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A long road to a research university

Engaging in research is a natural part of university life.

Even so, nothing is born overnight. Although the scientific research and development department had been established within EBS in 1995, and the position of Vice Rector for Research was created eight years later, Professor Olav Aarna, Chairman of Research and Development at EBS, notes that the university has, for the majority of its existence, been a teaching institution, however the share of research has slowly begun to increase.

There are several reasons why this is the case, but the most prosaic of these is, without a doubt, resources. Not only money, but also time. Although the topic of organisational culture is more complicated than the topic of cash and other resources.

According to Olav Aarna, it would have been unthinkable to develop EBS in the 1990s under the principles of Wilhelm von Humboldt, according to which a university means unity between research and learning – it simply wouldn’t have worked. “Secondly, we are “forced” to engage in research by the fact that in Estonia the Universities Act clearly defines a university as being a research university. This means that if EBS continues to have the ambition to be a university within the Estonian judicial area, then the only way we can exist is by being a research university,” explains Olav Aarna, adding that they are currently moving in a direction in which the research university could develop further.

“This won’t take place overnight, or just because we are receiving additional funds. An important part of it is reshaping people’s way of thinking. However, we must significantly expand the foundation for research and development activity at EBS,” emphasises Aarna.

The main directions and goals of research work at EBS are set forth in EBS’s development plan and EBS’s research work strategy. Simply and concisely put, the emphasis is placed on research being of use to resolve practical life questions. In this way a goal has been set whereby the research work that has been completed, and will be completed, at EBS, provides a contribution to increasing the management results of Estonia’s business, public and free society organisations, as well as raising the quality of learning in the field of management. In the case of the latter the university already has a great victory to show.

Professor Olav Aarna stresses that the foundation for research and development activities at EBS must be significantly expanded.

Trump card in our pocket – Doctoral study in management

 “EBS’s Doctoral Programme in Management is unique in Estonia. This is our great advantage,” says Olav Aarna, who believes that setting the goal in research work of solving practical life problems is an entirely worthy direction. In this way a majority of Doctoral candidates come to Doctoral studies with their own so-called problem, which they are helped during the course of their studies to reword into a research problem.

“Quite a number of the defended Doctoral theses at EBS have been heavily influenced by what is taking place in the field of management in Estonia. Not only in business management, but also public and third sector management,” mentions Olav Aarna. He cites the Doctoral thesis of Mari Zernant as an example, which studied the adoption and application of new management ideas in Estonian organisations, also defended have been Doctoral theses on manger development and personnel management. The topics of those and many other Doctoral theses have grown out of problems arising from everyday work, to which there was a desire for solutions to be found.

It should be noted that the above mentioned does not mean that research work is only dealt with in order to resolve private and public-sector problems, and that the development of future researchers will come to a standstill. For example, in the next academic year EBS would like to accept up to six Doctoral students, who would begin to study the academic topics offered by EBS. The future plans of those Doctoral students could include serious consideration of an academic career, rather than management in the public or private sector.

Did you know?

EBS is the only university in Estonia where you can study management in a Doctoral programme.