President Toomas Hendrik Ilves to become visiting professor at the University of Tartu

As of January 2021, President Toomas Ilves will be Visiting Professor of Democracy in the Digital Age at the University of Tartu. During a year, Ilves will deliver lectures to students and participate in developing teaching and research activities in the field of e governance in the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies.

Already in 2016, the then Rector of the University of Tartu, Volli Kalm, asked President Toomas Hendrik Ilves to take the visiting professor’s position at the University of Tartu. At that time, President Ilves agreed in principle, and the visiting professorship was to be discussed in more detail after the end of his term of office as president. On the initiative of Rector Professor Toomas Asser, the topic was recently taken up again and the agreement was reconfirmed.

During the year 2020, in parallel with preparing the visiting professorship of President Ilves, the university has also worked on creating a consistent measure for the visiting professorship of the University of Tartu. This would be a centrally managed and partly also centrally funded scheme at the university. “President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is one of the best choices to open this programme,” said Rector Toomas Asser. “We want to ask outstanding figures and opinion leaders of different fields of the society to act as visiting professors also in the future. Although they are not permanently affiliated with the university and the academia, their world view and varied expertise and experience could expand the scope of the university and enrich the learning experience of our students,” he added.

At the inauguration of Rector Volli Kalm in 2012, President Ilves said that the university must serve the people, and the University of Tartu is one of the pillars on which the Estonian people and the Estonian state stand. With his consent to take the visiting professor’s position, Ilves proved that his words are followed by deeds.

During his visiting professorship, Toomas Hendrik Ilves intends to focus on changes in society brought about by the digital age. He says that the world has undergone major changes in its entire social structure in the recent years. “Social media and the spread of fake news have affected the foundations of liberal democracy, such as freedom of expression and free elections, but this goes unnoticed by many,” said Ilves.

As visiting professor, Toomas Hendrik Ilves will hold one course in each semester to the University of Tartu students, participates in the activities of the ERA Chair in e-Governance and Digital Public Services and the master’s programme “Politics and Governance in the Digital Age” at the University of Tartu Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies.

The principles of the visiting professorship follow the model of the professorship of liberal arts, which was established at the university in 1993 “for many-sided intellectual and creative development of the University of Tartu members”, and to which every year a prominent Estonian creative person is invited, whose activities relate to the traditional fields of activity of the University of Tartu.

Further information: Kristiina Tõnnisson, Head of Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, University of Tartu, 737 6372, 5554 4312,

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