UTSU in November

“Luck” sneaks in through the door that you wouldn’t expect it to

The Council of the School of Law recently decided to change the master’s block mode studies from full-time to part-time. This change will also bring with it some circumstances that have gotten both the students of the School of Law and the Student Union into a pre-battle state.

The decision to make the studies part-time means establishing a tuition fee. The signatures of 321 students of the School of Law were not taken into account when this decision was accepted. The university has expressed a wish to change the studies completely into paid studies and although the discussions are ongoing and the Student Union has strongly expressed opposition to it, this event points to the beginning of a process.

The Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Aune Valk explained in an opinion story that was published in Eesti Päevaleht on the 29th of November, that the 80 million euros that are missing in higher education aren’t to be expected from the government in the near future and thus the government is encouraging to include private funding. Pointing to the increased number of enrolled students, especially at the master’s level, Valk justified the University of Tartu’s decision to find other options instead of reducing the scope and quality of the studies. “With this we are moving closer to the idea of the higher education reform, that free studies are meant for those who dedicate themselves to their studies 100%,” she explained, probably believing that living doesn’t require any money and that students who study full-time don’t work. You can read the pay-walled opinion article here.

Comparing the reduction in study places and changing them into paid study places, the chairperson of the student union Karl Lembit Laane has previously said that the reasons for creating structural obstacles may be different, but the result is the same – access to higher education will worsen. “This automatically means that we will place an even bigger burden on the student, who might already not be able to carry it,” Laane enlightened the situation from the students’ perspective. In last week’s response to Valk’s opinion article, Laane wrote: “Full-time (free) block-mode studies are one of the windows through which the opportunity to study in the university has also been given to those who couldn’t manage without working.”

Looking at the turn of these events, we can assume that in the near future, with the example of the School of Law, there will be plans to change quite some other curricula into paid studies, which is why the students should take care to keep an eye on the changes taking place in their institutes.

100 years of organized representing of students

As one of the book’s authors Toivo Kikkas said, the university’s history has been written about enough, but not so much about the representation of students. We are glad to see that gap filled and that a beautiful centennial book “Hundred years of student representation in the University of Tartu” has found its home on UTSU’s shelf.

The presentation of the book took place on 30 November. See more on UTSU100 page.

You can also watch Karl Lembit Laane’s National University’s 101st anniversary greetings video address.

MAIN DOINGS

Release from the tuition fees in case of a partial or complete incapacity to work

The Student Union is rejoicing over a work victory – the students who have partially or completely lost their capacity to work will be exempted from paying their tuition fees.

The vote at the last Senate meeting, on the 27th of November, brought yet another victory to the student union. The proposal to exempt the students with a partial or complete incapacity to work from paying their tuition fees was approved. The exemption applies on the basis of the student’s application and to the students who have either completely or partially lost their capacity to work and who are studying at an Estonian curriculum full-time. The change will enter into force on the 31th of August 2021.

The Student Union first made this proposal in September, but it was rejected in order to assess the costliness of such a measure.

The general meeting of the Federation of Estonian Student Unions

At the general meeting of the Federation of Estonian Student Unions a new development plan and next year’s budget were adopted, the statutes, rules of procedure and rules of the budget were changed and the board’s, council’s and monitoring committee’s reports were presented. At the general meeting, UTSU’s representatives were the most active in speaking and making proposals.

The participants had multiple trainings, played a quiz and celebrated the federation’s 29th birthday. In addition, the student body of the Tartu Health Care College was accepted as a new member of the Federation of Estonian Student Unions. Now the student bodies of 13 institutions of tertiary education are represented in the federation through their Student Unions. 

On the 21th-22nd of November the general meeting of the Federation of Estonian Student Unions was held, which takes place twice a year. The University of Tartu’s student body was represented at the general meeting by Allan Aksiim, Ismail Mirzojev, Rainer Urmas Maine, Kertu Süld, Birgit Tarien, Trine Tamm and Karl Lembit Laane.

The Student Parliament’s meeting

On the agenda for the Student Parliament’s meeting on the 12th of November, were the budget for next year, the change in the workload for the board members and the reform of the founding documents.

With the reform of the founding documents, one of the UTSU board members was appointed as a member of the general meeting of the Federation of Estonian Student Unions as part of their work duties. We also implemented the change that the elections for the UTSU board will be held periodically over two years in the spring, in order to use the summer and the time away from studies to have a better transfer of the positions and to get the new board more familiar with the job.

We also specified various processes, like conducting an e-vote without convening a Student Parliament’s meeting.

U4 & ENLIGHT

November was also spent in a very international manner.

The University of Tartu is part of the U4 Society network, which has now joined 4 more universities and in the framework of the European Universities project, the ENLIGHT consortium was formed. It consists of nine European universities – Gent, Göttingen, Tartu, Basque Country, Bordeaux, Galway, Groningen, Uppsala and Bratislava – and from all the students of these universities an enormous student network is formed as well. 

