assessment of the curriculum in 2014, which didn't fault the content of study, and an in-faculty study which determined whether the curricula corresponded to the planned study outcomes reassured me of the quality of medical sciences. As the Rector I have entered into a contract with the Dean for 2017 to achieve similar results regarding the studies carried out in the faculty. The best guarantee of quality is self-analysis and the correction of mistakes based on the results achieved, and these are what the faculty is working on. We can consider proposals from foreign countries (Israel, Russia and Germany) to form separate foreign language study groups in Tartu, the high demand for the existing English curricula and the success of our alumni on the job market as examples of international recognition of the quality of medical sciences.
Margit Sutrop: All of our curricula undergo international assessment. The critique from foreign experts enables us to improve the situation. The most important aspect is honest self-reflection and active debate about how to improve things. Interesting and useful articles have been published about this in Eesti Arst. I generally feel that we are currently in quite a good place. The quality of our medical studies is apparent in the high demand for Estonian doctors in foreign countries – Finland, Sweden and Norway do not hesitate to employ Estonian doctors. Only those who have passed a medical licensing examination and meet the local requirements can work in English-speaking countries. Finding people to fill professorship vacancies and not having professors in certain important fields of study have proven to be problems in the Faculty of Medical Sciences. We could definitely support employing foreign experts via the development fund.
|1.16. Compared to the study opportunities in Tartu, less attention is given to UT institutes elsewhere, like Pärnu College and Viljandi Academy of Culture. This brings about a situation where many applicants are not aware of the opportunities offered there. What do you think should be done to make improvements in this area?|
|Volli Kalm: I value the visibility of the colleges and them showcasing themselves in secondary schools and fairs very highly! We support IT studies at Narva College and gathering art studies together at Viljandi Academy of Art from the university's development fund, resources have been given to Narva College for the building of community halls from the capital budget, and in addition, the colleges in Pärnu and Viljandi are supported from the development funds of the faculties. The Marketing and Communication Department (TUKO) helps colleges introduce themselves to a larger audience. If all of this seems insufficient, then I invite you to inform both TUKO and the administrations of the colleges directly. I also ask the students from the colleges to promote their fields of study and the colleges themselves. The best advertisement is a successful and active graduate on the job market.
Margit Sutrop: The programmes, courses and other exciting activities offered by Narva College, Pärnu College and Viljandi Academy of Culture could indeed be promoted more by the university. Right now the colleges are doing a great job of introducing their study opportunities themselves. Information about the colleges clearly isn’t insufficient, as their programmes are popular among students.
|1.17. What attitude does the university take towards retaining the quality of higher education when it comes to internationalisation in Bachelor's studies?|
|Volli Kalm: I agree that internationalisation and foreign students boost demand for high-quality studies and curricula, but in Bachelor's studies the curricula will remain in Estonian, apart from a few exceptions. The task of a national university is to ensure education in the national language in all groups of curricula in which it offers education. Of course, this doesn't rule out becoming more international and including foreign professors in teaching classes, reading courses and giving workshops, even in Bachelor's studies. We tend to forget that the level of international experience is also increased by active young Estonian academic colleagues who return to Estonia from foreign universities.
Margit Sutrop: I am not sure I understand the question.
|1.18. About 7.5% of the students at the University of Tartu are foreign students (data as of 10 November 2016 from the UT statistics page).
How do you view the percentage of foreign students in the future (for example in five or 10 years’ time)?
If you want to increase the number of foreign students, what steps are you planning to take?
|Volli Kalm: Not only our university but also the government has made it their objective to increase the percentage of foreign students and professors. This is not a separate goal, but including these people will enable us to be more competent, it will raise quality requirements and it will enhance international collaboration and visibility. Our aim is to increase the percentage of foreign students to 20-25%, but for this we need to do a lot of work, especially in compiling English curricula, presenting our strong points to foreign students and our acceptance standards. Our objective is to choose the best applicants from among both Estonian and foreign candidates, and we will not lower the acceptance standards so as to raise the number of students accepted. The 20-25% proportion of international students is fairly normal in countries where the main language of studies is a relatively small national language (Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Flemish universities in Belgium). This has not hindered these leading research institutes from ranking very highly in international rankings.
Considering these aspects, I should stress that as a national university it is our objective and duty to preserve the prioritising of the Estonian language, which means that studies in Estonian will continue at all levels of education in all study programme groups.
Margit Sutrop: The university has made it its goal to increase the percentage of foreign students to 20. This can be achieved in different ways, either by limiting the number of Estonian students or by raising that of foreign students. It is important to start by establishing why we want foreign students to study here. We have never actually had this discussion. It has also not been considered whether we should offer them free or paid education. I pointed out in my electoral manifesto that we need a strategy for internationalisation. We should first agree upon the things we want to achieve and then choose a suitable tactic for moving towards those goals.
|1.19. What should the topics of research at the University of Tartu depend or be based on, and what determines the number of student places in different fields of study?|
|Volli Kalm: Research is the basis of good higher education, which means that in all of the programmes that we offer there needs to be research that is at the highest possible level, at least in Estonian terms. There are only two options if there is no scientific core "underlying" a corresponding programme: we either restore the ability to do research or we discontinue teaching in that particular faculty. That being said, we also have strong areas of research which have been developed by outstanding scientists and which might not be directly connected to the curricula or conducting studies, neither now nor in the future. Last year we reached an agreement at the level of the Senate about the university's TAI focus areas (ICT for promoting an innovative society, resources and technologies for sustainable economic growth, retaining our national culture in a globalising world, ensuring that people are healthy and active for a long time and that society is enterprising and socially responsible) and their subdivisions. This agreement has to guarantee that investments and resources are not dispersed but are used to support the university's different specialities and strongpoints. The situation is even more complicated when it comes to the number of student places: in many programmes in the Faculty of Science and Technology the number of students we can accept is larger than the number of candidates with the necessary qualifications. To put it another way, the Faculty of Science and Technology as well as many curricula from the Faculty of Humanities and Arts and some from the Faculty of Social Sciences should accept more students than they currently do. Still, I am convinced that we do not have to lower the standards of acceptance; rather that we should make the conditions more flexible and concentrate more on supporting the development of the best students.
Margit Sutrop: We have freedom of research, which is why nobody can be appointed a specific research topic. However, we can change the grant system to influence the directions of research. If we want the university to react more sensitively to the problems Estonia and the world face, then we can guide our researchers via funding as well. Still, I am certain that research stemming from curiosity should also continue. Under no circumstances should the basic sciences be forgotten: they are of the utmost importance as a necessary basis for applied sciences. When it comes to the number of student places, as long as we are unable to predict which specialities will be needed on the job market in the future, we cannot sufficiently determine the acceptance rates. I think we should rather consider the teaching capacity and preferences of candidates when deciding on the number of places. If they made a wrong decision and cannot find a place for themselves on the job market, then we offer retraining as well. In fields of study where there is a need for specialists but no candidates (e.g. teacher training and certain STEM disciplines), we should award targeted scholarships and try to improve the general image of the area. If the current job market needs certain experts then of course they should be trained, but we also need to take into account that it takes around five years for them to enter the job market. Even then we cannot be sure that they will stay in Estonia. For example, we might even double the number of students accepted into the Faculty of Medical Sciences, but if the graduates go to Finland, Sweden or Norway to find a job, then there will still be too few doctors. A solution at the level of the government could be to improve the salaries and work conditions of doctors.
|* Hello, Mr Kalm! A question popped into my head. Why do the Study Regulations not establish how many students a supervisor of Bachelor's theses can supervise?|
|Volli Kalm: The content of professors' work and the distribution of assignments are negotiated with the immediate employer, that is, the head of an institute or department. Such distribution of responsibilities is based on the belief that the head closest to the content of the work is the most competent and justified to regulate the work load. I know that the number of supervised students per member of teaching staff is different. I think this is normal to a certain extent, as long as this variation is balanced by a larger or smaller number of other duties. The question implies that we should limit the number of supervised students. If this really is a problem when ensuring high-quality supervision and advice then I am ready to do this, but the changes need to be implemented in a way that takes into account the competences of the heads of institutes. The different faculties and academic structural units have agreed upon good practices in supervision that are supposed to guarantee that each individual student gets enough attention from their supervisor. In the 2016 internal audit report concerning supervision, the academic units were advised to agree among themselves about the recommended number of supervised students and to make use of co- and group-supervision.When assigning supervisors to PhD students, the previous success of the supervisor is taken into consideration and the same should be done when appointing thesis supervisors at different levels of education.|
|* Hello! Why are supervision topics published on the website of Narva College even though the staff members there offer no supervision?|
|Margit Sutrop: You should ask the people at Narva College this question. It is probably a case of data not being updated.|
* How can we guarantee that the Faculty of Science and Technology remains popular at a time when students tend to be more interested in social sciences and humanities?
|Margit Sutrop: Interest in these fields depends on the way the subjects are taught at school. Due to this, we should contribute to the didactics in these fields and make studies at school more exciting and manageable. A new idea would be to allow students to major in several fields of study at once, like in Germany or England. Do we already have people who are studying both gene technology and classical philology, or those who are majoring in philosophy and physics? Having reviewed the preferences listed by students on SAIS, it appears that many of them have a wide array of interests.|
|* How do you feel about lecturers running late for class and dismissing students early?|
|Margit Sutrop: Being late and shifting the ending time of lectures is a definite no-no. But here I would like to encourage students to always voice their opinions (e.g. that you have to run to make your next lecture).|
2. GENERAL ADMINISTRATION AND THE FUTURE OF THE UNIVERSITY
|2.1. Name three things at our university that you are especially proud of and also the three things you think are the biggest problems at the moment.|
|Volli Kalm: Reasons to feel proud:
1. The University of Tartu is considered one of the best universities in Central and Eastern Europe by top European universities and has been asked to engage in strategic cooperation with them (GUILD, LERU).
