Tartu University News

Book project on Japanese-Estonian relations achieves unexpected success

5 days 5 hours ago

Japanese and Estonian historians plan to write a book about the relations between Japan and Estonia throughout history. The joint book project sought funding via the Japanese crowdfunding platform Academist, where the target amount was raised in just three days.

Masunaga Shingo (Turku University) and Ene Selart (University of Tartu) plan to write a book about the Japanese-Estonian relations throughout history. The book plans to cover the relations between the two nations from the earliest contacts to the present day: from the naval circumnavigation of the globe by the Baltic German admiral and explorer A. J. von Krusenstern in 1803–1806, which also reached Japan, to the visit of the Estonian President to the enthronement ceremony of His Majesty the Emperor Naruhito last year.

To support the writing and publishing of the book, the authors started a crowdfunding project at the Japanese website Academist (https://academist-cf.com), which specialises in raising funds for scientific research and publishing. We are delighted to announce that with the kind help of Japanese supporters, the target amount was gathered already within the first three days of the campaign. Those interested can follow the book project and read interesting facts about the mutual history of Japan and Estonia on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ESTJPNproject).

The authors would like to express their deepest gratitude and respect for all the well-wishers and supporters. The project is also supported by the University of Tartu Asia Centre, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Japan in Estonia. 

More information:
Heidi Maiberg; Head of Communication
University of Tartu Asia Centre

Category: Research
Heidi Maiberg (heidimai)

University of Tartu scientists are developing bioplastics to replace fossil-based materials

1 week 1 day ago

Scientists at the University of Tartu have started work on an international project aiming to develop a novel technology to produce eco-friendly plastics. Finding an alternative to oil-based plastics is one of the greatest challenges for scientists in the 21st century.

Widely used plastics are largely based on fossil fuels. This has caused significant environmental pollution and contributed to climate change. Furthermore, the recycling of plastic packaging is complicated as most packages are made from a mixture of different types of polymers. This crucial problem provides ample material for research to scientists all over the world.

The BioStyrene project, led by the University of Tartu, strives to work out options to replace the fossil-based styrene, which is widely used as a source material for plastics, by materials derived from wood biomass. As one solution, a part of the fossil styrene is replaced with wood-based lignin, which currently does not have many uses. The research also opens up new prospects for the timber industry, finding more use for lower-quality material or the residual product, lignin.

“Using wood for the production of novel materials considerably reduces the industry’s dependence on fossil-based plastics. For this reason, we have set the goal to find a solution that is also applicable in large-scale industry. To ensure comprehensive expertise, we have involved not only international researchers but also three private enterprises in the project,” said Lauri Vares, Senior Research Fellow in Organic Chemistry at the Institute of Technology, University of Tartu. “We have also reached the first important results – we have established that in paints, styrene can be successfully replaced by an alternative produced from biomass. Furthemore, such bio-paints, could even have better properties than the currently used paints,” Vares added.

The BioStyrene project (ER30) is co-financed by the Estonia–Russia cross-border cooperation programme 2014–2020. Other participants in the project led by the Institute of Technology of the University of Tartu are St Petersburg State Forest Technical University, and the enterprises Vapa, Plastpolymer (Russia) and TBD Biodiscovery (Estonia). The total cost of the project is €586,987, incl. funding from the Estonia–Russia cross-border cooperation programme, €437,617.

The Estonia–Russia cross-border cooperation programme 2014–2020 aims to foster cross-border cooperation between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation to promote socio-economic development in the regions on both sides of the border. The programme website can be found at www.estoniarussia.eu.

Further information: Lauri Vares, Senior Research Fellow in Organic Chemistry, Institute of Technology, University of Tartu, 737 4808, lauri.vares [ät] ut.ee

BioStryne grant no ER30

The Project is co-financed by the Estonia-Russia CBC Programme 2014-2020

Implemented by the “Lead Beneficiary/Beneficiary”

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: ResearchPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

The Starter programme strengthens the startup mindset

1 week 3 days ago

We all have ideas how one or another situation could be improved. Often we do not think beyond the idea or even if we do, we immediately run into obstacles. But there are always people who have an irresistible desire to find out whether the idea creates value for many and is also a business opportunity. They differ from dreamers in their determination and willingness to risk, and confidence in their success. All these qualities combined form the startup mindset, which is discussed below by Maret Ahonen, Manager of the UT Startup Lab and leader of Starter Tartu programme.

Although the emergency situation slowed down our usual activities, it also immediately triggered new approaches in both business and education. At times, there was no time to think about alternatives, as the speed of offering new solutions became important. A number of new services and products appeared on the market. Good examples of quick response were also Hack the Crisis and The Global Hack, led by Garage48. These hackathons resulted in a number of prototypes and technological solutions for coping with the new reality. While not all solutions may prove sustainable, the practical experience and the lessons learned are still valuable.

All who joined the Starter Tartu programme this spring got a unique learning experience. The participants had just been inspired by each other’s ideas and set up their teams, when the emergency situation was announced. The emergency situation struck the teams while they were conducting interviews and surveys with potential customers and trying to formulate their initial value proposition. The university switched to distance learning and many foreign students returned to their home countries. For some teams, it meant communicating in different time zones.

The new team leaders learned amazingly fast to keep their teams stick to the goal, however vague, through online communication. They had to get to know their team members and deal with differences of opinion. At the same time, they had their everyday studies, which meant that the teams often worked on weekends, in the evenings and sometimes at night. This was a great challenge, but belief in the business opportunity of their idea and the desire to follow a path that no one had taken before made the teams work.

I think that the belief in success and the enthusiasm to test out your idea is an expression of the mindset characteristic to creators of high-flying business ideas. And this spring, it stood out particularly clearly. Even if some participants felt a slight decrease in motivation, there was no confusion. The teams continued to test their ideas with extraordinary enthusiasm. In most cases, isolation was perceived as a challenge to strengthen communication between team members in validating their idea. In the limited external environment, teams quickly understood what they can do and what they cannot. Mentors’ support was crucial at this point and helped the teams to find focus in the critical situation. In addition to the Starter thematic webinars, the participants had free access to global expertise, and they actively made use of this opportunity.

