Research group: Labour Market Challenges and Education Institutions

LAB group is working on skill formation, which is interdisciplinary field combining various fields in social sciences, e.g. sociology of education, education and labour economics, comparative public policy and welfare regime studies.  Globalization, economization of education, skills and practice orientation, constructivist teaching methods, blended learning and e-education, choice orientation, attention to the bibliometric measurement methods and other features used in the construction of league-tables quality assessment of academics and universities are the fields that researchers in LAB work.  However, the focus of the LAB project is on the associations between outcomes (skills, achievement, welfare, etc.) and organisational, individual and country level attitudinal or institutional features – the effects of labour market and societal institutions (including management practices) to individual level outcomes such as grades, skills/competences, wages, (un)employment, values, well-being, etc. or group level outcome gaps such as achievement gap or wage gap.


The goal of this project is to build a research agenda that would allow policy implications by answering the “what” questions such as: (a) what affects educational/labour market outcomes; (b) what affects achievement gaps; (c) what affects the preface of academics and higher education institutions? These questions aim at discovering the mechanisms behind the phenomenon – gender wage gap; minority-language achievement gap; cohort-effects; choice policy effects on achievement, features of the academic career systems and career choices of academics on their performance etc.  


This project aims at making a contribution to the scientific discussion on the performance and its measurement in education. More specifically, the goal is to provide answers to (some of) the following research questions:  What institutional features enhance a good environment for skills formation?  What produces achievement gaps between more vulnerable groups in society (by sex, language or socio-economic status) and less vulnerable groups? To what extent institutional or managerial practices can affect performance or well-being of students, academics and institutions? Which specific policy approaches, institutional-managerial practices or multiple causal paths can be identified as effective and efficient choices to mitigate such effects? Who pays and who benefits from the public provision of private goods and private provision of public goods?


Theoretical framework in the project comes from interdisciplinary literature but is mainly relying on educational production function approach pioneered by Hanushek (1968).  This approach is explaining how educational outcomes are produced as a result of personal and family background characteristics, school/university level teacher, curriculum and peer effects including educational governance effects.  Mostly the theoretical literature in this field is limited or discipline specific.  Thus, sociology of education, political economy, behavioral studies, and additional fields can have relevant insights to the project.  In addition, there are a lot of mixed empirical insights that makes the field challenging.  Most of all, various comparative micro-level data-pools allow to test wide variety of hypotheses and apply micro-econometric tools.  Also, the additional aim of the project is to gain and promote academic rigor by applying modelling tools that allow to work with big data and microdata. Most studies in this project will rely on cross-national, cross-sectional or longitudinal surveys such as European Social Survey (ESS), European Value Study (EVS), Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA), Survey of Adult Skills (PIIAC), Life in Transition Survey (LITS).


LAB researchers participate in the activities of research networks, such as Economic Education Network, School Choice and Reform Conference Network, Baltic Economic Association.

Selected literature references of the research group:

  • Alas, R. & Aarna, O. (2016). An Interview with Professor Olav Aarna. The Transition from the Soviet Higher Education System to the European Higher Education Area: The Case of Estonia. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 15 (3), 626−634.
  • Koris, R., & Nokelainen, P. (2015). The student-customer orientation questionnaire (SCOQ): Application of customer metaphor to higher education. International Journal of Educational Management, 29(1), 115-138.
  • Koris, R., Caemmerer, B., & Mulki, J. (2017). Neoliberal sentiments across established and new market economies – converging perceptions and expectations of business students in higher education, Journal of Marketing for Higher Education (under review).
  • Koris, R., Örtenblad, A., & Ojala, T. (2017). From maintaining the status quo to promoting free thinking and inquiry: Business students´ perspective on the purpose of business school teaching. Management Learning, 48(2), 174-186.
  • Koris, R., Örtenblad, A., Kerem, K., & Ojala, T. (2015). Student Customer Orientation at a Higher Educational Institution: the Perspective of Undergraduate Business Students. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 25(1), 29-44.
  • Kroos, K. (2006). The Bologna Process: An Estonian Perspective. In: Tomusk, Voldemar. (Ed.). Creating the European Area of Higher Education: Voices from the Periphery (117−140). Dordrecht: Springer. (Higher Education Dynamics; Volume 12). 10.1007/978-1-4020-4616-2_6.
  • Kroos, K. (2013). Estonian Higher Education and Research Strategy: A Systematic Review and Policy Discussion. In: Saar, Ellu and Mõttus, René (Eds.). Higher Education at a Crossroad: the Case of Estonia. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 27-69.
  • Kroos, K. (2015). Developmental Welfare Capitalism in East Asia with a Special Emphasis on South Korea in Seliger, Bernhard; Sepp, Jüri &  Wrobel, Ralph (eds.) East Asia and Eastern Europe in a Globalized Perspective - Lessons from Korea and Estonia, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 107-162.
  • Lauri, T.; Põder, K. (2013). School choice policy: seeking to balance educational efficiency and equity. A comparative analysis of 20 European countries. European Educational Research Journal, 12 (4), 534−552.
  • Põder, K.; Lauri T.; Ivaniushina, V.; Alexandrov, D. (2016) Family Background and School Choice in Cities of Russia and Estonia: Selective Agenda of the Soviet Past and Present. Studies of Transition States and Societies, 8 (3), 5−28.    
  • Põder, K.; Lauri, T. (2014) When Public Acts Like Private: the failure of Estonia’s school choice mechanism. European Educational Research Journal, 13 (2), 220−234.10.2304/eerj.2014.13.2.220.
  • Põder, K.; Lauri, T. (2014). Will Choice Hurt? Compared to What? A School Choice Experiment in Estonia. Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform, 8 (3), 446−474.
  • Põder, K.; Lauri, T.; Veski, A. (2016). Does school admission by zoning affect Educational Inequality? A Study of Family Background Effect in Estonia, Finland, and Sweden. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 1−26 (
  • Riitsalu, L.; Põder, K. (2016). A glimpse of the complexity of factors that influence financial literacy. International Journal of Consumer Studies, Vol 40, No 6: 722-731.    
  • Tūtlys, V. & Aarna, O. (2017). Competence-based Approach in the Education Reforms of Lithuania and Estonia. In: Mulder, Martin (Ed.). Competence-based Vocational and Professional Education. Bridging the Worlds of Work and Education (381−406). Cham: Switzerland: Springer International Publishing AG.
  • Veski, A.; Biro, P.; Põder, K.; Lauri, T. (2017). Efficiency and fair access in kindergarten allocation policy design. Journal of Mechanism and Institution Design,  2 (1), 57−104.10.22574/jmid.2017.12.003..    
  • Veski, A.; Põder, K. (2017). Zero-intelligence agents looking for a job. Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, 1−26 (
  • Örtenblad, A., & Koris, R. (2017). Does it matter who teaches you? A study on the relevance of matching students´ and teachers´ personalities, The International Journal of Management Education, 15, pp. 520-527.