2. The university has slowly but steadily increased its contribution to the competition-based funding of Estonian science.
3. There have been significant developments in the quality of studies (good practice in learning and communities for professors to engage in self-development) and financial measures have been added to the budget to support making curricula correspond to the expectations of students and society.
Problems: 1. Although we have the smallest percentage of dropouts in Master's studies in Estonia (12%) and are second only to small schools such as EMTA and EKA in Bachelor's studies (35%), there is a lot of room for improvement in this area at all levels of education.
2. Proper assessment of the quality of studies and lecturers would help with career advancement, salary policies and the establishment of requirements for academic jobs.
3. Guaranteeing a decent income during the nominal period of study for Doctoral students who work on their PhD dissertation full-time.
Margit Sutrop: I am very proud of how the University of Tartu has managed to keep its historical traditions, academic spirit and excellence alive through various occupations and hard times. It is terrific that the university has kept up with the times and transformed into a dynamic international research university while also maintaining a sense of mission towards Estonia and its people. Whenever we host a large international conference or receive foreign guests, I can see their admiration: our university is not a post-Soviet colossus but a rapidly developing, contemporary Western university. At this point it would be wise to recall that it was not very long ago that the University of Tartu was operating in a closed city which foreigners were required to leave by the evening. Our quick advances in the last 25 years are a miracle of which we should all be proud!
I am proud that the field of arts and humanities holds 301st place in the newly published QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017 and that my specialty, philosophy, is among the world's best 101-150 universities for the second time. Again, this is unbelievable success, considering how ideologised philosophy was during the Soviet era.
I am also proud of our students' great sense of mission and sensitivity to social issues. It is them who move the university forward – let us assume greater responsibility in society and make the University of Tartu visible once again!
The greatest problem is that Master's and Doctoral programmes are not sufficiently attractive to students and that the Estonian public does not value scientific degrees. The university is too project-oriented and there is a great degree of pointless fiddling; professors complain that they feel as if they are not being heard anymore. The university as a whole is losing its role as the intellectual leader in Estonian society.
|2.2. How do you view the role of non-academic staff in the university?|
Volli Kalm: I would prefer the term ‘support staff’. Many of these people are very academic in terms of the content and objectives of their work. It would be unfair and disrespectful to exclude them from those who are considered important to the university. The career of a future professor often starts from working as a laboratory assistant or technician or a project manager. Support staff are like the circulatory system, ensuring that the body as a whole is working, organised, kept warm and supplied with energy. The purpose of support services and technological developments is to simplify the jobs of academic staff and reduce the administration's bureaucratic workload, to keep massive, multidimensional organisation intact from one day to the next without overloading those involved in academic work, to counsel and support other staff members with projects, procurements and legal issues. Collaboration between central support staff and faculties can and will have to increase, the objective of which is to establish coherent, activity-oriented teams (different forms of counselling, finance, staffing, marketing and organisation of study) between key support structures and faculties.
Margit Sutrop: First of all, it is significant that they are referred to as non-academic. The prefix 'non' highlights what they are not instead of what they are. This is even more peculiar considering that half of the university's employees hold positions that are not classified as academic, including jobs that actually require academic competence such as the Rector, Vice-Rectors, college directors and some full-time heads of institutes. I am certain that the university's functioning and the quality of its leadership as well as teaching and research depend largely on support staff. They should be more closely involved in academic decision-making, because they possess useful knowledge and experience. The more we cooperate and the more we feel like a large academic family, the better the university operates.
|2.3. Are you planning to make changes in the names of academic units, and if so, what changes?|
Volli Kalm: More important than the name of the unit is the content and quality of its activities, and how highly the unit is valued by society, partners and competitors. I feel that the ‘naming magic’ that occasionally revealed itself when implementing the management and structural reforms has basically worn off and that the reforms have, irrespective of the names, brought about positive changes. That is why it would be beneficial to organise the Estonian names of units similarly to the current English names. This can be decided by the senate and council. I believe that such a proposal will be presented to them in the future.
Margit Sutrop: Yes, this is definitely very attractive as a campaign promise – that I promise to restore the name Arstiteaduskond (Faculty of Medicine) if I become Rector. I have seen that people still use this name and I understand that it is a question of doctors' identity as well as their visibility. This could be solved by naming one large institute Arstiteaduskond. There are institutes in other fields named after faculties, too. If someone should start a name change debate, then I would certainly be willing to discuss it as Rector.
|2.4. How do you view the university’s role in society? How does this role relate to the university's academic activities?|
|Volli Kalm: The most important role of the university in society is apparent in the activities and work of alumni. There are no areas in Estonian society – from start-ups and entrepreneurship to the fine arts and high-level politics – where people who have got an education with our support are not in leading positions. Many of them are outside of Estonia. When four of the rectors of Estonia's six universities are our alumni, or, for example, about 40% of the members of the Estonian parliament, and around the same percentage of TUT professors as well as most members of the government are our alumni, then their acts, decisions and roles also reflect the university's role in society. We receive most of the national science awards and we offer by far the most continuing education courses in Estonia. But I agree that our involvement in solving social and economic problems could increase and I can see that the university's contribution to applied research, our network of entrepreneurship training, cooperation with GUILD and LERU universities, Idea Lab, the national professorship grant, the Adapter cooperation platform, a partnership programme for large enterprises, the ‘1 million Wiki articles’ initiative and others have created a good basis for development. Not only our administration but many of our outstanding specialists could contribute more to the discussions and developments in our society as spokespeople.
Margit Sutrop: The university's main contribution to society is its alumni, who can change the world. In the broadest sense, the university serves the public even by promoting science and offering science-based higher education, maintaining museums and organising refresher courses. However, people expect more from the University of Tartu as the national university – that it should serve the public as an intellectual leader and guide. As an Alma Mater, the University of Tartu nourishes not only a variety of sciences and other Estonian universities and research institutions that have branched out from here, but the entire country and its society by ensuring that its people are smart, educated, healthy, innovative and with a strong ethical backbone. Public service must also be connected to academic activities and this mostly involves putting knowledge into practice. The university's scientists and teachers are members of numerous decision-making bodies, committees and think tanks. They contribute to political counselling, legislation, development of native terminology, state strategies and programmes. They are expected to be innovative, cooperate with companies, compile, edit, translate and comment on reference books and culturally relevant works and produce textbooks, articles and books on popular science. The university's people have a great role in developing curricula for general education schools, their help is required with questions for national examinations, marking of examination papers, the preparation of syllabi, subject contests for secondary school students, etc. All of these activities should be regarded as part of the university's work, since it includes serving the public. We need to develop a system for taking this work into account.
|2.5. When distributing areas of responsibility between universities, the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research decided that law belongs to the area of responsibility of the University of Tartu.
As a result of the quality assessment conducted by a study programme group in spring 2016, the Estonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education pointed out the following in their report during the session of 15 September 2016: "Taking into consideration the needs of students and the high demand for places to study law in Tallinn, the study environment (classrooms, furniture, library and accessibility) in the Tallinn college of the University of Tartu should be renovated and modernised. This would help make the curriculum more attractive to the international market."
This concerns the academic building at Kaarli 3, which the Department of Law has considered and continues to consider to be its location in Tallinn. The most recent renovations/refurbishments were carried out in 2000 (when the building did not belong to the University of Tartu).
As a side note, Professor Karis, who became rector 10 years ago, decided that the building needed renovations when he first visited the Tallinn law faculty’s academic building. During the years that followed, even a plan for rebuilding and renovations was put together. Unfortunately, it was all talk and no action.
Neither the law school itself nor the Faculty of Social Sciences has sufficient resources to resolve such a crucial issue, and this cannot be expected of them. This situation is saddening, especially considering that both Tallinn University and Tallinn University of Technology have organised their spatial resources for modern law studies much better than the University of Tartu (although the Faculty of Law does fall within the area of responsibility of UT).
Question: As rector, would you take steps towards renovating the academic building of the law school at Kaarli 3 in Tallinn during the election period so that it meets contemporary requirements?
|Volli Kalm: I am familiar with the problem and agree with the assessment of the condition of the building at Kaarli 3. It is still important to note that currently the bulk of law studies in UT are in Tartu. The classrooms in Tartu are not in the best condition either. When it comes to Tallinn, I think that right now the classrooms at Kaarli 3 only need minimum renovations, because the building is not promising in the long run and we are essentially working to find a contemporary new room arrangement that will still be in central Tallinn. I think this problem can be solved within the next three years.
Margit Sutrop: Yes, I would take real action as Rector. The learning and working environment should be up to contemporary standards everywhere, even in the UT rooms in Tallinn.
|2.6. What do you think about filling the positions of the rector, the dean and other leading positions using job rotation (e.g., you could choose a rector from each faculty, a dean from the faculty's departments/institutes in succession, the heads of departments successively from the professors of the departments, etc.)?
Wouldn’t this help reduce favouring (or seemingly favouring) certain faculties/subjects over others and the misuse of power (which Volli Kalm says is not tolerated... Has our rector become detached from reality or does he just not want to admit the truth?)
|Volli Kalm: I don’t see why we should limit the rights of the committees or staff members specified in the statutes of the university to nominate rector candidates from among all professors, including those not employed by the University of Tartu. Therefore, the opportunity to present rector candidates from different faculties and dean candidates from different institutes or departments has always existed. Why have the rector candidates mostly been scientists these past few elections? That is a question you should ask of those who nominated the candidates, especially those who chose not to put forward strong candidates from the humanities and social sciences.
The question about favouring certain faculties should be clarified. The members of the current rector's office are, in actuality, from one faculty and despite the fact that this situation does not seem as good as it really is, I can confirm with peace of mind that the members are unbiased. I have offered the position of the vice rector to several very capable persons from different faculties, but not everybody wants to take on such a difficult job.