Within a few months, each member of the Starter programme experienced in their own way the magic and the pain of starting a business. In addition, they gained a lot of contacts and confidence, as well as the courage to act quickly, regardless of the situation and the vagueness of the idea. It is pleasant that according to the participants’ feedback, the gained experience of learning and success were very important for them. The bright eyes of the students are the best feedback for the Startup Lab of the University of Tartu as the leader of the programme. Also the participants’ words that now they know how the startup world works and if they fail with implementing one idea, they will have the courage to start work on another.

Courage to act and willingness to take risks
In my opinion, the startup mindset is expressed, besides curiosity, in the courage to act and not wait for the better times. The courage to start realising the dream of a product or service that does not yet exist requires the willingness to deal with setbacks and vulnerability. Vulnerability is not a manifestation of weakness, but rather showing one's real face and taking off the mask of a superhero. The courage to act, take risks and be who you really are will be useful in every situation, even if the university degree does not immediately secure the job of your dreams. Not everyone is a risk-taker by nature and wants to work under pressure, but every organisation welcomes warm and genuine people who can come up with innovative ideas and solutions and take action to implement them.

Before entering work life, it is worth experiencing to what extent you can apply the startup mindset and actually do something in cooperation with others, during your university studies already. In the Starter programme, participants learn to act:

  • in a situation of uncertainty, which is characteristic of almost every startup business who is still looking for its business model;
  • in a turnaround situation; for example, if in the course of product development it turns out that no one but the author of the idea needs the planned product, and it is reasonable to quickly work out a new idea;
  • in a team of people with different skills and knowledge, where you have to respect different opinions and communicate with different personalities.

The Starter programme starts again in the autumn. You are welcome to join the programme in Tartu, Tallinn, Narva and Pärnu. The opening events take place:
in Tartu on 17 September,
in Tallinn on 18 September,
in Pärnu on 23 September, and
in Narva on 25 September.

Take note of ideas and opportunities during the summer, and come and see in the autumn how to get from idea to solution!

Read more on www.starteridea.ee and www.startuplab.ut.ee.

Category: Entrepreneurship
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Human mobility researchers gather at virtual conference organised by the University of Tartu

1 week 4 days ago

The 7th mobility research conference Mobile Tartu will be held today on 30 June, bringing together leading human mobility researchers from around the world. More than 240 participants from 48 countries have registered already. This year’s event is a virtual conference, and participation is free.

The need to analyse people’s location and mobility is very important in today’s society. This was the case before the coronavirus outbreak when people travelled a lot, and this is the case in the situation of limited mobility. There are increasingly more data sources that help analyse people’s everyday spatial location.

The conference Mobile Tartu 2020, organised by the Mobility Lab and the Institute of Computer Science of the University of Tartu, focuses on the theoretical and methodological aspects of the use of various mobility data (for example, mobile positioning and social media data), and the application of these data in statistics, in smart city and transportation development, and human mobility research.

According to Siiri Silm, Senior Research Fellow in Human Geography at the University of Tartu and the main organiser of the conference, human mobility analysis is useful for many fields of research, from the currently topical modelling of virus spread and research on changes in mobility habits, to smarter planning of cities and the whole society, and compiling more up-to-date statistics. “People are increasingly mobile, although the opportunities for movement were reduced for some time because of restrictions imposed due to the virus and the emergency situation. There are many fields that need the latest mobility information, and this is where new data collection methods, such as mobile positioning, smartphone-based GPS tracking and geo-tagged social media data, can be useful. In order to use the data and actually say something about what is going on in society, we have to do much preliminary work and develop the methodology,” Silm explained.

The conference focuses on different stages of mobility research. The keynote speakers, Professor Georg Gartner of the Vienna University of Technology, and Professor Haosheng Huang of Ghent University discuss the methodological aspects of using location-based data, Professor Rob Kitchin of Maynooth University speaks about compiling official statistics (incl. in the context of COVID-19), and Professor Esteban Moro of the Carlos III University of Madrid, about inequality in cities. Separate sessions deal with the use of big data for official statistics and for developing mobility opportunities and transportation.

The conference offers an excellent opportunity to get an overview of mobility research and developments in mobility data in the world, and meet the leading scientists of this field. The initiator of the Mobile Tartu conferences was Rein Ahas, Professor of Human Geography, who also laid the foundation for big-data-based mobility research at the University of Tartu and for a special community of mobility researchers.

The conference is organised with the support of the Doctoral School of Earth Sciences and Ecology, financed by the EU European Regional Development Fund (University of Tartu’s ASTRA project PER ASPERA). The Network on European Communications and Transport Activity Research (NECTAR) and the Jean Monnet Network on “Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility: EU and Australasian Innovations” (CCAMEU) participate in organising the sessions dealing with mobility, transportation and the smart city.The session “Big data for official statistics" is supported by the United Nations Big Data Global Working Group, the University of Tartu’s spin-off Positium, and the Bank of Estonia.

Further information: Siiri Silm, Senior Research Fellow in Human Geography, University of Tartu, +372 521 1646, siiri.silm [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: ResearchPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

University of Tartu awarded Badge of Distinction and letter of appreciation to Professor Irja Lutsar

3 weeks ago

Today, on 19 June, Rector Toomas Asser handed over the Badge of Distinction and letter of appreciation of the University of Tartu to Professor of Medical Microbiology Irja Lutsar. The university appreciates her commitment to evidence-based counselling of the university and state leaders during the emergency situation.

According to the rector, Irja Lutsar with her constructive and supporting cooperation contributed to ensuring the welfare of the university during the emergency situation, and her advice was of great help to the Rector’s Office during the complex epidemiological situation.

At the end of March, the government emergency committee appointed Professor Lutsar the head of the COVID-19 science council. The science council made recommendations to the government committee to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and collected and analysed expert information.

The Badge of Distinction and the letter of appreciation were handed to Professor Lutsar at the senate meeting today.

The rector also handed over the Skytte Medal to Tanel Kiik, Minister of Social Affairs. The university recognised Kiik for his substantial contribution to promoting evidence-based governance in Estonia and involving the University of Tartu and its researchers in the management of the emergency situation.

Further information: Tõnis Karki, Academic Secretary, University of Tartu, + 372 529 7917, tonis.karki [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: UniversityPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Startup Lab recommends: how to make a good video presentation

3 weeks 2 days ago

For the first time, the top 10 teams to compete in the Kaleidoskoop finals were selected based on video pitches. The teams were given a free hand in producing and editing their three-minute video, and as a result, a remarkable number of interesting and engaging videos were submitted. Since As the presentation of an idea in the form of a video pitch is a necessary skill in both studies and at work, Maret Ahonen, the Leader of Starter programme and Startup Lab at the University of Tartu, gives some useful tips for a convincing video pitch.

