Estonia - A five year development plan


The Tartu Vocational Education Centre was founded in 2002 through the merger of four vocational schools. It is the largest VET institution in Estonia, offering courses for:

  • upper-secondary students
  • post-upper secondary students
  • those who left school early at 17
  • students wanting to complete pre-vocational studies
  • adults seeking continuing vocational training

Following the merger of four vocational schools, the management team set out to involve staff and students in creating a shared organisation culture within a modern learning environment. The Centre is now widely recognised as a learning organisation where staff competence is the most powerful resource that needs to be developed and shared in order to achieve success.

In order to continue to improve, the centre has invested in its quality assurance team of about 20 people including representatives of teaching staff, middle and top management. This team’s activities include:

  • developing the approach to quality assurance
  • optimising the organisation’s structure
  • creating a shared organisational culture
  • redesigning development planning
  • ensuring the satisfaction of students, employees and stakeholders
  • promoting self-assessment and reflection
  • participating in quality award contests

Tartu VEC operates within the framework of its 2008-2013 development plan, which was prepared by staff members, students and stakeholders. It seeks to offer students the best possible opportunity for personal development and success through lifelong learning. Central to the centre’s activities are a series of questions, which are constantly asked:

  • How are these activities related to fulfilling our mission and achieving our vision?
  • Do our students benefit from these activities?
  • Do our staff members benefit from them?
  • Does the labour market and employers benefit from them?
  • Are they beneficial for the wider society?

The 2008-2013 development plan is activated through the production of annual plans, which form the basis for development plans of each vocational unit. These plans are supported by the use of a set of indicators, which underpin an annual self-assessment to measures the effectiveness and efficiency of each area of the Centre’s work. Each of the centre’s strategic objectives is assessed in relation to core indicators, such as the:

  • number of students
  • the quality of the student support systems
  • number of graduates
  • number of graduates who passed the national examinations
  • rate of employment after graduation
  • number of students going on to further study
  • dropout rate
  • number of staff who are fully qualified teachers
  • number of staff participating in in-service training


Tartu VEC’s quality assurance processes are based on the Total Quality Management system and implemented using the four stage quality assurance cycle. Their approach is based on the following principles:

  • processes must be managed
  • all staff are responsible for their own results
  • problems must be solved, not only discussed
  • quality must be measured
  • quality must be continuously increased
  • management must be involved, committed and in the lead

Quality assurance at Tartu VEC is carried out using the following criteria and indicators:

Middle and long term vocational education and training (VET) goals follow the pan-European goals. Stakeholders are involved in setting VET targets at different levels. Achieving of the set goals is monitored by special indicators (success criteria).

Processes and results are assessed regularly by measuring

The main challenge has been to enable all staff to understand that quality assurance is not an external obligation. Rather it is relevant tool for ensuring development, competitiveness and satisfaction of all stakeholders.

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