Margit Sutrop: Using the job rotation principle for filling vacancies is a very good and very appropriate approach to take, but it is not universally applicable. We do this in the Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics: the head of the institute is elected alternatingly from among the members of the two departments. Our faculty's deans, too, have come from different institutes in the past 25 years – even though we have not agreed on this beforehand. Evidently, this cannot be set as a requirement when electing the Rector, especially considering that not many people are willing to stand. Still, it would definitely be useful to have people from different subject backgrounds serve as Rector. This could also be taken as the head being afraid of accusations of unfairness and thus putting their own field, institute or specialty at a disadvantage. Universities where the fair distribution of resources is of great importance know that it is better if the Rector does not come from the same subject field.
|2.7. Where do you see the University of Tartu in 10 years?|
|Volli Kalm: I see it as the best university in Central and Eastern Europe, as an institution which is international and equally values leading science and education directed towards global and Estonian challenges. The university should have risen remarkably in the global rankings but would still offer education in Estonian in all groups of curricula. It should have around 14 thousand students. Our alumni have, in addition to good theoretical preparation, practical skills, which allow them to find a suitable position on the job market quickly. Their entrepreneurial initiative has achieved such a high level that within three years at least 100 spin-off companies are founded. The entrepreneurs know exactly what the university can offer. Both local and international companies widely use the knowledge the university provides and the laboratories it has. The proportion of lifelong learning and refresher courses has increased to 50%, and online courses and MOOCs offer guided study and a more personal approach. To sum up, in 10 years we will have a dynamically developing university that meets the expectations of the academic community as well as those of society.
Margit Sutrop: In spatial terms, in Tartu, Tallinn, Narva, Viljandi and Pärnu. However, intellectually, I hope that the University of Tartu will be among the world's best 200 universities by then.
|2.8. How do you hope to strike a balance between promoting being an international institution (English curricula) and remaining a national university?|
|Volli Kalm: See also the previous answer. We will ensure that Estonian predominates by offering Estonian study opportunities in all groups of curricula, but we will also have classes taught in foreign languages. The number of curricula in foreign languages has grown from 12 to 22 in the past five years and could increase even more, without putting Estonian in any danger. Reaching a ratio of 20-25% foreign staff members and students requires a lot of effort but would undoubtedly be beneficial to the quality of both research and studies.
Margit Sutrop: Both internationalism and nationalism are important. As a small nation we are obliged to do both – to be involved in the English-speaking world of research and to bring new knowledge into Estonia’s intellectual space and develop our own scientific language. In the case of curricula, balance depends on the education level. Bachelor's programmes should continue to be taught in Estonian, because if we made the switch to English, it might soon impose English on secondary schools, too, and then it would be very difficult to maintain Estonian as a language of culture. In the case of Master's studies, we could create English programmes in fields where we have good scientific knowledge and something unique to teach, but also continue teaching in Estonian as long as there are students. I understand that this would double the workload and might not be affordable, so we have to weigh up our options here. English curricula are more justified in the case of PhD programmes, but even then we should maintain Estonian, at least in ethno-national studies.
|2.9. If you elected as UT Rector, what is the main task that you think to change to transform UT to a high rank?|
|Volli Kalm: Not everything we aim at is good for our position in rankings. For example, as Estonian National University, it is our obligation and responsibility to provide higher education in the Estonian language. Therefore, most, if not all degree programmes taught in English are virtually doubling the teacher’s workload. Nevertheless, these programmes are ultimately important in order to increase internationalisation at home and we will develop more of them.
Greater proportion of international staff members and students, growing number of high level research publications, growing amount of finances and decreasing number of students per academic staff member, growing number of research grants/contracts and patents/licences – all these changes relative to the current situation are the developments we aim at and at the same time will help us to climb up in rankings. However, I would not overestimate the importance of ranking positions.
Margit Sutrop: We should start from the question how we can achieve the aims that we have set. Till now we have mainly spoken about what we want to achieve. The strategic plan should be developed on the basis of mapping where we are, what is our missioon, what can help us to succeed, what is the right tactics and how we evaluate our development.
|2.10. How/why would it be better for the University of Tartu if you, rather than the opposing candidate, were chosen to become Rector?|
|Volli Kalm: The results of my work in administration are there for all to see and are known to everyone. The voters don’t simply have to trust the promises given to them. I can guarantee the development of the university as an organisation that appreciates common academic values. I can ensure that the administration of the university is balanced and unbiased, follows the common interests of the university and considers all parties. I know how to make the university the best in Central and Eastern Europe based on what we have achieved today, while still remaining an institution that fulfils the duties of a national university. I personally think that Professor Sutrop would also succeed in governing UT.
Margit Sutrop: The University of Tartu would become richer in terms of a new experience – the university has not had a female Rector in its 385-year history! I think my opponent and I complement each other in other respects. My opponent undoubtedly has more experience of creating Estonia's current research funding system, but I am more experienced in distributing European research funding. My opponent is familiar with the implementation of forceful structural reforms, but I know how to reach consensus reforms via lengthy negotiations.
|2.11. What important projects are being carried out at the moment in the university (name at least five things/activities)? Which of the projects you mentioned should be seen through to completion and which should be abandoned, and why?|
|Volli Kalm: We are in the middle of developing new job requirements and a new academic career model, making improvements to curricula and expanding entrepreneurship studies, carrying out the ASTRA programme (including the Delta building), making the administrative culture stronger in institutes based on results agreements, taking into account the TAI focuses that are agreed upon and the principle of joint use of laboratories in planning investments and the budget, renovating the library, developing digital workflows and SIS2, compiling a list of good academic practice in science (ethics of science), merging the Estonian Biocentre and Tartu Observatory with the university and making preparations for National University 100. All of these activities need to be further developed and completed.
What needs to be ended or rearranged is the partial doubling of studies in the university (institutes trying to teach classes which could be ordered from a unit that has the corresponding professional competence), as well as keeping records of students and staff members on paper, writing long requests for resources from the university's central fund and the development funds of the faculties and having a major portion of administration still on paper.
Margit Sutrop: The renovation of the library should be completed. We should also finish off the new job descriptions for academic employees. This is a crucial topic, because it is the key to ensuring flexibility in terms of tasks and assessing everyone's contribution in very different areas of work. The question of how to measure and assess public service remains open. The preparations for the donation campaign for the 100th anniversary of the national university are not yet finished – we have to decide on the one or two most important objectives of the university that would be worthy of the funds raised.
We should put an end to the discussion of whether we should introduce professors with special status as at Tallinn University of Technology. Furthermore, Doctoral studies reforms should be approached with caution – the idea of introducing domain-based PhD programmes requires careful consideration.
2.12. How do you feel about the structural reforms, and how did the units of the university welcome them? Has the idea of creating four faculties been justified so far in your opinion?
|Volli Kalm: Attitudes towards the management and structural reforms were very different but they were mostly supported – otherwise the reforms couldn't have been seen through. After the reforms had fully entered into force, support for them grew even more, so I hope this gives peace of mind to those who were originally against them. I don't know anybody – including the Deans in the Rector's Office – who doesn't consider the co-financing of development between faculties (in both studies and research), the coordination of academic requirements, staff and salary politics, new multidisciplinary curricula, agreeing on principles concerning the joint use of laboratories and the budgets of all academic units being in a good state to be positive changes. I believe without a doubt that the formation of four faculties has justified itself.
Margit Sutrop: I saw the creation of domains as a great opportunity to ensure the balanced development of different fields. In this respect, I feel that the reforms have justified themselves. I am critical of how they were conducted, however. I believe you should never use force. You should discuss the matter until consensus is reached. Today we see that some domains have flourished while others have not yet found their rhythm or seen the benefits of cooperation. However, the reinforcement of institutes has not come to pass. The next stage should see a review of the distribution of the functions of supporting units and governing bodies of domain-based faculties and divide tasks between the institute and domain levels. Currently it seems that many tasks have moved from institutes to governing bodies of faculties, and even supporting units have quietly entrusted their functions to dean's offices. This, however, has increased the importance of the domain level. It should be analysed whether this is justified in all cases.
|2.13. How do you plan to increase collaboration between faculties and fields of study?|
|Volli Kalm: Despite the fact that collaboration has increased a lot, there is still room for improvement. We can finance the more interesting projects from the university's development fund – to be precise, the development fund is meant only to support cooperation between faculties. Increasing collaboration in both research and development between different fields of study which used to belong to different units but are now gathered under one faculty is of equal importance. Many specific joint activities, such as gathering IT and economic education in Delta House which is currently being built, expanding entrepreneurship studies in all faculties, the grants given by the UT development fund to the High Performance Computing Centre, the Asian Centre, the Centre of Information Society, the Centre of Mineral Resources, the Centre of Health Technology and the programmes of digital humanities and Estonian language communication skills are all directed towards increasing cooperation between faculties.