Students were very smart and creative in producing their videos and each video could be seen as a work of art. Kaleidoskoop received videos with rapid scene changes and inspiring individuals talking about their product value and market potential. There were also videos with a white background where presenter looked directly into camera and delivered a carefully structured text, with just few visuals.

What all the presentations had in common was the passion for introducing the solution, and the commitment to producing the video – none of the videos was hasty or superficial; each was like a work of art. Of course, it was a competition and all teams wanted their product to attract attention and progress to the finals. Video pitching does not allow giving additional explanations and therefore, you need a convincing presentation and excellent video implementation, as well as a clear storyboard to pitch the product or service.

The following six tips can be useful for creating a great pitch video.

  1. Create interest.
    Three minutes is long enough to give a simple explanation of your product or service, how it works and how you are going to make money with it. The overall aim is to create interest and make the audience want to know more about the product or ask when it is launched.
  2. Tell a story that has a beginning, body and end.
    You may start with a story why the problem you are solving is important to you, talk about your solution, market and money. Do not forget to sum up the main facts and future plans in the development.
  3. Show your prototype.
    Definitely show your product prototype and present strong arguments about its value and novelty.
  4. Keep your arguments balanced.
    In a persuasive pitch, the emotional and rational arguments are balanced. For example, emotional arguments about the problem help listeners to identify with the pain the product will alleviate, but without facts and numbers, they do not build credibility. Moreover, if you appeal to emotion, you will not have enough time to talk about the product, its potential customers or the business model. On the other hand, if a pitch is filled with data and technical specifications, it is boring for listeners and does not give a full picture of your idea.
  5. Memorise the text; do not read from the paper.
    A good presenter does not read out the text but speaks naturally, as if introducing the idea to a person who knows nothing of the product or your team.
  6. Ensure simple and correct technical implementation.
    The technical implementation and graphics of the video should support the message, and not confuse the viewers. Remember that it is not a product commercial but a presentation targeted to the judges or potential investors. The use of appropriate light, minimalistic background and clean graphics is recommended when presenting your prototype.

Excellence requires time. Invest time and patience in the production of your pitch video – you might not get the desired result with the first try. But the latter, perhaps,  is common knowledge to all people with a start-up mindset.

The Kaleidoskoop winning teams Sorter and SoulCare share two useful tips.

Record, analyse, improve.
When you view the video you will immediately see its good aspects and what needs improvement. By changing the text, adding pauses, altering the volume of your voice or video composition, you will eventually obtain a satisfying result. Ask feedback from your teammates and mentors.

Do not rush.
Emotions are high and you may want to talk a lot but that is not the goal. The goal is to deliver the most essential information and do it by heart. Smaller proportion of text allows you to make your presentation more interesting and understandable for the audience. Long sentences, even if you speak slowly, can confuse listeners. The key is to use short and sense-making sentences.

Be open to new ideas and problems that need solutions. Join the Starter programme in autumn to turn ideas into reality. For more information, see startuplab.ut.ee.

Category: Entrepreneurship
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

University of Tartu awards Skytte Medal to Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik

3 weeks 3 days ago

On 29 May, the senate of the University of Tartu made a decision to award the Skytte Medal to the Minister of Social Affairs, Tanel Kiik. The university recognises Kiik for his substantial contribution to promoting evidence-based governance in Estonia and involving the University of Tartu and its researchers in the management of the emergency situation.

The Skytte Medal may be awarded to a statesperson or public figure who, in the opinion of the senate of the University of Tartu, has greatly contributed to the development of the University of Tartu and higher education in Estonia in the recent years.

On 12 March 2020, to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Estonia, the government declared emergency situation that lasted until 18 May. The fact that the outbreak subsided quickly and the worst risk scenarios did not actualise confirm the relevance of the government’s actions.

The University of Tartu was directly involved in the management of the emergency situation, both as a research institution and via university experts who participated in the work of the science council set up by the government. According to the Rector’s Office of the University of Tartu, Tanel Kiik had a significant role in introducing the science-based approach to the government’s activities.

Rector Toomas Asser said that Tanel Kiik has been a determined advocate of relying on the expertise of universities and scientists in decision-making processes. “This has brought about the government members and state officials’ informed and favourable attitude to the principles of science-based governance,” said Asser.

University members have worked out decision-making mechanisms and studies that meet objective criteria and, over a short period, collected science-based data necessary for the government to assess the emergency measures. “The shaping of evidence-based attitudes in governance will create better grounds for managing of potential future crises,” Asser added.

Tanel Kiik was born on 23 January 1989. He is a cum laude graduate from Pärnu College of the University of Tartu in Entrepreneurship and Project Management and is continuing his studies in the master’s programme of European Studies. As a representative of one of the founders of Tartu University Hospital Foundation, he has a major role in directing the development of the university hospital.

Earlier awardees of the Skytte Medal include Ene Ergma, Tõnis Lukas, Rein Taagepera, Dag Hartelius, Andres Lipstok, Jüri Raidla, Andrus Ansip, Lennart Meri, Katarina Brodina, Jacques Faure, Kai Lie, Svend Roed Nielsen, Mihkel Pärnoja, Marju Lauristin, Mart Laar, Katri Raik and Eva Åkesson.

Johan Skytte was a Swedish politician and statesman, under whose initiative Academia Gustaviana was founded in Tartu in 1632.

Further information: Tõnis Karki, Academic Secretary, University of Tartu, +372 529 7917, tonis.karki [ät] ut.ee

Category: UniversityPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

University of Tartu physicists organise a teleconference on teleparallel gravity

3 weeks 4 days ago

On 15–19 June, the University of Tartu Institute of Physics will host an international online conference on teleparallel theories of gravity, where about 100 theoretical physicists and mathematicians from all continents have registered their interest to attend.

In mathematical terms Einstein's 1915 theory of general relativity describes the force of gravity by spacetime curvature. This explains many astronomical phenomena, and has recently received remarkable confirmation by the observations of gravitational waves as well as the black hole image. Yet the unresolved puzzles of dark matter and dark energy invite the researchers to think beyond general relativity. In fact, Einstein himself in his later years played with the alternative geometric notions of torsion and nonmetricity to model gravity. Such theories where the spacetime has no curvature are called "teleparallel" in the mathematical language.

