Innovative Policy 2016 on Inclusive education and ICT
Access to higher education in Estonia
|Responsible body||Ministry of Education and Research, Archimedes Foundation and partners|
As a result of higher education reforms and with the help of funding from the European Social Fund, Estonia launched its Primus Programme, which was implemented from 2008 to 2015. The programme offered stipends and support schemes for students with special needs, arranged training sessions and seminars for freshmen, and developed student support services through a network of study and career counsellors. Since the end of the programme many of its measures continue to be implemented by the Ministry of Education and Research.
Prior to the Primus Programme, skills in teaching and supporting students with disabilities were poor in Estonian universities. There were no disability counsellors, no scholarships, not enough technical tools, and little general awareness. A paradigm shift was initiated when in Estonia’s Higher Education Strategy (2006–2015) prioritized access to higher education for learners with special needs, and in 2008 the Primus Programme was launched. All higher education institutions, as well as organizations of persons with disabilities and student unions, have participated in the strategy’s development. A working group developed and proposed disability-related solutions (scholarship conditions, etc.).
«It’s difficult to put into words the beam in the eyes of disabled people who have found dignity, purpose, and independence in academic and personal achievements at a university they thought was not accessible to them..»
Estonia’s Primus Programme for Higher Education Quality Enhancement was a national non-legally binding policy, financed by the European Social Fund and the state budget, and implemented by the Archimedes Foundation. Among other activities, Primus arranged training sessions and seminars for freshmen with special needs, cooperated through a network of study and career counsellors to develop support services, and supported students with special needs with stipends and support schemes. Students with special needs could apply for scholarships covering regular support services (e.g., personal assistants) or for one-time grants. Primus expanded the range of students with special needs who received support while also involving students in providing services to students with special needs. Each partner informed the Archimedes Foundation of all learners with special needs, and on the basis of the data collected the management council approved the services to be provided.
Nominated by: Sven KÕLLAMETS, Pane oma meeled proovile (Challenge Your Senses)