Margit Sutrop: Cooperation is successful if there is a common goal. There are many matters that put the university's interests ahead of a domain's interests. Cooperation works well through interdisciplinary education and research. Common development projects provide great motivation for cooperation, regardless of whether they concern teaching or research. The consortium format has justified itself, but the structural position of intersectoral consortia should be thought through along with the basis of their funding. There is no point reinventing the wheel in the case of each new consortium contract. If there are things that all domains deem important, then it would be reasonable to support them centrally, with different parties providing the other half of what is required.
|2.14. As the head of the University of Tartu, how would you increase collaboration with secondary schools and vocational education centres? Name two specific ideas that have not been carried out, either at all or insufficiently, in the past.|
|Volli Kalm: A good example of this is an online course about supervising an academic piece of writing in which all UT faculties are included with the aim of supporting secondary school students in terms of the methodology of compiling their research papers. Another new initiative that is already being developed is courses which can be substituted with optional subjects in schools. For example, Eno Tõnisson's course "Introduction to Programming" can fully replace the optional subject of programming in secondary schools if the school, for example, doesn't have a qualified IT teacher. We train vocational teachers, our Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs is a member of the advisory board of Tartu Vocational Education Centre and we analyse the graduates of Tartu Vocational Education Centre and other such centres in terms of continuing their studies at UT or the opposite process, where academic education is complemented with acquiring hobby education or technical skills at Tartu VEC. In addition, there are MOOCs for students from general education schools and vocational education centres which introduce our fields of study and which enable the students who pass these courses with great results to earn additional points when applying to university, which also count as points in the university’s curricula. We will definitely continue with the UT Youth Academy and continue organising Olympiads and robotics sessions, having a network of partner schools, offering counselling to students when choosing their field of study and organising open days. Since last year our academic workers have been developing the content of the courses offered by the UT Youth Academy with the help of resources from the development fund.
Margit Sutrop: Secondary school students should all engage in research. The university should prepare teachers for supervising research papers and offer topics on which students could conduct their research.
Secondly, we could offer secondary schools small lecture packages on exciting topics within a certain subject field, which could be incorporated into the learning process. This could help to bring scientific knowledge into schools and provide students with information about the university's programmes, so they could make a more informed decision when applying.
|2.15. How do you plan to develop the opportunity for entrepreneurs and the academy to use machinery and workforce jointly?|
|Volli Kalm: The UT Research and Development Office helps all university labs, especially those that are suitable for joint use, develop a business model for the services/analyses offered to the university’s partner organisations as well as for advertising them. The university is a leading partner in founding the entrepreneurial platform Adapter (take a look online), which mediates orders and wishes for consultations to specialists from the university. At the moment it appears that entrepreneurs are unaware of the possibilities the university can offer concerning research-intensive development and consultations. In addition to the UT website, nearly all of the information necessary for entrepreneurs is gathered into the Estonian Research Information System (ETIS). The spin-off companies founded at the university (currently 59; every year 3-4 are added to the list, see: http://www.ut.ee/et/tartu-ulikooli-spin-ettevotted) and Estonian Clusters (TAKs) are enterprises which share their employees with the university and who communicate the university’s competence to entrepreneurs and the needs of entrepreneurship to the university. There will be an incubation centre for entrepreneurs in Delta House (which is currently being built) which will multiply the amount of research and technology intensive companies being founded. The university is also a member of the incubation centre created by the European Space Agency, which opens doors to entrepreneurs in the field of space technology. The university actively participates in the projects of the EU Baltic Sea Programme concerning the joint use of international scientific infrastructure and networking innovation, which mainly affect entrepreneurs in the Baltic Sea region.
Margit Sutrop: I'm afraid I do not understand the question.
|2.16. Twice every year (on the anniversary of the university and Walpurgis Night) academically organised students gather in front of the main building of the university with flags. Each year thereafter this presents the rector with the opportunity to acknowledge active students. Unfortunately, the question that mainly gets discussed after these processions is how bad the rector's speech was this time. Is the aforementioned event important for addressing students? What topics would you speak about?|
|Volli Kalm: It is definitely an important platform for addressing students. Regardless of the fact that the percentage of academically organised students is quite small, their role in preserving and spreading academic practices, respectable behaviour and traditions is crucial. This is what I have emphasised in my speeches – the important role of academic organisations as diverse improvers of university life, but I have also spoken about alumni and the history of the organisations, and even put together a quiz about the colours of the organisations. If the students who head from the procession to the party locations mainly discuss the rector's speech, then that means I have probably managed to raise questions that are important to them. I recently met with representatives of the Union of the Estonian Corps and learned from them that their main issue is their visibility more largely. I look forward to being given tips on how we could improve the situation with the help of the aforementioned events. Still, I would like to add that I consider the Rector's unbiased attitude towards all student organisations to be very important and that this attitude is easy for me to acquire since I am not currently a member of any of them.
Margit Sutrop: I like traditions and feel that they should be preserved. Speaking outdoors is indeed a difficult task, but at the same time, the meeting of the Rector and students is symbolic in itself and emotionally charged. You should make use of that. A good speech touches people emotionally, but in order to do so, you have to put yourself in your audience's shoes. Therefore I believe that before speaking to students, the most important thing is to think about things that matter to them. In order to avoid clichés, it would be good to discuss a topic that is currently relevant in society/at the university.
|2.17. Why doesn't the university allow student organisations to use rooms for free, although they are vacant?|
|Volli Kalm: This question needs to be clarified. At the university every room has a person who is responsible for that particular room, who has the right to provide the room for use when vacant, and I don't see why this couldn't be done regarding student organisations. If you don't know exactly who the vacant rooms belong to, ask the Estates Office and you will find out who to approach in order to come to an agreement on the use of the rooms. The only things prohibited by the rules of room use are utilising university rooms to engage in religious or political propaganda or to promote intolerance.
If you want to use a vacant room permanently and decorate it with your own things, then that is a different situation. In principle, that is also possible; for example, there are rooms in the UT Student Body next to the main building or rooms in AIESEC in the space occupied by the Tartu Student Village at Raatuse 22 or the basement level rooms of the building at Riia 23 which are being renovated by the Estates Office so that they are suitable for the Bioscience Students' Association. After the renovations these rooms will belong to the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and the Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences. This means that these units will cover the room costs of the student organisation. All use of rooms of this sort needs to be specifically agreed upon with the institute, the Estates Office and the organising committee.
Margit Sutrop: I understand that such question may arise. You should definitely try to meet students halfway. At the university, room management and maintenance fees are covered by structural units. A structural unit could make exceptions upon a justified request and allow student organisations to use the rooms at the rates established by the university or for free. However, if these rooms are used during the evening or on weekends, the fact that someone needs to cover the costs of cleaning and security should be taken into consideration.
|2.18. What happened to the renovation of the library? How could we have followed it through and does the future Rector plan to change anything in regard to architectural competitions and construction surveillance?|
|Volli Kalm: I partly answered this in the last block of questions (23 February 2017, question 10). The constructor, as well as the company that offered the construction supervision service, were chosen via a public procurement from among five different providers, but during construction it became apparent that the costs had clearly been underestimated. The renovations should have ended by the beginning of October 2016, but even at the end of the year one of the elevators planned to be installed was still being constructed in a factory. Right now we have to admit that the university put too much trust in both the constructor and the construction supervision company as well as the continuous promises of the contractor to finish the work by the extended deadlines. The forceful steps (ending the contract on our side with a penalty for failing to deliver the building on time and a bank guarantee recovery plan) taken by the university in January should have been taken as early as November. All future contractors will also be chosen via a public procurement, and thanks to changes in the Public Procurement Act the obligation to choose the company that makes the lowest offer is reduced. The university is usually involved in 100-150 public procurements per year, and the results of just 1% of them are contested or turn out to be problematic in some other way.
Margit Sutrop: I cannot say what exactly happened, because it was not my responsibility.
|2.19. When will the new rooms of the Institute of Dentistry be ready for use?|
|Volli Kalm: The rooms at Puusepa 1a which belong to Tartu University Hospital will be completed at the same time as the family medicine centre that is being constructed there, hopefully by 2020.
Margit Sutrop: I cannot comment on that at the moment. If I am elected Rector, I will acquaint myself with the situation.
|2.20. Studies and research are impossible in many departments without a library. It is clear now that the renovation of the building will last for considerably longer than expected. How do you plan to make all of the collections of the library available during the renovations? I mean, it is not the building itself that is important. It is crucial to find a way for researchers in these fields and students who cannot work without these resources to access collections that are unique in Estonia. What is available online is only a fraction of the material and cannot replace the entire library.|
|Volli Kalm: I have answered this question previously. What I would like to add: most of the 55 thousand users of our library use its facilities without actually visiting the building (16.7 million virtual visits per year). We have 28 branch libraries in different departments which are not affected by the renovations and have continued working during them. In addition, there is a temporary reading room at Liivi 4 which offers the opportunity to return borrowed books. I feel that the best solution to make the collections accessible is what is being done right now. I trust the people working at the library and believe they will do the best they can. None of us is satisfied with the current situation of the library, for which I apologise and assure you that we are doing everything we can with the help of the Vice-Rector for Institutional Development, who has been appointed Acting Chancellor so that the builders finish the prolonged renovations as quickly as possible.
Margit Sutrop: I understand that the lack of access to the library's collections is a major problem in some subject fields. Unfortunately, unpacking the collections and making them temporarily available would likely be a very expensive and time-consuming undertaking. If the university had known that the renovations would take so long, it would probably have considered finding a temporary space for some collections earlier. Right now there is nothing else to do but use the interlibrary loan service and hope that the renovations are completed quickly.
|2.21. What needs to be done differently in future to avoid problems like the prolonged renovation of the library?|
|Volli Kalm: Above all, two things, which I have pointed out in previous answers as well: we should put less trust in the contractor and construction supervision company (unfortunately!) and accompany them to the construction site daily with people from the Estates Office so that we notice immediately if the quality of the work or the deadline are in danger. Secondly, we have strongly requested changing the Public Procurement Act and there will probably be a change which rules out the obligation to choose the contractor who submitted the lowest offer for the job. This opportunity in turn will allow us to eliminate candidates who have clearly underestimated the costs from the competition and find a proficient builder.
Margit Sutrop: Effective risk assessment is paramount. E.g. if it had been foreseen that the renovations would take so long, the library would have tried to make some collections available in some other rooms.
|2.22. Do you anticipate any changes in the career model of researchers?
If so, what changes (granting tenure to researchers similarly to TTÜ)?