These early ideas did not receive too much attention, as general relativity seemed to work well, but were later picked up and developed further by other researchers. "Currently we know several alternative formulations leading to the equivalent classical dynamics. The question arises whether the geometry of spacetime can be decided by experiments, or whether it is merely a matter of convention," Tomi Koivisto, Senior Research Fellow of Theoretical Physics at the University of Tartu and one of the conference organisers, explained the crux of the problem.

The conference is already the fourth consecutive international scientific meeting dedicated to the geometric foundations of gravity, organised by the University of Tartu Institute of Physics as a part of the activities of the Centre of Excellence The Dark Side of the Universe. "This conference was initially planned as a relatively small and specialised workshop to discuss some recent results and ponder the open problems, but as the travel restrictions forced the event to go online, the participation numbers tripled," said Laur Järv, Senior Research Fellow of Theoretical Physics and Assistant Director of the institute.

The conference talks and discussions are scheduled to take place in a narrow time frame from 12 to 18, to better accommodate participants from the distant time zones of Asia and America. The welcome event is replaced by a TeleQuiz, and instead of the conference excursion, the participants are invited to visit the virtual exhibition hall of the University of Tartu Museum.

On Tuesday, 16 June at 18, Professor Emmanuel Saridakis of the National Technical University of Athens and Hefei University of Technology, and Lead Researcher at the National Observatory of Athens, delivers a popular lecture describing the most recent insights and discoveries from the cosmos, "Black holes and gravitational waves: a new window to look at the universe". The lecture is held in English and is accessible online for free.

More details are available on the conference webpage.

Additional information: Laur Järv, Senior Research Fellow, Assistant Director of Institute of Physics, University of Tartu, +372 5341 6324, laur.jarv [ät] ut.ee

Category: Research
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

University of Tartu makes a gift to graduates

4 weeks 1 day ago

This year, traditional graduation ceremonies bringing together hundreds of people are not held at the University of Tartu, but ceremonies take place online. The university also makes a gift to the graduates: they now have their own tree and a bench in Tartu city centre. Also, the university main building and the sculpture on the Town Hall Square will be decorated.

On Wednesday, a crabapple tree was planted in Pirogov Park in Tartu city centre in honour of this year’s graduates. In front of the mural of von Bock House, there is now a bench where they can rest their feet, think back on their study years and enjoy the view on Pirogov Park and the crabapple tree.

As large gatherings cannot be organised, the tree planting and the opening of the bench took place on 10 June in a small circle. Rector of the University of Tartu Toomas Asser and Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas gave a speech. Karl Gustav Adamsoo, graduate of master’s in Journalism and Communication, spoke on behalf of the graduates.

At the event, Rector of the University of Tartu Toomas Asser said that the memory of the graduation day is one of the most symbolic in a person’s life and it is a pity that this year’s graduates cannot receive their diploma in the assembly hall. “This spring leaves no doubt that we have to keep on educating ourselves to adapt to unexpected circumstances. Highly educated members of the society who continue improving their knowledge are the pillars of the society during difficult times like these,” said the rector in his speech.

In addition to the tree and the bench, the university has decorated its main building in the honour of graduates. On the week of online graduation ceremonies, the Kissing Students’ sculpture on the Town Hall Square will be wearing school caps.

The dedication gift has been wrapped in a video that will be sent to all graduates by email on the week of graduation ceremonies.

The graduation ceremonies of the University of Tartu are held online from 15 to 20 June and can be watched live in UTTV at the announced time.

See the photos of the planting of the crabapple tree and the opening of the bench.

Further information: Piret Normet, UT Head of Marketing, 512 2671, piret.normet [ät] ut.ee

Category: University
Kaja Karo (kajakk)

The University of Tartu Art Museum celebrates the 250th anniversary of Johann Karl Simon Morgenstern’s birth with new exhibition

1 month ago

This year marks 250 years from the birth of Johann Karl Simon Morgenstern, founder of the University of Tartu Art Museum, long-time director of the university library and professor of rhetoric, classical philology, aesthetics, literary and art history. To celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the professor who spent 50 years of his life in Tartu, an exhibition titled “The enchanting art of stone cutting. Morgenstern 250” will be opened at the University of Tartu Art Museum on 11 June.

An art museum was established at the University of Tartu in 1803 at the initiative of Johann Karl Simon Morgenstern to illustrate lectures and develop the aesthetic taste of the students. For this purpose, the museum collected prints, paintings, drawings, ancient Egyptian and eastern artefacts, ancient Greek and Roman coins and ceramics. In terms of volume, out of any other items Morgenstern bought the most of plaster casts of ancient gems, which provide an inexhaustible source of images about the antiquity. The new exhibition takes a closer look at the now forgotten art of stone cutting.

The curator of the exhibition is Jaanika Anderson, the University of Tartu Museum’s Director of Research, it is designed by Mari Kurismaa and the graphic solution was authored by Mari Kaljuste. The exhibition is in Estonian and English and is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. The exhibition is available until 26 March 2021. 

Additional information: Jaanika Anderson, Director of Research of the University of Tartu Museum, +372 5344 7404, jaanika.anderson [ät] ut.ee

Category: UniversityPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

University of Tartu continues steady rise in world rankings

1 month ago

In the reputable QS World University Rankings, published today, the University of Tartu has risen to its highest ever ranking, the 285th position. The result is sixteen places higher than last year. Since 2014, the university has climbed 176 places in the rankings.

Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), an international company specialising in the analysis of higher education institutions around the world, compiles the university rankings using six indicators: academic and employer reputation of the university (40% and 10% of the total, respectively), faculty-to-student ratio (20%), impact of published work, citations per academic staff member (20%), and the ratio of international students and international staff (both 5% of the total).

In the new rankings, the University of Tartu has improved its ranking in four of the six indicators. The university's reputation among academic staff has improved particularly significantly, with a rise of 28 places on this indicator compared to the last year (from the 355th to 327th place). For the third year in a row, the university has improved its result in the ratio of international staff and students – the rise compared to last year was by 6 and by 27 places, respectively. Faculty/student ratio has improved from the 130th to the 122nd position. QS uses this ratio as an indirect indicator of teaching quality.

