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The Minister of Education and Research Jaak Aaviksoo replied to the interpellation concerning the needs-based study allowance (No 376), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Yana Toom, Viktor Vassiljev, Urbo Vaarmann, Eldar Efendijev, Enn Eesmaa, Peeter Võsa, Lauri Laasi, Vladimir Velman, Valeri Korb, Mailis Reps and Ester Tuiksoo on 13 January.

The interpellators asked about the functioning of the “buffer” granted to universities for paying the needs-based study allowance to students whose economic situation has changed in a short time. The interpellators also enquired about the possibilities of increasing the flexibility of the system and better informing students upon application for the needs-based study allowance.

Aaviksoo explained that, with the amendment of the Universities Act, free higher education had been introduced and access to high-quality higher education without tuition fee had been granted to more than 4000 additional young people. Besides, for the first time, a needs-based study allowance which was not intended as a salary to students had been provided. It is intended for students for whom it would otherwise be complicated to begin higher education studies or whose other sources of income would not allow a normal standard of living and subsistence.

Aaviksoo added that the deterioration of the economic situation of a family cannot be solved with the instrument of study allowances; other social benefits and services schemes administered by the local government have to be used for that.

“The needs-based study allowance is an allowance to the family, based on the incomes of the previous year which can be seen in registers. On that basis we have now distributed this study allowance for one semester already,” Aaviksoo said.

Aaviksoo explained that the determination of a household entails a lot of costly bureaucracy. “Considering our practice of the registration of the place of residence of persons, this system is easy to manipulate,” Aaviksoo said. He added that therefore the income of the family of a student is analysed on the basis of the family and not the household.

Every year, the Ministry of Education and Research has allocated funds to educational institutions for payment of the basic and additional study allowance. The amount of the allowance is agreed upon in the agreement concluded between the Ministry of Education and Research and the educational institution, and the amount is derived from the number of students studying full-time in the educational institution.

As the main problem, Aaviksoo pointed out that, for various reasons, many students have either given up on the completion of the application or have never submitted the application. In Aaviksoo’s words, a campaign to inform about the needs-based study allowance has been launched, with a cost of roughly 5000 euro.

Aaviksoo also replied to the interpellation concerning the problems with special schools (No 380).

During the open microphone, Helmen Kütt, Mihhail Stalnuhhin and Valeri Korb took the floor.

The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

The Riigikogu Press Service