U4 was facing a difficult decision, as there aren’t enough resources to keep two networks active. At their yearly conference, that took place on the 17th of November, they decided that the network would still remain, but the activities for the most part will be transferred over to the ENLIGHT network and the students, including our representative and vice-chairperson Trine, held a firm stance that the high-level training of leaders on the U4 level would remain. The students believe and the rectors agreed that training their leaders has to be a priority and that the programme developed by today is strong and sustainable. 

A lot of exciting things lie ahead and the kickoff for the ENLIGHT project is planned to take place in the first week of March. If there are any representatives among us who would already today want to contribute more on an international level, feel free to contact Trine. There are plenty of interesting offers!

Continuing talks with the counselling centre

The November meetings with the UT counselling centre were focused on extra needs students, employees and guests and the accessibility of the buildings for these groups. We first met with the counselling centre and the estates office in order to discuss the current situation of the topic, what kind of accessibility information system should be developed and how to proceed with the buildings and their mapping. The estates office directed us and the counselling centre to the students of the institute of computer sciences, who had developed an app within their studies, that maps the UT buildings and the routes between them. The counselling centre made a proposal to integrate the information related to accessibility to the existing app.

Developments in the mapping of study and rest areas

In last month’s overview of activities, we showed pictures of the various study buildings’ existing study and rest areas and of different extra opportunities.  In November, we already reached making agreements.  There are ongoing negotiations with both the administrators of the study buildings and the estates office. The biggest attention this month was given to the Vanemuise 46 building, where we found options for outdoors study and rest areas in the courtyard. 

We’d like to point out that we are glad that the university’s rector recognised the student union at the UTSU book launch for bringing attention to the use of rooms.

STUDENT REPRESENTATIVES

International students’ work group

The November meeting of the work group was a natural continuation to the previous event, where we reached a collective understanding, that in order to make changes we need to combine forces. So that is how the representatives of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), International Student Ambassadors (ISA) and UTSU met on the last Friday of the month. We realised that as organisations, each one of us has its own face and actions, but the goal – to make sure that the international students here are all good – is the same! We also found that even though it can sometimes be a bit tricky to get Estonians and international students to go to the same events, through bigger collaboration this kind of integration could still work out well. The networking has started and now all we can do is wait for the time, where we can all be together again.

PhD students’ work group

The matters related to the future of the PhD students are in many parts still open – there’s plenty of uncertainty both at the state’s and the university’s level. Although the fate of the processes are not set in stone yet, now is exactly the right time to speak up and join the conversation, which is what the PhD students who gathered at the work group meeting did. Within the university the biggest trend is to concentrate the PhD curricula under unified faculty centres for doctoral studies, which could increase communication and cohesion and the quality of the academic and social support that is being offered. In the near future everybody who is interested, can give feedback to the doctoral study rules. You can get acquainted with the reform plans here.

Study quality work group

E-learning is still offering plenty of challenges, but in November we focused on something good for a change – the best of the best people and practices.

At the beginning of the month we discussed what should be the future of the good learning practices that UTSU composed a few years ago, and we found that maybe the students would benefit most from guidelines that concentrate their rights and obligations, so that also provides practical advice on how to get by in the academic world.

At the second half of the month we discussed how to make the process of electing the best teaching staff of the year more efficient. There are so many good people around us, and we want to give more people the chance to recognise and to be recognised. The best teaching staff of the year will be recognised pretty soon, so it is worth it to keep an eye on the University of Tartu information channels.

TÜÜE presents: EscapeTartu

This month the development work group organised an integration event at the EscapeTartu escape rooms. A few dozens of representatives attended and they were divided into teams of four, which were then sent off to rooms with different assignments. To escape each room the teams had one hour and 15 minutes. The fastest were the people who broke out of the Bank Heist room: Taavo Tähtjärv, Anton Žatkin, Annabel Raudsepp and Kärt Soieva, who broke all the codes with 25 minutes to spare. Well done!

FOR STUDENTS

Development fund

The development fund offers the students a great opportunity to better their study or rest environment. Sometimes it would be nice to make a cup of tea, but there is no tea kettle… Sometimes you wish that the students’ room would have more power outlets or extension cords, so that there would be enough power for everybody. Does this sound familiar? Or do you have an even more awesome idea that has been sitting in the back of your mind for some time? 

Feel free to contact UTSU, as until the end of this year, there is about 100 euros per project available for every study building. Find out more on how to get your share of the development fund!

What has already been done? The students from the institute of Estonian and general linguistics got the ball rolling and received support to acquire a microwave.

LEISURE

Among Us

Also this month the Student Union office met virtually to play a nice game of “Among Us”. The game was introduced to us by the development advisor Kristin and it is probably one of her favourites! Anyone who has ever played Mafia or Werewolf can see that it’s basically the same thing, but the participants are small colourful characters in a spaceship. Some of them are hardworking and try to keep the spaceship in good working order, but the others are saboteurs, who pretend to have a function, while they are actually trying their best to make the crew fail the mission. And for them, sometimes it is necessary to eliminate some crew members as well… And the first group has to try and identify these mad men!