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The Minister of Education and Research Jevgeni Ossinovski replied to the interpellation concerning the needs-based study allowance (No 395), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Yana Toom, Ester Tuiksoo, Viktor Vassiljev, Urbo Vaarmann, Eldar Efendijev, Tarmo Tamm, Vladimir Velman and Valeri Korb on 19 March. 

In Ossinovski’s words, the new Government has agreed and also written into the Government’s action plan that the implementation of the needs-based study allowances system will be analysed on the basis of the existing experience, and they are ready to make amendments in the Act if necessary. 

The interpellators referred to the fact that many students have been deprived of the needs-based allowance because, upon application for the allowance, the family and not the jointly managing household, is taken as the basis. At the same time, many cases are known where one of the biological parents does not support his or her child and has never done so. The interpellators wished to know what was going to be done with a view to increasing the flexibility of the system and ensuring a fairer needs-based study allowance. 

According to Ossinovski’s explanations, the Ministry of Education and Research has estimated that nearly one-third of the students who have begun studies and who have a family with a permanently low income can apply for the needs-based study allowance. According to the estimation of the ministry, circa 3000 students can receive the allowance in the application round of the spring semester. By the present moment, more than 2000 students have received the allowance. At the same time, slightly less than one-third of the students who might receive this allowance at once have not yet submitted an application. With the implementation of the needs-based study allowance, the amount allocated for study allowances from the state budget had doubled. “So, on the whole, an opportunity to focus on their studies has been created for all able young people. The access to higher education for young people from families with permanently low income is supported by the payment of the needs-based study allowance,” Ossinovski said. He admitted the existence of the problem in the granting of study allowances, as to implementation of the principle of an arbitrary family. A pro-argument for the current system is certainly its simplicity in terms of administration. It allows for a clear understanding of the number of applicants and for effective management of the system. Ossinovski agreed, however, with the interpellators in that the system could be more flexible. 

The interpellators wished to know if students with a family of low actual income have the possibility to apply for an allowance from the special allowance fund of the educational institution. 

According to Ossinovski’s explanations, every year, the Ministry of Education and Research allocates funds to educational institutions for payment of the study allowance, and up to 50% of the resources of the basic allowance fund may be entered into the special allowance fund. He admitted that that was the case only with the old study allowances system which is applied until the end of the academic year 2015/2016. The application for an allowance from this fund does not extend to students who were matriculated as of the academic year 2013/2014, that is, according to the new system, and to whom the new needs-based study allowances system applies. “At present, in the event of a serious need, educational institutions can support their students from the amounts allocated within the framework of activity support, or from own funds, and universities have generally done so, too, according to their capacities,” the Minister explained. He added that different options for organising the system are being considered at the moment, and they are going to come up with their concept in this issue in the near future. 

Ossinovski also replied to the interpellation concerning the situation after the closing down of Vana-Antsla Secondary Vocational School (No 394). 

During the open microphone, Mihhail Stalnuhhin, Vladimir Velman, Priit Sibul and Viktor Vassiljev took the floor. 

The Riigikogu Press Service