According to Kristjan Vassil, Vice Rector for Research of the University of Tartu, the university is very satisfied with the stable improvement in the rankings. “The guiding principle of the university’s strategic plan for the next period is to move closer to the world’s 100 best universities. We are currently improving our position in the international rankings by 20 places on average yearly, but we can perceive that each rise is more difficult to achieve than the previous one. Keeping this rate shows that we have achieved excellent international visibility without compromising our role as Estonia’s national university –developing science, higher education and culture in the Estonian language and offering evidence-based support for governance to our state and society,” said Vassil.

For the ranking, QS analysed 1,620 universities and ranked 1,002 of them. The top three universities are the same as in last year: the first is again the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by Stanford University and Harvard University.

The rankings are available on QS World University Rankings website. Information on ranking methodology is available on QS website.

Further information:
Lauri Randveer, Senior Specialist for International Cooperation, University of Tartu, +372 512 9996, lauri.randveer [ät] ut.ee (questions about the ranking and indicators)
Kristjan Vassil, Vice Rector for Research, University of Tartu, +372 5684 4856, kristjan.vassil [ät] ut.ee (general questions)

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: UniversityPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Futulab invites companies to cooperate

1 month ago

Futulab, the university’s platform for mediating internships, invites enterprises and organisations of the public, private and third sectors to propose ideas or problems for project-based internship until 20 August to praktika.ut.ee/projektipraktika.

Project-based internship offers the companies who submit project ideas an opportunity

  • to cooperate with the university,
  • to explore new and alternative solutions and perspectives,
  • to share tasks between students and regular staff to develop the best solutions.

The project idea may be a research project, data collection project, development project, creative or simulation project or, for example, a thematic event. The project-based internship does not require the employer to create a job for the student. Students of different disciplines work together on the project, supported by internship coordinators and, if necessary, a supervisor from the university.

The submitted and finished projects can be viewed on the Futulab website at praktika.ut.ee/projektipraktika. To propose your idea, click “Submit project”, download the application form, fill in the form, and upload the completed form in PDF format. With the help of Futulab, the university will bring together the skills and ideas of participants and, through the cooperation, makes a contribution to the development of society.

Be a part of this cooperation!

Further information: Merily Heinalo, Coordinator, School of Economics and Business Administration, University of Tartu, +372 5649 5333, merily.heinalo [ät] ut.ee

Category: Entrepreneurship
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

First master’s thesis in Quantum Computing defended at the University of Tartu

1 month ago

On Tuesday, 2 June, student of the University of Tartu Institute of Computer Science Mykhailo Nitsenko defended his thesis Quantum Circuit Fusion in the Presence of Quantum Noise on NISQ Devices, the first master’s thesis defended in the field of quantum computing at the University of Tartu.

In his thesis supervised by Dirk Oliver Theis and Dominique Unruh, Mykhailo Nitsenko studied a concept called “circuit fusion”, which proposes to reduce stochastic noise in estimating the expectation values of measurements at the end of quantum computations. But near-term quantum computing devices are also subject to quantum noise (such as decoherence etc.), and circuit fusion aggravates that problem.

Mykhailo Nitsenko ran thousands of experiments on IBM’s cloud quantum computers and used Fourier analysis techniques to quantify and visualise noise and the resulting information loss.

According to Mykhailo Nitsenko, before he enrolled in the University of Tartu he had a strong opinion that quantum computing is an abstract idea that we will never be able to use or even implement. “I just could not imagine how it is even possible to do computations on things without directly observing them. Quantum computing class showed me how it is done, and it became apparent to me that it is something I want to dedicate my academic efforts to,” said Nitsenko.

“If you don’t want to wait for fault-tolerant quantum computers, you may endeavour to use the noisy quantum computing devices that can be built already now. In that case, researching the effects of quantum noise on computations becomes important: these effects must be mitigated,” said Dirk Oliver Theis, Associate Professor of Theoretical Computer Science at the University of Tartu Institute of Computer Science. Theis added that he had expected that the mathematics which Mykhailo Nitsenko implemented in his thesis would help us understand some aspects of quantum noise which can be devastating to quantum computations, rendering the result pure gibberish.

In near-term quantum computing, one tries to run quantum circuits which are just short enough so that the correct output can be somehow reconstructed from the distorted measurement results. But quantum noise affects the results of computations on near-term quantum computers in complicated ways. “In the mathematical approach based on Fourier analysis that Nitsenko implemented, some effects were predictable, such as a decrease in the amplitudes due to decoherence. What was surprising was that the low frequencies of the quantum noise showed distinct patterns. In future research, this might be exploited to mitigate the effect of quantum noise on the computation,” said Theis.

This year, the Information Technology Foundation for Education (HITSA) granted funding to the University of Tartu Institute of Physics to continue and increase the training and research in the field of quantum computing at the university. With the support of this funding, new interdisciplinary courses focusing on quantum programming will be created.

Further information: Dirk Oliver Theis, Associate Professor of Theoretical Computer Science, University of Tartu, Institute of Computer Science, dirk.theis [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: StudiesPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Novel DNA analysis will help to identify food origin and counterfeit food in the future

1 month ago

Estonian scientists are developing a DNA-based method of analysis that enables them to identify food components and specify the origin of a foodstuff.

Bioinformatics specialists at the University of Tartu, in cooperation with the Competence Centre on Health Technologies, have published a research paper in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science in which they indicated the possibility to identify components in thermally processed food using DNA analysis even if the quantities were very small. The scientists analysed thermally processed cookies that contained a small amount of lupin flour. The DNA analysis provided reliable identification of lupin even when the lupin flour content in the dough was just 0.02%.

Food always contains the DNA traces of the plants, animals and microorganisms that have been used or that the food or its raw materials have come into contact with in the production process. DNA analysis can provide valuable information on the content, origin, safety and health benefits of food and will make the identification of counterfeit foods and non-compliances in the ingredients specified on the packaging more reliable in the future. For example, certain cases gained attention last year in which the origin of honey and the authenticity of Estonian honey needed verification. The novel DNA analysis would make it possible to solve such issues.

According to Kairi Raime, the lead author of the article, Research Fellow of Bioinformatics at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and a doctoral student at the University of Tartu, their method is a major step forward in the development of DNA-based methods for food analysis. “Our method helps to identify the actual biological contents and origins of food via DNA information and thus ensures the safety and authenticity of the food,” she explained. Raime is planning to defend her PhD dissertation on the topic.

