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Estonian international student levels stable after Covid-19

The number of international degree students in Estonia has dropped slightly in the 2021/22 academic year, but the total newly enrolled students has risen by 20% compared with the previous year, statistics have shown.

In the decade since 2011, the total number of international degree students in Estonia has grown from 1,573 to 5,072 in 2021. Photo: pexels

Finland and Russia represent the top two largest source countries for students

According to official figures, 5,072 students from overseas are enrolled with Estonian higher education institutions, a modest decline of 164 from the 2020/21 year.

The 1,748 newly enrolled international students in the current academic year is a rise of 298 compared to last year, the statistics showed.

“Estonia remains an attractive country for international students, which is also demonstrated by the increase in the number of students enrolled,” Eero Loonurm, the head of International Marketing for Higher Education at the Education and Youth Board said in a statement.

“There is a very real global competition with the best universities in Europe and around the world”

“However, the introduction of Estonian higher education on the global level and the invitation of foreign students to Estonian universities is a real art form, since there is a very real global competition with the best universities in Europe and around the world.”

Over 15 years, the numbers of international students in Estonia has increased by more than five times, with the Baltic state hosting 901 in 2006. Numbers peaked in 2019, when there were 5,528 international students at its higher education institutions. Research found that tax contributions from international students increased by 12.5% in 2019/20 to €10 million.

Students from neighbouring countries of Finland and Russia represent the top two largest source countries for students, with each accounting for 19% and 11% of the international student cohort, respectively.

Also within the top five countries are: Nigeria; Ukraine; and India. International students come from a total of 124 countries.

While students from neighbouring countries could easily arrive in Estonia during the crisis, students from different countries all over the world also continued to arrive, Loonurm highlighted.

A news article published by the European Commission in March 2020 also helped to confirm that international students were “more than welcome to study and even stay working after studies”, he added.

“At the last ‘Study in Estonia’ roundtable, our universities’ marketing specialists said that every year there are more and more quality applications coming in from prospective students,” he said.

“And it was the same this year as well. Although Estonia is really known for its digital services, e-residency and according to internationals one of the best countries in the world for digital life, then in reality, international students want to study and live in Estonia and experience everything right here in our universities, face to face, at the lectures with other students and meeting professors in real life.”

Of the 5,072 students, 2,122 are studying at a masters level, with 1,456 at a bachelors level. Interest in doctoral studies has also increased, the Study in Estonia agency highlighted, with 757 enrolling on courses at the level this year.

Photo: Study in Estonia

The most common field of studies among the international cohort are: business, administration, and law (1,574 students); humanities and arts (758); and information and communication technology (681).

Loonurm previously told The PIE that initial countries that Study in Estonia had targeted were Finland, Russia and Ukraine, as well as Latvia, Turkey and China, which are placed at 10, 11 and 13 in the top source countries for international students in 2021/22.

The number of students from Latvia has increased again this year, the agency added.

Only a fraction of the total numbers of international students study according to Estonian-language curricula, but the total doing so increased slightly to 214, up from 194 last year. The majority study in English.

Speaking with The PIE in 2019, Loonurm noted that opportunities to work during and after studies are a selling point for prospective students, as is Estonia’s reputation for e-development, IT and possibilities for start-up companies.

The country’s minister of Education Liina Kersna previously suggested that Estonia’s digital education operations had been a benefit during the coronavirus crisis.

“Almost all schools in Estonia have been using e-school programs for years,” she said.

“There are numerous smart solutions in use such as digital databases, digital textbooks, e-learning materials, digital class diaries, digital assessments, not to mention various applications and programs.”

It was a similar situation for universities, Loonurm told The PIE.

“Our universities have been using digital solutions for many years and it was easier to continue academic studies compared to countries with less digital solutions.”

The recent two years have been challenging for everyone, he continued,

“As the coronavirus pandemic has reached every continent, it has affected Estonia more or less the same way as other countries.

“There are heavily affected industries such as travel and tourism and it has disrupted the economy and the whole society with remarkable effects. However, education was not affected so heavily at all.”

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