The University of Tartu has been founded in 1632 by a decree of the King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden. At present the University of Tartu is the centre of the Estonian national higher education system and the leading research institution of the country. As the only universitas in Estonia, the University is a competitive research centre in Europe. With the highest national potential in many research and education areas, the University proactively shapes Estonian policy in the fields of research and higher education and offers services in research, development and education.
The academic structure of the University consists of 11 faculties. Tartu University offers the degrees of Bachelor, Master and Doctor. In vocational disciplines diplomas are issued. The total number of students in 2002 was about 17000 (among them 700 PhD and 1700 master students). In addition, 347 undergraduate foreign students were studying at the University.
The staff of the university (without colleges, clinics and autonomous academic and research institutions) consists of 854 full-time academic teachers (137 professors and 198 associate professors) and 383 researchers. 724 employees have PhD degree or equivalent.
The Family Research Group was founded in 1968 and became the Unit of Family and Welfare Studies in 1993. Since 1995, the Unit has been located in the Department of Sociology. When the Centre of Excellence in Health and Behavioural Sciences of Estonia was founded in December 2001, the Unit became an integral part of a larger structure. In the past decade, research projects have concentrated on issues of welfare and well-being, social and family policy, poverty and social exclusion/inclusion in the framework of societal transformation. The Unit carries out applied social analysis, with a strong focus on methodology. In 1997–99, the Unit was funded by the United Nations Development Programme to carry out a research project on the ‘Elaboration of the National Strategy for Poverty Eradication’. The Unit has also contributed to the NORBALT project comparing the social impact of economic and political change on living conditions in the Baltic states, in co-operation with the Estonian Statistics Authority, Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia, the Nordic Social Science Research Council and the Institute of Applied Social Research of the FAFO (Norway).