Tartu gets temporary leader

March 9, 2007

Tartu University's difficulties in electing a new rector have been deferred after an interim acting rector was appointed, writes Vera Rich.

Tonu Lehtsaar, professor of practical theology and a former vice-rector for academic affairs, will hold office until June 30.

The Times Higher reported last month that the Estonian university's 295-member electoral college failed to pick a new rector from the three candidates: Ene Ergma, professor of astrophysics and Deputy Speaker of the Estonian Parliament; Volli Kalm, professor of applied geology; and Birute Klaas, professor of Estonian as a foreign language and vice-rector for academic affairs.

Professor Ergma, the favourite, had indicated that she planned a shake-up of the professoriate.

The problem over the rectorship has come at an important time for the university. This year, it is celebrating the 375th anniversary of its founding. Although the previous significant anniversary - the 350th in 1982 - was duly marked, the celebrations were somewhat muted by the fact that Estonia was at that time part of the Soviet Union, whose leader, Leonid Brezhnev, seemed likely to die at any moment.

The anniversary will be marked by a week of celebrations in early October, as well as various academic, cultural, sporting and musical events throughout the year.

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