The DNA may be significantly degraded in processed food. Scientists extracted DNA from the cookies and analysed it using DNA sequencing technology. For the analysis of a single biscuit, approximately 20 million DNA sequences were obtained. Based on these, and by using bioinformatic analysis, it was possible to specify the DNA of the species found in the sample analysed. The main issue was the preparation of the DNA for sequencing, as the DNA is often degraded in food and even minute amounts of DNA molecules must be identified.

Kaarel Krjutškov, Head of the Precision Medicine Laboratory of the Competence Centre on Health Technologies and Senior Research Fellow of Molecular Medicine at the University of Tartu, whose laboratory was used to prepare the sequencing of the DNA extracted from the biscuits, noted that faking the DNA fingerprint of a food is complicated and expensive, and it is therefore cheaper to offer authentic food. “People can see that in medicine, precise DNA analysis is already a reality, but in food industry and in the field of food safety, the golden age of DNA-based analysis is yet to come,” Krjutškov remarked.

The research used a method based on short, unique DNA sequences (k-mers) for analysing genomic DNA data, which enables the scientists to quickly identify plant or bacterial DNA present in a food or an environmental sample. The Chair of Bioinformatics at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Tartu has been developing competence in the bioinformatics of k-mers and DNA analysis over the last five years. The software developed in the Chair of Bioinformatics has been used both in medicine and for providing food safety.

The article authors’ earlier cooperation resulted in the NIPTIFY foetal chromosomal disorder test, which helps to detect, with almost 100% accuracy, the DNA sequences causing foetal Down syndrome in the mother’s blood sample as early as the tenth week of pregnancy. The genome analysis method developed in the Chair of Bioinformatics is used to identify pathogenic bacteria, specify their disease-causing capabilities and predict antibiotic resistance. This enabled Maido Remm, Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Tartu, and his working group to advise the management board of a production company contaminated with a dangerous strain and to help determine the spread of type ST1247 in the company during the listeria outbreak in autumn 2019.

According to Remm, the research article proves that DNA sequencing can also be used for identifying allergenic ingredients in processed food. “DNA sequencing is a promising diagnostic method which makes it possible to quickly obtain precise information about food and the microbes around us,” he said. “The use of sequencing and k-mers makes it possible in a very short time to implement a diverse range of diagnostic tests that meet the needs of researchers and companies.”

Further information:
Kairi Raime, Research Fellow of Bioinformatics and doctoral student of Gene Technology, University of Tartu, +372 558 1489, kairi.raime [ät] ut.ee
Maido Remm, Professor of Bioinformatics, University of Tartu, +372 524 7725, maido.remm [ät] ut.ee
Kaarel Krjutškov, Head of Precision Medicine Laboratory, Competence Centre on Health Technologies; Senior Research Fellow of Molecular Medicine, University of Tartu, +372 512 6416, kaarel.krjutshkov [ät] ccht.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: Research
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Lime-tree presented by University of Greifswald planted in UT Botanical Garden

1 month ago

On 5 June, Rector Toomas Asser planted a lime-tree Tilia ledebourii at the pond of the botanical garden. The name of the species comes from the name of a professor who was connected with the University of Tartu.

Rector Johanna Eleonore Weber of the University of Greifswald, Germany, gave the lime plant to the University of Tartu as a gift for the 100th anniversary of Estonia’s national university. The species was named after Carl Friedrich von Ledebour (1785–1851), a professor and long-time director of the botanical garden at the University of Tartu and the University of Greifswald.

“This gift is of great importance for the University of Tartu, marking the successful cooperation and close historical relations between the two universities. Professor Carl Friedrich von Ledebour made a significant contribution to the development of the botanical garden,” Rector Toomas Asser said at the tree-planting ceremony.

The lime-tree was sent to the botanical garden a few months ago and was now planted in the collection of European trees.

Lisateave: Sirje Üprus, Tartu Ülikooli välisprotokolli juht, 737 5615, sirje.uprus [ät] ut.ee

Category: University
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

A novel treatment combination for lung cancer studied in Tartu

1 month ago

Medical researchers of the University of Tartu and doctors of Tartu University Hospital have an ambitious plan to take their novel combination of stereotactic body radiotherapy and immunotherapy to treatment guidelines and thus reach suitable patients suffering from lung cancer. Up to 20 lung cancer patients will be included in the study SynAct Lung to assess the safety and efficiency of the new combination.

According to Jana Jaal, the organiser of the study and Associate Professor in Oncology of the University of Tartu and Senior Physician-Lecturer of the Haematology and Oncology Clinic of Tartu University Hospital, it has been a long-held opinion that a person cannot recover from final-stage (stage 4) lung cancer. The recent years, however, have shown that a third of lung cancer patients who had three to five secondary tumours (metastases) at the moment of diagnosis and who, in addition to systemic therapy, have also received local radiotherapy are alive five years later and even longer.

In current medical practice, only systemic drugs are used to treat metastatic non-small cell lung cancer of stage 4. In the SynAct Lung study, systemic therapy is supplemented by local radiotherapy. “Radiotherapy will address all sites of the tumour – the primary site in the lungs and up to five metastases in different organs. In addition to local radiotherapy, we will use immunotherapy as systemic therapy in the study. The recent years have shown high anti-cancer efficiency of immunotherapy in case of lung cancer,” Jaal explained.

By now we have a considerable amount of evidence-based information saying that ionising radiation has its role in the induction of anti-cancer immunity. “There is proof that in addition to the local effect, radiotherapy can stimulate anti-tumour immunity and thus boost the efficiency of immunotherapy. Radiotherapy brings about changes in the tumour microenvironment, making the cancer cells more immunogenic, further increasing the anti-tumour immune activation,” said Jaal.

The immune activation effect of radiotherapy is mainly described in the case of the so-called stereotactic body radiotherapy, which has emerged thanks to the continuous development of radiotherapy devices and software solutions. With this method, single high-radiation doses are used and only three to five therapy sessions take place. There are few side effects, as the irradiated area is minimised thanks to precise localisation (e.g. the metastasis and the surrounding 4–5 mm).

Jaal says that stereotactic body radiotherapy has been used in the world a bit longer than in Estonia. In Estonia, the first stereotactic body radiotherapy of metastasis took place in 2017 at the Department of Radio and Oncotherapy of Tartu University Hospital. “Immunotherapy has been used in oncology for only a few years. By joining the two methods, we can say that it is a novel treatment combination in both Estonia and abroad,” said Jaal.

The course of the study

To assess the efficiency of the novel treatment combination – stereotactic body radiotherapy and immunotherapy, 20 patients will be involved in the SynAct Lung study over the next 18 months. 

