International assessment committee: the University of Tartu faces the task of uniting its roles as the Estonian national university and an internationally strong research university
The Estonian Higher Education Quality Agency (EKKA) conducted the first institutional accreditation at the University of Tartu which assessed the university’s activity, goals and development plan. Based on the report of the assessment committee, the EKKA Quality Assessment Council decided on 18 June to accredit the University of Tartu for seven years and awarded the university with the EKKA quality label.
“The committee recommended the university to give more consideration to a certain tension between the university’s mission as the national university which ensures the continuity of Estonian intellectuals and language and culture and its vision to be a rapidly developing international research university. The second role may require more of a focused approach to internationally significant areas. Meanwhile, the university needs to ensure the obligations of the national university deriving from the law. Finding a reasonable and effective balance between these roles in a globalising world is definitely one of the most important challenges for the University of Tartu in the coming years,“ said the director of the EKKA Heli Mattisen.
The committee assessed that the University of Tartu has efficient student support systems, the students are involved in the university’s governance and the increasingly higher level of students is in accordance with the university’s goal to train the country's leading intellectuals.
“The university should make the monitoring of students’ academic progress consistent so that both students at risk of failure and those performing exceptionally well can be identified and supported,” noted Heli Mattisen. “For a long time, all Estonian universities have been troubled by the low efficiency in doctoral studies and it has been outlined as a problem for the University of Tartu as well. The committee believes it is essential that the university implement a systematic, consistent and fair system of professional review of the lecturers in the coming years. “
In some areas the university’s international competitiveness and cooperation have increased significantly and so has research funding. The university has an effective research support system, effective support for project funding and management is available for all academic staff and it brings together the needs of the enterprises with the competence of the academic staff. Foreign experts highlighted the university’s wise financial management and effective use of European Union funding.
The experts assessed that the University of Tartu benefits the society—the university houses within its structure several units that are important nationally and might not exist without university support— for example, the regional colleges, the library and museums, the Botanic Garden etc.
The members of the assessment committee: Lauritz B Holm–Nielsen, the President of Euroscience, Vice-President of EUA and former Rector of Aarhus University, Dr Gillian Mary King, former deputy of the United Kingdom Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Barbara A. Sawrey, dean of the University of California, Tõnu Pekk, Estonian entrepreneur and the CEO of SAGA Family Office, and Kert Pütsepp, student at the University of Cambridge, King`s College.
The assessment committee visited the University of Tartu from 20–24 April 2015 and got acquainted with the university’s normative documents, data, information systems and infrastructure and conducted interviews with the employees, students, alumni and employers of the university.
The Estonian Higher Education Quality Agency (EKKA) is the leading competence centre in Estonia in the field of external evaluation of higher education and vocational education in Estonia. External evaluation provides feedback about the management, function and development activities of higher education and vocational education institutions. EKKA’s mission is to promote quality in the field of education and thereby increase the competitiveness of the Estonian society.
Author: The Estonian Higher Education Quality Agency
Additional information: Heli Mattisen, Director of the EKKA, e-mail: heli.mattisen [ät] ekka.ee, phone: +372 517 8197.