In 2018/2019, international students in the country paid €2.4m in income tax and €5.6m in social tax, according to the analysis undertaken on behalf of the Archimedes Foundation – the body that implements the country’s training, education, research, technological development program.
“Every international graduate is more than welcome – we have success stories from every field”
However, the study also showed that Estonia’s 5,000 international students work alongside their studies considerably less often when compared to domestic counterparts.
Around 50% of international students work while studying, but for local students, this rose to more than 80%.
Statistics Estonia also found that the numbers of international students remaining in Estonia post-graduation has increased over the last two years. In 2017, 45% of students stayed in Estonia to work, while in 2018, this figure was 51%.
Earlier in 2019, the country was working to augment its post-study work opportunities.
“Foreign students who get accustomed to life in Estonia during their studies could contribute to the local labour market and economy also after graduation,” explained Eero Loonurm, head of the international marketing agency at Archimedes Foundation.
“Considering that the money foreign students earn is also spent in Estonia, it can be estimated that, in the previous academic year, international students contributed around €20m to the economy,” he added.
Graduates of Tallinn University and Tallinn University of Technology were most likely to remain in Estonia after their studies, the research revealed.
The country is aiming to ensure that 30% of international master’s and doctoral students continue working in Estonia after graduation.
Loonurm added that students tend to stay for more than three years. In a country where one in 10 students is from another country, employers can benefit from Estonia’s generous policies, he indicated.
Students focusing on information and communication technologies; engineering, manufacturing and construction; and business, administration and law were most likely to work during their studies.
Those reading these topics represented two-thirds of international students working during the previous academic year.
Graduates of the same fields are also more likely to remain in Estonia, the research found. And these are often sectors that are in need of employees.
“Our cooperation partners from the national initiative “Work in Estonia” have more than 300 job offers listed on their website today,” Loonurm noted.
“Most of the jobs correspond very well with the fields of international students study.”
However, the research also highlighted that international students were more likely to work in enterprises in foreign ownership, suggesting that international students may be an untapped market for local businesses.
Information technology, finance, electronics and telecommunications, sales and banking are popular fields, however, Estonia is open to a variety of sectors, Loonurm indicated.
“I must say that every international graduate is more than welcome – we have success stories from every field.”
Students from overseas do not need additional permits to work while studying full time, and are not limited by restrictions on the condition that working does not interfere with their studies.
“It would be just perfect if international students get a part-time job during their studies which is close to the program where they study,” Loonurm added.
While income generated for the country by hosting international students and access to work is important for educators across Estonia, the focus is on quality, he said.
“Our main keyword in higher education internationalisation is quality,” Loonurm noted.
“We would expect the international students to contribute to the academic research and also help the local students to have an international experience via internationalisation at home. Internationalisation of the curriculum is also very important for both home and international students.”
Internationalisation also intends to improve human well-being, he contended, adding, “Thanks to international cooperation we can support intercultural dialogue.”
“I hope that international students who graduate from any Estonian university become global innovators”
“When students like our universities and the education they get, we would be more than happy to see them working in Estonia or for an Estonian company. I guess that in the next years the contribution of international students will become more important.
“I really hope that international students who graduate from any Estonian university become global innovators either in Estonia, in Europe or in any other place in the world,” he added.