If not, why not?
|Volli Kalm: Yes, definitely. Changes are needed to reduce or eliminate the rigidity of the current career system of 4-level researchers and 5-level professors that is prescribed by law at the moment (the University Law, the Research and Development Organisation Act). Universities have the capacity to create the academic requirements for different vacancies and we are also competent enough to develop our own career models. The new model should be more simple, it should equally value research and studies, enable promotion from one level to another, offer just attestation of all components of academic work (and consider the differences between fields of study) and support transferring academic jobs after reaching the age of retirement and becoming emeritus/emerita professors. All of these measures should make it easier for young people to enter the academic world and allow the university to have a flexible approach to recruiting and hanging on to the best people. It is important for the university to agree upon the meanings of tenure and tenure track, and this is something we have started discussions about. At the moment about 45% of academic staff have open-ended contracts and this percentage will rise to 95% in two years. We do not automatically award these people tenure. So a tenure track and an employee that has been rewarded tenure are not different from other staff members when it comes to the security of their contracts but their additional agreements, and I think that the content of these agreements should be high-quality work, financing and expectations. This could become a tool for young and talented people to enter the academic life of UT in strategically important directions. We should certainly not apply limiting conditions to people who are rewarded with tenure when it comes to requesting grants, contracts and other funding and creating results-based conditions for earning a salary, as has been offered by ETAg.
Margit Sutrop: Legally, there will be a changeover to open-ended contracts anyway. I really do not see any reason to talk about implementing a separate tenure. By the way, for scientists, open-ended contracts actually mean greater instability, because they will make it easier to make people redundant. Currently, upon redundancy, remuneration has to be paid until the termination of the employment contract. If the contract is open-ended, remuneration for just a few months is sufficient.
|2.23. How do you assess the current situation and future prospects of young researchers (academic workers under the age of 40) at the University of Tartu? Do you see any challenges or problems, and how would you solve these as Rector?|
|Volli Kalm: I highly value young people, as most of them are strong and competitive, but unfortunately they are financially dependent on their work group and institute due to the reduction in personal research grants and grants awarded to post-doctoral researchers. Becoming academically independent is difficult even for the strongest of them, and the fact that the situation is similar in all parts of the world is no comfort. The leading role of institutes in choosing and funding research projects is very much welcome, but we need greater participation from young people here, in the decision-making body, to make their message clearer. The main challenges that young people face during their academic careers at the university are that not enough leading academic positions are vacant and quality considerations are often not taken into account when it comes to freeing up these positions. Due to these background factors, we cannot continuously grow extensively and create new jobs. I am sure that real attestation which is based on current academic requirements can and should make the situation better. Based on our experience of assessing professors since 2015, I believe in the work of the university's attestation committees.
Margit Sutrop: I am afraid that the transition to open-ended contracts will affect young scientists' prospects, because there will be fewer positions to apply for. Therefore it is necessary to pay special attention to future generations and give qualified people the opportunity to climb the career ladder.
|2.24. How you will support the career of international staff?|
|Volli Kalm: In principle equally to that what we do for all Estonian staff. Above that we provide free Estonian language and culture training, including web-based courses for international staff, we provide information, documents and counceling in English (and some in Russian). We have also waived the proficiency in the Estonian language from qualification requirements for academic positions where the knowledge of Estonian is not mandatory for everyday teaching practice. Otherwise all support services and career opportunities (qualification and evaluation requirements, salary-, tax- and pension conditions, professional counceling, right to apply and being elected to various university councils, etc) are equal to all employed by university, regardless their race, gender, faith or nationality.
Margit Sutrop: I think that the career of an international staff should be supported in the same way as the career of all others. The only difference is that for those people who do not speak Estonian we should provide possibilities to learn Estonian. The knowledge of the local language will increase their possibilities to be integrated in the university life, take part in decision-making and take on also important administrative positions.
|2.25. What do you think about the current system for financing the university's subunits? Do you consider it the only possible solution, or could there be better alternatives? Do you think changes should be made in this area?|
|Volli Kalm: We support strong institutes and faculties and, according to the principles of compilation of the current budget, the UT Council will decide how to divide the budget up between the four faculties. This means that the council of the faculty is fully competent to further divide the budget between the institutes. Dividing the budget up within an institute is also the duty of the council of the institute. When the new structure came into force, the possibility arose that the council could also approve some of the budgets for the institutes, but this idea was not supported by the representatives of the faculties. I still think that we could change these principles of dividing up the budget, but that would require a proposal from a faculty or institute.
Here I would like to add that the grants from the university's development fund are usually more specifically targeted – the grant goes to the person responsible for carrying out a certain activity or project. This allows us to pay more attention to scientific collaboration between people from different faculties.
Margit Sutrop: There is no system that would work as a single solution. However, before changing something, you should carefully consider the effect the consequences might have.
|2.26. Hello! Regarding the lively debate about the proposed construction of RailBaltica, at the moment, going out into the world is difficult for people from the Estonian national university and our collaboration partners face great struggles in getting here. I would like your opinion on this and what possible action could be taken to solve this problem. My second question concerns collaboration between Estonian universities and research institutes. How do you view this collaboration, taking into consideration the limited resources our country has. Is it reasonable to waste energy on rivalry, or should all parties unite to support their country, which is competing with other countries at the moment? How can we do this and what would the role of UT be in this process? Thirdly, I am interested in how you as Rector would view your role in ensuring that decisions were made based on knowledge in our cosy little country and that a sustainable development plan was created for the future in which our children will live. Maybe you could make this the trademark of UT: an export article for the whole world.|
Margit Sutrop: I wholeheartedly agree that international connections are very important to the University of Tartu. It is vital to cooperate with the mayor in order to fulfil the dream of Tartu's residents: a four-lane highway between Tallinn and Tartu and an airport that not only offers flights to Helsinki, but also to Tallinn, Riga, Stockholm and Warsaw, for instance. My answer to the second question is yes, too. Since Estonia is small, it is very important to pool resources and be cooperative instead of competitive.
I would also like to thank the person asking for the third question – let’s start with the university itself and try to move towards knowledge-based decision-making and set an example to the state.
|2.27. Who have you chosen as Vice-Rectors in your office?|
|Volli Kalm: I haven’t made any final decisions, but it is certain that more faculties will be included and that the number of team members will be smaller. The role of the Deans in the Rector's Office will change and increase, and the role of central support structures in the management will also grow.
Margit Sutrop: Right now I can only say that Vice-Rectors should come from different subject backgrounds. I have also thought about the competence of Vice-Rectors. They should definitely be team players and cooperate smoothly.
|2.28. In your opinion, what could the "big thing" be that the University of Tartu has that would "echo across the whole planet", that would speak to everyone and make it into the news here as well as overseas? This question probably needs to be clarified. I don't mean an advertising strategy, a witty marketing campaign or something like that, I am talking about something meaningful, something "real", which would make UT great on a global scale. That "something" cannot be above-average diligence either. It needs to be something special. I understand perfectly well that finding that “special something" is incredibly hard (and that it is possible that it cannot be done), but I am sure that if we succeeded, it would be of pivotal importance to the university and therefore the idea deserves serious consideration. This question probably cannot be exhaustively answered during the few days you have for answering but I am very interested in any opinions and/or initial ideas on this topic. If we want to find an analogy on the national scale, what does Estonia have that is truly sensational? I think the closest we can come to this is the Song Festival tradition, in general the choral singing tradition in itself and the Singing Revolution connected to it (and nowadays maybe e-residency and related phenomena). Our Song Festival is unique on a global scale; it is also astonishingly great and powerful for such a small nation. Or, to rephrase the question, what could the "song festival" of the University of Tartu be?|
|Volli Kalm: I think that the Song Festival is a good comparison in that somebody that is not part of it can only observe its visuals and the feeling of companionship but they won't sense the essentially Estonian content of it. The university has the potential to become a unique place where leading science and technology are integrated into a highly developed society with a multidisciplinary approach so as to retain two components important for the living environment: a clean natural environment and Estonian language. We also have to guide Estonia in that direction. Switzerland is the closest to achieving this by combining nature and science technology, the English speaking part of Singapore by combining high technology with the economy and Israel when it comes to merging high technology and the preservation of their language, but not a safe living environment.
A couple more comparisons of things that "echo across the world": let's take Harvard, Oxford or any other leading university – very few specialists know their specific, world-class accomplishments but the whole planet knows that they do the things they do, without exception, in the best possible way. This develops into a reputation, into trust and influence over time, especially through the university's alumni. That is the direction the University of Tartu is heading in.
It is important for the university and for the city of Tartu that we organise original activities that bring together as many people as possible: at the level of the university, these include creating an Asian Centre, a Centre of IT and e-Services Impact Studies, a European Union-Russian Studies Centre, launching a series of sTARTUp Day events, building the Delta House (which will enable us to create a symbiotic relationship between the fields of IT and economics) and the construction of the Estonian National Museum for Tartu as a whole.
