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University of Tartu
Tartu, Estonia


University description (as per official university website)

The University of Tartu is the national university of Estonia. As the national university, UT acts to preserve the culture of the Estonian people. It is a beacon of Estonian research and provision of higher education. The university engages in fundamental and applied research and offers research-based degree programmes, whilst preserving time-honoured academic traditions. It serves Estonian society by offering innovative training, research and development services. UT aspires to be among the best universities in the world, and attaches considerable importance to co-operation and international contacts.

Studies and Students

UT’s ten faculties and five colleges are made up of around 17,400 students, of whom more than 12,000 pursue their studies in a non-distance learning format. Open university-type arrangements involving a reduced number of classroom hours are followed by close to 5200 students. There are a total of over 3000 master’s and approximately 1200 doctoral students. The studies of approximately 60% of UT students are funded from the national budget.

The university has more than 500 international students from almost 50 different countries.
The governing authority of the university student body is the Student Council. Along with various student societies and associations, and sports and music clubs, it helps to preserve academic traditions and create lasting value.

Academic staff

The university’s teaching and development work is based on research. UT is the leading research institution in Estonia and as such must compete on equal footing with research institutions and centres in Europe and elsewhere in the world. To preserve a reputation built over centuries, the university aspires to be among the best in research as well as in training future generations of academics. University researchers publish over 3000 articles and research publications a year. UT’s research units lead approximately 600 research themes and projects annually. The majority of Estonia’s doctoral defences take place at UT.

The university’s best-known research fields are molecular and cell biology, gene technology, immunology, pharmacology, chemistry, biochemistry, laser medicine, materials science, laser spectroscopy, environmental technology, computational linguistics, psychology, semiotics, and a number of others. UT is committed to progressive ideas and continuing innovation. In co-operation with businesses, the university develops new technologies and supports the application of cutting-edge innovation by assisting the creation of spin-off companies and providing support to them.
As of 31 May 2008, the university employs 3517 people, including 153 professors, 188 senior lecturers and more than 700 research fellows.


The university has an extensive network of international co-operation partners. UT is a member of the European University Association and a signatory to the Magna Charta of the universities of the world. The competitiveness of the university’s bachelor, master and doctoral programmes in Estonia and abroad is evidenced by the steadily growing number of international students arriving in Tartu. The university attracts several hundred visiting professors a year, and each year more than 500 UT lecturers take up temporary teaching or research positions at the universities or research institutions of 40 different countries. The university’s co-operation agreements with 37 foreign universities, as well as participation in ERASMUS, ISEP and Socrates enliven student and teacher exchange and facilitate joint research projects. UT is the only Baltic university to have been invited to become a member of the Coimbra Group, an association of internationally renowned research universities.

The university brings its ideas to bear on, and dedicates its work to, integrating the non-Estonian population of East Estonia into the Estonian cultural space. As the national university of Estonia, UT supports the higher education studies of members of Finno-Ugric kindred nations inhabiting the territory of the Russian Federation.

Governance and organisation

The highest decision-making body of the university is the University Council.

The university is managed by the rector, an office that is currently held by Professor Alar Karis. The rector appoints a team forming the rector’s office, which includes the vice rector of academic affairs, the vice rector of research, the university director of administration and the head of finance, who are each responsible for a specific sphere of university work. Day-to-day management matters are dealt with by the University Board, which consists of the vice rectors, faculty deans and a representative of the Student Council. In addition, the university has an advisory board, which is intended to foster links between the public and the university, and is composed of public figures and other widely known and respected individuals.

The university has also established the University of Tartu Foundation. This foundation creates grant funds and endowments, supports research and development projects and provides financial assistance for inviting visiting professors. The Alumni Council provides financial and moral support to the university.


The University of Tartu (initially known as Academia Dorpatensis) was founded in 1632 by the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus, in whose honour the university was subsequently renamed Academia Gustaviana. During the Great Northern War, the university was forced to close its doors, and was only reopened in 1802 as the Kaiserliche Universität zu Dorpat (Imperial University of Tartu). During the 19th century the university made significant contributions to the advancement of learning in the natural sciences, medicine and other disciplines. In 1919, the university was the first of its kind to switch to Estonian as its language of instruction.


The University of Tartu possesses a rich historical heritage of architectural monuments and other buildings. The university uses approximately 150 buildings, of which 30 are situated outside Tartu. The principal buildings of the university form an essential part of the downtown area of Tartu. They are also an important tourist attraction and a heritage complex. 14 of the university’s buildings have been declared national monuments of architecture.


The university’s finances are made up of allocations from the state budget and revenue from other sources (primarily revenue from provision of training, contractual research, research grants, etc.), including revenue from the income earned by various units of the university’s support structure. The university’s total budgetary receipts for 2009 are expected to amount to 1.7 billion Estonian kroons.

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