Speech by Rector Toomas Asser at the opening of the academic year 2022/2023.
Welcome to the University of Tartu. May the upcoming academic year bring much success to all of you: new students and those who have been here for longer, doctoral students, academic staff, the whole university family!
To the first-year students among you, I promise that the upcoming days might make you feel that you do not understand things which are being tackled in the lecture halls. But be patient – the complicated explanations of your lecturers will soon have a deeper meaning, new knowledge will make you curious to do the research yourself, and you will understand how useful the courses are. Enjoy this feeling! I know and hope that in addition to the first feelings of fear and awe, you will soon realise how interesting your chosen path is and that you are in the right place. Welcome again!
The most important recommendation I can give you – enjoy your university years! Do not let yourself drown in studies only, but try to find out everything that the university city Tartu has to offer. Discover its leisure activities and academic organisations. Take a good look around you. In this crowd, there are many whom you might not know yet but who can become a part of your safety network for a lifetime. Start creating this network already today.
As rector, I would like to emphasise that we share the university with you, students. It also means that the management of the university can only be done together. I am very happy to see our current student representatives putting effort to achieve the best future for the university and higher education. These are also the people who have stood up for providing mental support for the students and setting up student leisure rooms in the study buildings as well as helped out with many other things aimed at students. In addition to the Student Union, there are many other possibilities to be part of university life. Take part in planning the life and work at your institute, make your voice heard in how the university can become greener and more comfortable, and participate in public debates. This way, you will gain new skills and also give your input to the benefit of the university and Estonia.
Voice your opinions and be demanding. To yourself, to the university, as well as to the Estonian state. Never aim for the minimum. But also, keep in mind that society is also demanding to you. Your future employers, cooperation partners, students, patients, colleagues… they all expect you to be very good specialists after you graduate from the university.
You will hopefully invest at least five years of your life in university studies. Not only to provide a good life for yourself but also for a smart and healthy society. This is a big and expensive investment. Thus, also demand that your co-financer, the Estonian government, contribute to that process so that you can dedicate yourself to your studies. If you look at the main building behind me, we could figuratively say that although we stand before six pillars, the university has money for only four of them. One third of funding is missing. We lack the money we need for providing a good-quality education and supporting our students financially. Make your voice heard and speak along about what the Estonian government and all the ruling parties can do to support you so that you would get high-quality higher education and that your today’s enthusiasm to study and make the world a better place would last even after you get your first rental bill. Today, the University of Tartu can welcome 4,530 new students. All in all, there are 15,210 students at the University of Tartu across all levels of study. Think about how loud and powerful your joined voices could be if you stand up for this together.
These are very serious subjects on this festive day. But I do believe that you have come to the university to enjoy the moments when you see that you have made a difference, whether by changing yourself or the world around you.
I do have one other favour to ask from you. There are many new students and colleagues among us who, in their hearts, would rather be at home in Ukraine. We must all be attentive and supportive so that Estonia, Tartu and the University of Tartu would be welcoming and safe for the Ukrainians who have come here. Slava Ukraini! Vivat academia!