Margit Sutrop: This will come into its own once the university creates favourable conditions for creative thinking, new ideas and their implementation through cooperation.
|*Would there be a place for representatives of the social sciences, medicine and humanities in the new rector's office or can we expect a rector's office made up solely of scientists?|
Volli Kalm: See my answer to the question 2.6. Firstly, since the start of 2016 all four deans have been members of the rector's office, so all of the aforementioned faculties are represented therein. Moreover, instead of the former representative of the Faculty of Science and Technology, a medical scientist started working as the academic secretary. These changes have proven to bring about major shifts in terms of greater cooperation, agreeing on common grounds and quicker movement of information. This question probably also affects the vice rectors, and when it comes to them, there would certainly be suitable people for these positions who are not scientists. Come to an agreement and prepare yourselves to accept the offers.
|*An article by Peeter Saari entitled "Valdkond (faculty) has to be renamed so that it has a clear name in Estonian – teaduskond" was published in the 2017 special edition (a collection of essays by council members) of the university's magazine Universitas Tartuensis. Do you as rector feel it is necessary to work towards renaming faculties?|
|Volli Kalm: See my answer to the 2.3. question. I agree that the names of academic units should be identical in Estonian and English regarding their content, but I would like to stress that more important than the name is the work that is done in these units and its quality, which will bring recognition.|
|* Dear Margit Sutrop, when you look back at the summer of 2015 and the move of a number of foreign philology departments from Ülikooli 17 to Lossi 3, do you then see any reason for being self-critical? I am thinking of aspects like the move being announced and getting started - for most of the staff - very suddenly in the middle of the summer, that the FLLC then had to postpone the start of the courses for its students for one week in September, and also the fact that construction work was going on in Lossi 3 for almost all of September after the move. (I could in fact have mentioned several more things.) Were there - according to your opinion - any severe mistakes made and what is in that case your responsiblity for them? Since you are now applying for the position as a rector, have you perhaps learnt something from this process or can the rest of the university expect moves to be conducted in more or less the same way in the future as well?|
|Margit Sutrop: I understand that moving to another building causes a lot of inconvenience. And I am thankful for everybody who has shown understanding and patience. Unfortunately there are only short periods of time where renovation of buildings can be done without interruption in using the lecture halls. If we look back to this process, there were several delays in the construction work which caused problems for staff and students but taking into account how complicated the whole process was and how many different units had to change rooms and move out and in, it went relatively smoothly. And the result shows that it was really worth all this trouble. Look at the nice library and new common rooms in Lossi 3.|
|* The university has a pioneering role in society. This role has been lost in recent years – the university does not comment on important topics, instead tending to keep problems quiet. It simply exists and refuses to initiate public debate, regardless of the topic. Are you going to change that? Are you ready and willing to make decisions that could meet with resistance and create a media buzz, but eventually show that the university is the pillar of society?|
|Margit Sutrop: Yes, it is vital for the University of Tartu to have authority and a leading position in society. Nevertheless, there is no need for a media buzz: the university should always remain respectable and contribute to the shaping of a polite and balanced discussion culture. I believe that you can talk about anything – what matters is how it is done.
I am ready to make decisions that may be unpopular with some people, because it affects their interests. However, a media storm can often be avoided using the right way of communicating.
3. EQUAL TREATMENT AND RELATED ISSUES
|3.1. Do you consider it acceptable for a staff member who bullied and harassed a student they supervised to continue working as a professor?|
|Volli Kalm: No, I don't. If what is meant is the conflict between a former PhD student and their former supervisor as recently addressed in the media, then: 1. the representatives of the university worked quite hard to respectfully settle the situation; 2. it was a difficult case which was not one-sided, and its settlement was made more difficult by the fact that both sides sought confidentiality and non-interference from the university; 3. when new circumstances were brought to light, we launched a new internal investigation at the end of February (in addition to the two criminal investigations); and 4. once the results of this investigation are clear, we will form an opinion about the professor in question.
Margit Sutrop: Bullying and harassment are not acceptable in any profession.
|3.2. Do you think that the good practices introduced by the university's administration are sufficient to avoid abuse of authority (academic nepotism, plagiarising dissertations that are being supervised and being brutal towards employees) or would other measures be helpful? And an additional question, if you think something else is needed: what are you willing to do on your behalf to improve the academic environment?|
|Volli Kalm: You cannot regulate people's behaviour with rules or laws in every possible situation. Communicative and behavioural traditions based on common core values as well as a zero tolerance policy towards unethical behaviour help prevent abuse, conflicts of interest and cases of unequal treatment. The good academic customs and principles of equal treatment of the university were agreed upon via discussions involving different target groups, and we were the first university in Estonia to establish such rules. The process itself, counsellors beginning work and the public discussion of certain cases have raised the awareness of the staff and students considerably and given them courage to notice and face such violations. An integrated system has now been established in the university – the aforementioned good practices and principles, a counsellor for faculty and students (including psychologists), an academic committee, a plagiarism detector, internal auditors and the Centre for Professional Development – in order to avoid inappropriate behaviour and relationships, to help all members of the academic community and to give them advice about their problems. As a rector and colleague, I promise to stand up for the development of a mentally and physically supportive and motivating work environment for the people at the university.
Margit Sutrop: The preparation of the guidelines for equal treatment, management, teaching, learning and good research practice is only the first step. The paper itself changes nothing: it is important for people to really think about what it says, acknowledge the risks, notice any deviations from best practice and make a stand against them. If an employee or a student questions the ethical side of some working practice, they can check it by reading the guidelines for best practice. Additionally, they can draw upon the document of best practice and pose the question to staff or the public. Preparing a document of best practice should facilitate reflection and discussion about unacceptable behaviour.
|3.3. This question is about your knowledge and interpretation of Study Regulations. You are the Rector and you learn that a UT student who is studying in the field of kindergarten pedagogy has had sexual relations with a child and that they have been convicted and have to serve a sentence. You bump into the Vice-Rector of Academic Affairs, who is not yet aware of the situation. What do you tell them, if anything, and what do you recommend be done?|
|Volli Kalm: Of course I would inform the Vice-Rector about what has happened, and give them the name of the student. It is not up for debate, in my view, that a student who has committed such an unlawful act does not deserve student status (exmatriculation in the event of committing an intentional criminal offence) and is not suitable for the prestigious job of a teacher. I should still stress that the movement of information in the suggested order is highly unlikely because the pre-trial investigation of offences by people connected to the university as well as legal proceedings are already known to the university administration.
Margit Sutrop: Clause 150.11.2 of the Study Regulations states that a student who is convicted of a criminal offence during their studies is deleted from the matriculation register. Upon learning of this fact, I would indeed forward the information I have acquired to the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and, through them, to the Vice-Rector of the respective domain, asking for a fact check and then acting in accordance with of the Study Regulations.
It is an interesting case, because it poses the question of whether you should learn of the conviction by chance or whether the forwarding of data should be regulated at the state level.
|3.4. You as the Rector are contacted by a UT graduate who is concerned because a relative of theirs was asked (in front of five other candidates) the following question by the exam committee when applying to study to become a kindergarten teacher (word for word): "Which Estonian political party is the most hostile towards refugees?". The graduate feels that this question was inappropriate and could have forced the candidate to elaborate on their political beliefs and asks you for an apology from the university. Namely, the reputation and dignity of their alma mater is very important to the graduate. How would you respond to them and what steps would you take?|
|Volli Kalm: I agree that questions which require the applicant to declare their political preferences without knowing if these inclinations will affect their chances of being chosen for the position are inappropriate and that committees need to avoid them. In cases like these, the attention of the committee has been directed to this matter. Even if the candidate voluntarily or without noticing it expresses their political, religious et al. preferences, the valid guidelines in the university for equal treatment do not allow the candidate to be treated and assessed differently from others. In order to specify the conditions of this particular case, the candidate should approach the Academic Secretary of UT, and if the exam committee has acted in an inappropriate manner then of course the university will apologise.
Margit Sutrop: The topic of refugees is an emotionally charged one. Let’s imagine another similar situation. For instance, you might ask which Estonian party is most opposed to RailBaltic. Could this trigger a similar reaction? Perhaps the person asking the question was not inquiring about values-based or political preferences, but posing a factual question?
|3.5. Discrimination is condemned by and not tolerated at the University of Tartu. These are very nice words, but they do not correspond to reality and real life. People are humiliated at the university in every possible way. Professors assert themselves using power and influence. They are biased and grade unfairly. How do you feel about the humiliation and discrimination of disabled people, the mocking and undermining of human dignity? What would you do if such actions became public and intolerance apparent? In addition to Tallinn University, this is quite common at the University of Tartu as well. Unfortunately. Thank you!|
|Volli Kalm: The claim regarding the constant humiliation of students is certainly untrue at the University of Tartu. The best students in Estonia – who are free to go to any university in the world – wouldn't be studying here if it were true.
We cannot change reality unless we take matters into our own hands. I am ready to do this, and the people at our university have agreed upon good academic practices and the principles of equal treatment, not to mention existing national laws. Expose these unworthy deeds and the people causing this humiliation. I assure you that there are people in the administration of the university and the faculties who would not make the names of victims of such behaviour public, but they do need the facts in order to react to injustice and protect academic organisational culture.
Margit Sutrop: These are very serious accusations and require factual proof. I can only stress that any discrimination, humiliation, harm to human dignity and offence is unacceptable. These facts should definitely be dealt with as soon as they surface.
|3.6. You learn that during these elections your opponent has made indecent advances towards a student they are supervising. There is no doubt about the circumstances and no further information needs to be gathered. What would you do with this information and when would act upon it?|
|Volli Kalm: In principle I don't accept the immoral behaviour referenced in the question but I find personally attacking the other candidate unacceptable and have ruled out such a response. So the only option left to me would be to inform the immediate consultant about my opponent, and the Election Committee and the UT Council immediately, but also delicately, and not in the midst of a public debate. These groups of very respected people could then develop an understanding of the events and decide how to proceed with the candidate and the elections in such a situation.