Patients who 

  • have been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer of stage 4,
  • are at least 18 years old,
  • have up to five metastases in other organs, and
  • have not received prior treatment to the metastatic disease 

are expected to participate in the study.

Patients eligible for the study will first receive radiotherapy for the primary site in the lungs, followed by stereotactic body radiotherapy of up to five metastases. During the radiotherapy of the primary site, the systemic immunotherapy starts, including treatments with Durvalumab every four weeks. “Naturally, the study involves a more systematic control of safety and anti-cancer efficiency,” emphasised Jaal.

“If we manage to prove the efficiency of the combination of stereotactic body radiotherapy and immunotherapy in Estonia, it is likely to be followed by wider-scale studies elsewhere in Europe. We are hoping that a wider proof of its efficiency will lead to including the scheme to all treatment guidelines, so it can reach all suitable patients,” said Jaal.

Clinical and laboratory research

The researchers want to include patients across Estonia in the study carried out at Tartu University Hospital. “We are conducting the study in Tartu, as in addition to the clinical aspect, the project requires wide-range laboratory research to describe the immune activation effect of the treatment combination in more detail. We also aim to find new biomarkers related to treatment efficiency,” described Jaal, adding that for the safe and fast transport of the samples, direct proximity of the laboratory is highly important. 

The laboratory research of the study will be done by the Molecular Pathology Research Group of the Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine of the University of Tartu in cooperation with Professor of Molecular Immunology Pärt Peterson and Research Professor of Cellular Immunology Kai Kisand.

To participate in the study, contact Dr Jana Jaal (jana.jaal [ät] kliinikum.ee; +372 731 9821). The drug used in the study and the medical care related to the study will be free for eligible patients. It is a scientific study which may endanger the health of the participant.

The study “Synergistic anti-tumor immune Activation through radiotherapy and Durvalumab (MEDI4736) in metastatic PD-L1 negative or weakly expressing non-small cell Lung cancer (SynAct Lung)” has been approved by the University of Tartu Research Ethics Committee and the State Agency of Medicines.

Further information:
Jana Jaal
Associate Professor in Oncology of the University of Tartu
Senior Physician-Lecturer of the Haematology and Oncology Clinic of Tartu University Hospital
+372 731 9821
jana.jaal [ät] kliinikum.ee Category: Research
Virge Ratasepp (a73579)

The results of a monitoring study conducted by the University of Tartu for presentation to the government committee confirm that the easing of restrictions is justified

1 month 1 week ago

The results of the third wave of a monitoring study conducted by the University of Tartu presented today to the government committee working to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 disease-causing coronavirus and addressing public health and economic problems confirm that the continued easing of restrictions in Estonia is justified.

The third wave of the monitoring study was conducted from 22 May to 31 May to assess whether the easing of restrictions on movement in shopping centres and other public institutions has had an impact on the spread of the virus.

In the course of the study, 3,329 adult Estonian residents were interviewed, 1,908 of whom were tested based on random selection. The testing identified a total of two persons infected with the coronavirus, of whom one had recovered by the time of the study and was no longer contagious. The main conclusion of the study is that there is no widespread infection in the society.

“The good work of the researchers of the University of Tartu in studying the prevalence of the virus gives the government confidence that the easing of restrictions on special conditions so far has been justified. The spread of the virus is under control in Estonia, and we will continue to ease restrictions to return to normal life, but we also prepare for a new possible outbreak of the virus,” said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

According to the researchers’ calculations, the weighted proportion of virus-positive persons among the adult population of Estonia is 0.05% (95% CI 0,00-0,28) and the weighted proportion of potentially infectious persons is 0.02% (95% CI 0,00-0,24) of the adult population.

“The end of the emergency situation and the easing of restrictions has not led to an increase in the spread of the coronavirus, which shows that the gradual and controlled easing of restrictions is justified,” said Ruth Kalda, professor at the University of Tartu.

“Although the prevalence of the coronavirus is currently low and it may seem that there is no direct need to study it, it is still important to monitor how the wider easing of restrictions and the opening of borders will affect the spread of the virus in Estonia. This information gives a better sense of security and confidence for taking the next steps,” added Kalda.

A total of 9,342 adult residents have been interviewed during the three waves of the study, of whom 6,865 have been tested based on random selection. The testing has revealed 14 cases of the coronavirus; eight of the infected persons had been diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to the study, of whom seven had already recovered from the virus. Thus, seven people were still potentially contagious during the study.

The average duration of the coronavirus symptoms according to the three waves of the study is 15.7 days. According to the survey, people changed their behaviour after being infected. The most common changes concerned keeping good hand hygiene more strictly, avoiding contact with the elderly, and wearing a mask.

The next, fourth wave of the study is scheduled to take place from 15 to 22 June.

More detailed information about the study on the prevalence of the coronavirus in Estonia can be found on the website of the University of Tartu: https://www.ut.ee/en/research/study-prevalence-coronavirus-estonia

Category: ResearchPress release
Mari-Liis Pintson (pintson)

Expatriate Estonian visiting professor teaches a course on the history of Russia and Europe in the autumn semester

1 month 1 week ago

David Ilmar Lepasaar Beecher, the first expatriate Estonian visiting professor of the University of Tartu, teaches a course on the history of Russia and Europe in the autumn semester. The course is open for registration in the Study Information System from 1 June.

The English-taught course aims to offer a broader understanding of the history of Russia in the European context, discussing the mutual cultural and intellectual approaching of Russia and Europe from the reign of Peter the Great until today.

The main focus of the course is on political, literary, and cultural texts of the 19th and 20th century that explore the common questions and different solutions provided in Russia and Europe to the main problem of the modern world: how to achieve a society based on the integrated ideals of development and democracy. Reading and discussing the key texts also helps to make sense of what is currently going on in Russia and Europe.

Within the expatriate Estonian visiting professorship, acknowledged researchers of Estonian descent who work in academia in other countries can be invited to work at the University of Tartu for at least one semester. The visiting professor of the 2020/2021 academic year is David Ilmar Lepasaar Beecher. Beecher is a historian and social scientist of Estonian descent, working as a lecturer of history and global studies at the University of California, Berkeley (USA). His main research focus is the cultural and intellectual history of modern Europe and Russia.

The English-taught course “History of Russia and Europe since 1700” (P2EC.00.090) is aimed mostly at master’s students and runs at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies throughout the autumn semester. 

