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Doctoral education reform project approved by the Estonian Government

Career text with young woman on a blue background
In January we wrote about the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research´s plan to reform the doctoral studies. Now, the Government has approved and sent to Riigikogu a project to change the Study Allowance and Student Loan Act and the Higher Education Act, creating a framework for doctoral education reform. The goal of the project is to increase the attractiveness of doctoral education, make the educational process more effective and ensure an influx of scientists in the academic sector and Estonian society in general.

The important aspects of this reform will be, according to Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna: “Doctoral students are guaranteed the position of junior scientist in a university or in a scientific or development institution. The doctoral grant is replaced with a salary, and social protections are also expanded, such as paid annual leave and sick leave. When coming up with the changes, we wanted to diversify the options for completing a doctoral degree and make sure that said options take into consideration doctoral students’ backgrounds.”

Besides the possibilty to have a contract only with the university, the doctoral students can also have a contract with another private company or public sector institution related to the field of their doctoral research. A doctoral degree completed in cooperation with partners outside the university is called a transfer of knowledge doctoral degree. In such a case, the doctoral research is conducted keeping in mind the needs of the company or the institution, and the doctoral student will continue working in the partner company or institution. The main goal of a transfer of knowledge doctoral degree is to prepare PhD specialists for the job market outside of academia and promote cooperation between universities and private companies.

Not signing a contract to conduct research remains an option for doctoral students. It is intended for those who pursue a doctoral degree out of their personal interest and for personal growth. They complete their doctoral degree alongside their main job and their doctoral research does not fit into a doctoral degree based on a university-company partnership or a young scientist programme or the doctoral student does not wish to sign such contract. In such a case, the doctoral candidate has the status of a university student, completing the curriculum based on an individual plan, but does not qualify for a doctoral student support grant.

According to the current plan, the changes will come into effect on 1 September 2022.

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