Margit Sutrop: First of all, I would ask them whether that information was true and listen to their explanation. Here we have two aspects: on the one hand, there is the question of the safety, honour and respect of the supervised student; and on the other hand, the question of a specific person's suitability for a job. In the first case it is important for the person to apologise for their improper behaviour and offence and to end the relationship with the person being supervised so as to avoid any further incidents. In the second case I would refrain from passing any judgements, because it is clear that dealing with questions of the opponent's personal traits or suitability for the position could easily be interpreted as an attempt to put them at disadvantage and therefore I could not do anything useful in this situation.
|3.7.a)What do you think the administration of the University of Tartu has learned from the harassment case that has been brought to the public’s attention, and what are the actual steps you plan to take when solving problems like this?
b)The harassment scandal between a professor and a student they supervised has severely damaged the reputation of the University of Tartu. What mistakes have been made? Does the new Rector intend to end such cases of harassment, and if so, how?
c)In what ways could the university have acted more effectively in terms of the harassment of the PhD student, or what position should the university have adopted in the media? What have you learned about crisis communication from this situation?
d)How should the university have handled the harassment case? Why has it taken three years for the university to react? How do you assess the situation, knowing that the problem is bigger than it appears to be and that to date the university has mostly tried to keep quiet about it?
e)How do you feel about an incident where one of the university’s PhD students fell victim to harassment by the Senior Research Fellow/current professor who supervised their dissertation? Did the university do enough to solve the problem? Has the university done enough since the staff member left to avoid these situations in future? And finally, does behaviour like this on the part of a Senior Research Fellow show suitable management skills for working as a professor?
|Volli Kalm: I will answer this group of questions hereunder in one response so as to avoid repetition.
The conflict between the former PhD student and their supervisor that has recently been covered in the media was dealt with by the university at the end of 2013. All parties have been repeatedly contacted and they have received counselling; the head of institute and the professor were obliged to solve the problem, and the professor was issued with a warning. Furthermore, even when both the student and the professor signed a contract with the university in 2016 requesting that the case be handled privately, the university added a clause to the contract which gives it the right to open the case again if new information comes to light. This is why we reopened an internal investigation at the end of February 2017 (in addition to the two ongoing criminal investigations), and we will come to a conclusion when we know the results of the investigation.
It is a complicated case that is one-sided, and resolving it was made even more complicated by the fact that both parties asked the university to maintain confidentiality and not to interfere. But we have learned from this and we are now the only university in Estonia that has approved a list of good academic practices, developed guidelines for equal treatment and employed psychological counsellors for both staff members and students. The university has room for improvement in the area of making these cases public and the way we inform our members of staff.
In any case of harassment, discrimination or unequal treatment, the university's policies are very clear and simple. These cases have to be discussed: remaining silent and passive improves neither work culture nor communication culture. The students should turn to either the head of their institute, the Dean or the Vice-Rector of Academic Affairs, depending on who the problem pertains to. Student counsellors working in the departments are always willing to advise students and support them in the event of further issues.
Margit Sutrop: I believe that we will be in a fundamentally different situation in the future, because now we have guidelines of equal treatment, which can be referenced in the event of conflicts. The guidelines only came into force at the beginning of this academic year. Time will tell how useful they are. The guidelines must be improved if they are found to have shortcomings. However, the guidelines themselves do not protect anyone. One of the dangers may lie in the fact that people do not notice when a certain behaviour pattern develops (or has the potential to develop) into discrimination or even harassment. The university needs to work on creating a framework that would ensure the efficiency of prevention work, help to solve cases of misconduct and offer protection and support to the victims of conflicts. Moreover, the university should raise awareness of these matters and inform people of the existence of support systems. In this respect, we have a lot to learn from the experiences of other countries.
a) It is a pity that this has damaged the university's reputation.
b) I can only provide an answer regarding communication, because my knowledge of the case in question comes from newspapers and the Rector's explanations. This situation was difficult for the university, because the article published in the media spoke of a conflict between a PhD student and their supervisor, but the university was accused of the inappropriate processing of the case and was not given the chance to explain the procedure it followed. The case is a good lesson in journalism ethics.
c) I am not familiar with the facts on which you base your statement about the University of Tartu playing down the significance of the problem and sweeping it under the rug. I do not have such facts at my disposal.
d) What is your attitude towards the case that recently came to light where a PhD student from the University of Tartu was harassed by their supervisor, a senior research fellow/current professor? Did the University of Tartu take sufficient action to resolve the situation? Has UT taken sufficient measures since the employee's departure to avoid such situations in the future? And finally, does this kind of behaviour by a senior research fellow demonstrate their suitability for the position of a professor?
This is a very unfortunate case of which what I know comes from the print media and the explanations given by Rector Volli Kalm. Since I have not been involved in the hearing of this situation, I cannot say what measures were taken when or for what reasons and therefore I do not want to comment on the matter. I think the university has learned from the case, because it has led to the preparation of guidelines for equal treatment that provide instructions for resolving these kinds of conflicts. Naturally, the existence of these guidelines does not guarantee a sense of security that such situations will not occur in the future, but it does show that the university condemns any kind of discrimination. Additionally, it gives instructions on how to respond in the event of a conflict. If it becomes evident that the guidelines are not sufficient, the procedures must be improved.
|3.8. If you become Rector, do you plan to establish an independent council to deal with cases of harassment and discrimination?|
|Volli Kalm: Yes, if the academic community considers it necessary. To date we have put together a committee of unbiased experts in response to each case who them determine the specifics of the case and make proposals on what steps should be taken. We have an academic committee who works permanently and meets regularly, who is competent to make evaluations and give recommendations to the Rector if the cases involve going against good academic practice or principles of ethics in the sciences.
Margit Sutrop: More time is needed to consider whether there is a need for a permanent independent body or if somebody should be assigned to deal with prevention, promotion and problem solution. The experiences of other universities might be of help here, because the rest of the world has a long history of dealing with these matters.
|3.9. In your opinion, what steps should the University of Tartu take to avoid academic and administrative staff potentially abusing their power in the future?|
|Volli Kalm: I am sure that the thorough discussions with the members of the academic community that took place before the good academic practices and guidelines for equal treatment were approved have helped to recognise and acknowledge these potential problems. Awareness of what to do in such cases and who to turn to has also increased. We have launched regular training sessions for the administration that are held once a semester, where among other things we have discussed cases regarding conflicts of interest and misuse of power. With the help of the Centre of Professional Development we plan to continue with regular staff training and also to continue conducting the work satisfaction surveys that have been carried out for years, whose results we can use as a starting point for making improvements.
Margit Sutrop: We should take conflicts of interest – which cannot always be avoided, considering how small Estonia is – more seriously, but it is still possible to acknowledge the related risks and deal with them delicately. I think the main objective is to increase understanding of why it is necessary to avoid conflicts of interest and protect the weaker side in the case of conflicts where there is an imbalance of power between parties. For instance, this concerns close relatives and people in intimate relationships working under the direct authority of one another, supervisor-student relationships and other similar situations. There should be a mechanism that prevents close relatives and people in intimate relationships from working (incl. work related to supervising) under one another’s direct authority. If a supervisor enters into a close relationship with their student, the latter should be assigned a new supervisor. This is important to both parties in order to keep work separate from private life, but also to the entire staff so that nobody feels that someone is being favoured or receiving special treatment. This is based on the principle that things should not only be fair but also seem fair.
|3.10. In your opinion, is there a pay gap problem at the University of Tartu? What do you plan to do about this as Rector?|
|Volli Kalm: Similarly to the job market outside the university, the salary of men is somewhat higher than the salary of women in similar positions. The gender pay gap is partly explained by differences in pay between different fields of study and the fulfilment of management tasks. This means that there are relatively few women among the Faculties of Medicine and Science and Technology who have fairly high average salaries as well as among the heads of different units (the Rector's Office, the Deans and the heads of institutes). There is a stable positive tendency that in both 2015 and 2016 the average salaries of women (5%) grew more quickly than those of men (3.8%). When it comes to academic positions, the growth of the total salaries of women has been greater than those of men in positions like Professors, Associate Professors, Senior Research Fellows and Junior Research Fellows. All of this shows that in academic units the designers of the salary policies are heading in the right direction and that the unwarranted pay gap is disappearing.
Margit Sutrop: The Remuneration 2016 analysis shows that the gender pay gap in UT was 24% in 2016. (25% in 2015), i.e. women's average remuneration was 24% lower than men's. In terms of academic positions, the largest pay gap occurred among assistants and teachers (8%). Women's average remuneration was higher than men's among senior research fellows.
Compared to 2015, the gender pay gap decreased in most professional groups in 2016. We only have accurate data on academic employees; the gender pay gap has not been investigated among non-academic staff in terms of positions. The pay gap is a serious issue that needs to be tackled. We can proceed by devising better and more accurate job descriptions and laying down methods for measuring each person's professional contribution. At the moment, the rules are too general and therefore you can always say that one person does more or is better than the other. However, contributions should be measured clearly and not on the basis of the manager's gut feeling.
Remuneration also differs greatly between subject fields.
On the one hand, this is due to wages being in correlation with the respective sector in society. On the other hand, it is also influenced by the financial capability of different structural units. Each domain has institutes that need more help. We have institutes that can only afford to pay the minimum wage and even then they might still be running at a constant deficit. My experience as dean shows that it might be of help if we were to map the problems and look for a comprehensive solution. The lack of financial capability often highlights problems with staff policy, curricula and research. No structural unit should be left to fend for themselves with their issues; instead, the parties should try to cooperate to find solutions and boost their general capability.
|3.11. Dear Candidates, Thank you for the opportunity to ask you questions. I wish you both the best of luck. My question is with regard to gender differences. As in many other EU countries, the number of women in Estonia is far above the number of men (there is currently 113 to every 100 men (2016; https://www.stat.ee/29918)). Similarly, the proportion of young women with college degrees in Estonia is more than double that of young men (http://news.err.ee/107015/estonia-sets-eu-record-for-education-gender-gap), also in line with other EU countries. Of course, now Estonia has a woman president. How can we increase the number of women leaders in the University of Tartu, from the ground up? For example, the Estonian Academy of Sciences currently has no woman in the Division of Biology, Geology and Chemistry. In the "Structure of the University of Tartu", the only one mentioned (out of 10) is Professor Sutrop. Obviously, one of you is a man, and the other a woman, but I am not trying to be facetious. This question must be addressed by women as well as men. I certainly understand that this problem is not unique to the University of Tartu. It is very important to have diversity in leadership roles, to gain from the wealth of experience that only diversity can bring. But it is also important to have leaders that understand how to make changes happen. What is your opinion? Thank you in advance.|
|Volli Kalm: Of course, the lack or underrepresentation of women in various leadership-required positions is a waste of available human capital. In various regulations of Estonian academic life there are measures promoting equal possibilities for advancement of women in their career path – for example, excluding the time of maternity- and childcare leave from the period of either grant or job evaluation. As of leadership roles the readiness of women to take these positions also ought to be higher, even though I do understand their preference to concentrate on their academic rather than administrative career. In that sense women are not different from men in general. In my career I have proposed vice-rector positions to women twice, I have supervised four female PhD students and mentored a female vice-dean. I will continue to involve women to my teams. However, I am not in favour of quota for guaranteeing equal representation of women in academic positions.
