The University of Tartu in 2032

Signe Ivask, an editor at UT magazine, discusses the future of the University of Tartu with Professor of Media Studies Veronika Kalmus, Professor of Comparative Politics Vello Pettai, and Professor of International Relations Eiki Berg.

Main Building of the University of Tartu
The role of women in society will be significantly greater in 2032, including at the university and its top echelons, says Veronika Kalmus. “The percentage of professors who are women will be up to one-third, compared to the current one-fifth,” she forecasts. “The university will have had at least one female rector by 2032 and it will seem incredible that back around the turn of the millennium, some said in debates that the University of Tartu wasn’t ready for a woman to be rector.”

Kalmus adds that the percentage of female students will level off in the 2020s, because higher education will become so much the norm that young males without a diploma will have no other way of landing a decent job and being successful.

“In 2032, children born today will choose their major and enter university. My son, born in December, will be one of them,” says Kalmus. “Internationalisation will no longer be a development objective at the University of Tartu, as the process will have seen unprecedented acceleration in the 2020s due to the external environment, and about half the students will be foreign nationals.”

At the same time, professor Vello Pettai thinks it will be very hard to set a goal of turning the University of Tartu into an international centre, and even harder to achieve it. Pettai sees difficult choices facing the university. It’ll have to manoeuvre between two impulses: as a leading university, we should lead by example and come up with new directions, but we also have to be a bastion of national values.

“One vision could be that every university has its own niche and offers its instruction to the whole world, and students do coursework through MOOCs and Moodles.”

Scholars all agree: the university has to become more international but also maintain national values.

Professor Eiki Berg says that more attention will be devoted to English as a language of research. “What would happen if the smaller specialities we have today in Estonia no longer exist in 2032?” Berg says that bachelor’s programmes will still be taught in Estonian, but master’s degree programmes will be in English – “other than history, Estonian, theology, and some portion of the liberal arts and educational sciences,” Berg says.

Kalmus predicts that in 2032 the university will have to operate in a world that has seen a number of serious cyber attacks by terrorist and anarchist groups. “Many countries are in the throes of e-euphoria and extol the virtues of the digital age, and Estonia is one of them. But this will have been replaced by rational planning and critical self-analysis. Changes will also have taken place at the University of Tartu; for example, maximum use will be made of online learning, and it will exist in formats as hard to imagine as tablet computers and smartphones were in the mid-1990s,” Kalmus says.

By that time, the generations that had trouble adapting to digital technology in the 2010s will have left the job market. The user-friendliness of technology and “appification” have made younger generations so complacent that their computer literacy – and overall literacy – is inferior to their elders who were familiar with menus and dialogue boxes, says professor Kalmus.

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