More information on the expatriate Estonian visiting professorship is available on the UT website.


Category: Studies
Kaja Karo (kajakk)

Filmmakers Olga and Priit Pärn will be new professors of liberal arts of the University of Tartu

1 month 1 week ago

In autumn, the current Professor of Liberal Arts of the University of Tartu Kärt Summatavet will hand the position over to Olga and Priit Pärn, who are both internationally recognised filmmakers. This is the first time there will be two professors of liberal arts at the University of Tartu at the same time – so far, there has been only one per academic year.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities Anti Selart is very pleased that professors of liberal arts have brought all kinds of arts to the university for many years. “Animation, however, has been missing from this list so far. We are very happy to announce that the world-renowned animators Priit and Olga Pärn will now fill this gap,” said Selart. “I am sure it will be interesting and instructive to benefit from the knowledge and skills of such professors and get a closer look at the creative cooperation of two outstanding artists,” added Selart.

The position of the professor of liberal arts in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities has been created for many-sided development of the intellectuality and creativity of members of the University of Tartu.

Further information: Ene Paldre, Academic Affairs Specialist at the Centre of Arts of the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy, 737 5669, ene.paldre [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: StudiesPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Children who get enough sleep are more satisfied with their life

1 month 1 week ago

Estonian 12-year-olds who get enough sleep are more satisfied with their life compared to their peers who sleep less, as was shown by a recent international survey on children’s subjective well-being. Given the recommendation that 12-year-olds should sleep at least nine hours, only about a third of Estonian children get enough sleep. 14% of Estonian 12-year-olds sleep less than seven hours.

Although the survey did not directly clarify the reasons for getting little sleep, some correlations are noteworthy. Children who spend more time with their family and whose family members care about and help them if they have problems tend to sleep longer. Also how much the child’s teacher cares about the child affects the amount of sleep. Children who get to participate in making decisions about their life both at home and at school also sleep longer. “We can say that if a child experiences care and support at home and school and believes he or she is taken into account, the child feels safe and sleeps longer,” concluded Kadri Soo, Assistant of Social Policy of the University of Tartu, who was one of the researchers.

Duration of sleep on school days and general well-being as estimated by Estonian 12-year-olds. Source: Children’s Worlds, Estonian data, 2018

The survey also showed that doing schoolwork does not mean getting less sleep. Even the opposite: children who sleep longer also spend more time learning. It was found that children who sleep less use social media more often: 64% of children who go to bed before 22 use social media every day, compared to 86% among children who go to bed after midnight. “These results suggest that children who sleep less feel lonely in their family more often, which is why they go online to seek company from online entertainment and online friends – in case they are friends,” said Kadri Soo.

Associate Professor in Social Policy of the University of Tartu Dagmar Kutsar, the head of the research group on children’s wellbeing, added that the additional survey done in April also asked children about their coping during the corona crisis. “Most children said that the emergency situation gave them a chance to practise planning their own time and also allowed them to sleep longer in the morning. As distance learning means spending a lot of time on a computer, it seems to be less tempting,“ said Kutsar. 

The international survey showed that 12-year-olds living in the Balkan countries, southern Europe, but also in Israel and Norway are the most satisfied with their life. The subjective well-being of children from South-East Asia and Brazil is below the average. Across all countries, the children participating in the survey estimated their well‑being to be 8.7 on a scale from 0 to 11. The well-being of Estonian children is close to this average and very similar to the well-being of children from Finland, Poland and Germany. Across all countries on average, 54% of 12-year-olds are completely satisfied with their life. 52% of Estonian children and 46% of Finnish children are completely satisfied.

The frequency of meeting friends outside school as estimated by Estonian 10- and 12-year-olds. Source: Children’s Worlds, Estonian data, 2018

Home, friends and school affect children’s well-being to a great extent. In the comparison of European countries, the 12-year-olds from Albania, but also from Norway and Hungary consider their relationships at home the best. The poorest estimates on average were reported by children from Russia, Germany, Italy and Wales. Estonian children value spending time with their family more than the European average but find that their parents’ readiness to take their opinion into account is below the average. Similarly to the European average, Estonian children find that their friends are usually nice to them. However, Estonian children report getting less support from their friends compared to the children of many other European countries.

Estonian children’s responses to the statement “If I have a problem, I have a friend who will support me”. Source: Children’s Worlds, Estonian data, 2018

In general, Estonian children are more satisfied with their family and friends than with relationships at school and their teachers’ attitude towards them. Estonian children’s ratings to school are below the European average. Our children agree the least with the statement that teachers listen to them and take what they say into account. Estonian children consider schools to be safer than their peers abroad. At the same time, they are more critical towards their classmates: satisfaction with classmates is among the lowest in Europe.

It seems, however, that the emergency situation has increased the value of classmates in the eyes of Estonian children. “You will know the value of friends when you can no longer communicate with them as usual. During the emergency situation, the children’s answers revealed that direct communication with their friends was what they missed the most, which is why they would have liked to return to school. In general, children do not find that their well-being decreased significantly during the crisis, but they did report a more nervous atmosphere at home due to the emergency situation and stress related to the increased volume of schoolwork. At the same time, their well-being was increased by being together with their family and joint activities,” said Kutsar.

More than 128,000 children from 35 countries participated in the third wave of the survey of children's well-being Children’s Worlds that took place in 2018. Pupils of year 2, 4 and 6 (mostly 8, 10 and 12 years old) responded to the survey. In Estonia, the survey was carried out in 42 schools, including some that teach fully or partly in Russian. More than 3,000 children completed the questionnaire, which makes up 7–8% of all Estonian children of the same age, being a representative sample of the age group. Two thirds of the respondents completed the questionnaire in Estonian and one third in Russian. In Estonia, the survey was carried out by the research group on the well-being of children and families of the Institute of Social Studies of the University of Tartu in late autumn of the school year 2017/2018.

In addition, the researchers made 44 interviews with 4–16-year-olds in April 2020, in the middle of the corona crisis, to study their subjective well-being and coping and also ask their opinion on distance learning.

Further information:
Kadri Soo, Assistant of Social Policy of the University of Tartu, +372 737 5936, kadri.soo [ät] ut.ee
Dagmar Kutsar, Associate Professor in Social Policy of the University of Tartu, +372 737 5951, dagmar.kutsar [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: ResearchPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)
11.07.2020 - 14:10
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