Margit Sutrop: I agree that diversity in leadership roles is important to gain from different perspectives. This concerns both gender-balance and balance between different disciplines. I do not think that we should introduce quota since this will put those who are elected in a difficult situation as if they were elected because of their gender or discipline. But we should raise awareness of this issue and reach the understanding that it is important. By paying more attention to this question and by being critical towards existing practices we will create step-by-step the culture where it is normal to seek balance.
|3.12. What specific steps are you planning to take and what measures will you implement concerning the cases of discrimination of staff members and students that have recently emerged?|
|Volli Kalm: I have answered this question previously. That is why my answer here will be brief: we have adopted good academic practices and these are being renewed and brought up to date. Even the wide-ranging discussions preceding the adoption of the practices have led to important growth in awareness and acknowledgment. We have agreed upon Guidelines for Equal Treatment and, due to new circumstances emerging, we have formed an investigating body under the order of the Academic Secretary to review the conditions of the harassment case brought to the public’s attention; in doubtful cases we have asked for criminal investigations into the activities of the university's (now mostly former) staff members, the university has a working internal audit bureau, and we have already held management training sessions that help people recognise and avoid conflicts of interest.
Margit Sutrop: Every case of discrimination should be taken seriously. The guidelines for equal treatment that were adopted at the beginning of the academic year also provide specific instructions for resolving conflicts.
|3.13. A lot of ethics-related cases have surfaced in the media lately – using the university's funds for personal interests, unequal treatment based on nationality or sexuality, doubts about the credibility of research results, etc. Now, when the general principles of good practice are being compiled, we also need to establish clearer rules. What should be done first to prevent these situations? Should the sanctions for certain violations be known beforehand? In which cases should the management show zero tolerance (not by issuing warnings)?|
|Volli Kalm: Composing the list of good practices and the discussions around it have noticeably increased people's awareness of recognising problematic situations, and this tendency should lessen the role of administrative rules in shaping academic culture in the future. I feel that we have enough laws and rules to handle these cases. If there is a lack of something, then it is handling these situations publicly among staff members, since people who have been treated unfairly or harassed request a delicate approach.
I believe that inappropriate behaviour can be done away with by overall attitude rather than punishment. There are situations in which punishment is called for. There is a zero-tolerance policy at the university when it comes to academic fraud and people who have intentionally committed criminal offences and have been found guilty. I completely understand that zero tolerance applies to more cases in the academic community and I am not afraid to apply this policy. Among other things, the university has repeatedly taken the initiative in proposing that criminal investigations be launched in doubtful cases. All of the specific cases from the past are less clear-cut in nature than they seem in the media, which is why I think the decisions we have made and the investigations we have initiated are proportional to the deed. In addition, if the person asking this question is referencing the story in Eesti Ekspress last week when talking about the credibility of research results, then I don't agree with this line of argument.
Margit Sutrop: Yes, we must definitely agree on specific procedures for dealing with violations, possible sanctions and the point of zero tolerance. Agreeing on sanctions and raising awareness are also important in terms of preventing violations.
|* My department, under Faculty of Arts and Humanities, has for a long time experienced a toxic work environment where members of the staff are subjects to harassment. This week, a colleague of mine fainted following an argument with a superior. This has been the most difficult experience in my work life, so far. What can Margit Sutrop say to convince employees that she is able to provide a safe work environment for staff at the entire university?|
|Margit Sutrop: I am aware of this conflict and I am deeply sorry for what happened. Unfortunately the dean cannot avoid such conflicts. What I can do is tp ensure that people know what is acceptable and what not. And we can pay more attention to character traits and behaviour in selecting people in leadership positions. Concerning the concrete case, the head of the College is dealing with it, she has mapped what happened and has asked help from the Administrative Office and the Dean’s Office. I hope that all members of the Department will also contribute to this task- to help to create a good working environment in the Department.|
|4.1. What do you consider to be the biggest achievement in your life to date and what do you think is your biggest scientific achievement?|
|Volli Kalm: The biggest achievements in my life are my sons and my contribution to the administration of the university on many different levels. My biggest scientific achievement is researching the temporal and spatial distribution of continental glaciation in north-eastern Europe (the Baltic Sea area and the East European Craton) and the climate cycles connected with this phenomenon, as well as having supervised seven PhD dissertations.
Margit Sutrop: Launching the University of Tartu Centre of Ethics in 2001 is definitely the most influential; today all of the faculties contribute to its success. The Centre of Ethics has numerous valuable collaboration partners in Estonia and in 24 other countries. Via international scientific projects, the Centre of Ethics has begun researching different ethical aspects of science and applied the knowledge gained in practice, starting a discussion about values and ethical norms in Estonian society. We have also launched an Ethics in Estonia portal for the public (www.eetika.ee) which allows anyone interested to engage in ethics-themed debates. It also provides information about our conferences, training sessions, books, the "Value Games" board game and value development in Estonian schools and kindergartens. Our international partners have assured us that the broad-based activity of the Centre of Ethics is unique in the world. As scientific achievements I would highlight my contributions in two different fields. Firstly, I presented my original fiction theory and described how reading literary texts differs from reading scientific or journalistic texts in the monograph "Fiction and Imagination. The Anthropological Function of Literature" (Paderborn 2000) about aesthetics, the philosophy of language and the philosophy of the mind. Secondly, in the field of ethics, my biggest contribution has been applying a pluralistic method of value consideration in medicine, the life sciences, the e-Health databases, at the Genome Centre and when assessing the ethical side of biometric technologies and education. Since 2008 many of my papers on this topic have been published in leading magazines such as Bioethics, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics and Journal of Internal Medicine and in the collections of prestigious publishers like Cambridge UP, Springer, Ashgate and Sage.
|4.2. What would you tell your 20-year-old self?|
|Volli Kalm: If I was 20 right now, I would be somewhere near the end of my Bachelor's studies. I would advise myself to change my field of study during my Master's degree and choose something connected to science and technology, and combine it with a decent amount of IT education. If I hadn't made use of the opportunity already, I would recommend being an exchange student at a foreign university, learning a third or fourth foreign language, studying full-time and working during summer.
Margit Sutrop: That is an interesting question. I would advise them to take it slowly – you already have all of the requirements for self-fulfilment within you. You only need to get rid of what is redundant and superficial to reach the real you.
|4.3. What is your favourite book and why?|
|Volli Kalm: My favourite book has changed over time. Generally I enjoy historical books, memoirs and the philosophy of science. Recently I enjoyed "The Romanovs" by Lindsey Huges; a few years back I enjoyed "The Baltic Tragedy" by Siegfried Von Vegesack, which has a unique style of writing, and "Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble" is also great.
Margit Sutrop: Tammsaare's Truth and Justice, as it is the Estonian philosophical masterpiece.
|4.4. What does 1+1 equal? Or to paraphrase, how do you feel about taking out loans?|
|Volli Kalm: I think they are perfectly reasonable in a reasonable amount.
Margit Sutrop: Taking out a loan is reasonable if it helps you achieve something greater.
|4.5. What kind of organisational training did you last attend and when?|
|Volli Kalm: There is practical training every day! The last organised training I went to was on 15 November 2016 when a course for heads of organisations was held with the help of the investigative body to help avoid conflicts of interest. Before that there was a training session in winter 2015/16 held by Mare Pork and Heiti Pakku concerning the chairing of meetings.
Margit Sutrop: Last spring I took part in a very nice training session held by Aavo Kokk and Maaja Vadi called "The peculiarities of academic management" and participated in the Pärnu Leadership Conference. Throughout the past year I have been part of the coaching programme for leaders.
|4.6. What was the biggest mistake you made during your time at the university that everybody should avoid? For example concerning methods of study and student life.|
|Volli Kalm: I made a number of mistakes that definitely shouldn't be repeated! I could have achieved significantly more during my time there, grown smarter, but unfortunately I wasted time and left studying to the last minute. There could've been less partying. There was some fooling around (on my motorbike, in the community halls and on Kaarsild Bridge) that had a happy ending but should never be copied.
Margit Sutrop: While I was studying at the university, people tended to start revising three days before an exam. You can retain a lot of information in the short term with this method, but you will forget everything you learn very soon. We should study for life, not for a specific exam. Instead of memorising facts, it is vital to learn how to find information, critically assess it and then put it to use. Learning how to solve scientific problems is the most important thing. This will be useful to you throughout your life.
|* Estonia needs science, and it is very nice that the University of Tartu has offered scientific education. I do not want to ask anything, just offer my opinion and wish you luck. I hope there will be more opportunities like people not connected to informatics being allowed to study informatics. I would like to thank the UT professors of mathematics and computer studies. A very interesting and serious course, well done!|
|Volli Kalm: Very nice to hear it, especially for Professor Eno Tõnisson and his team at the Institute of Computer Sciences. We want to continue in the same manner, which includes using MOOCs directed towards popularising science and introducing science to people outside the university, as requested by the UT Youth Academy and created by the faculties.|