Higher Education in Estonia
Estonian universities all use the two-tier (bachelor-master) structure for most programs. Bachelor’s degrees normally take 3 years of study and master’s degrees normally take 2 years of study. Medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, architecture and civil engineering all require a single program of 5-6 years and normally result in a master’s level diploma. Doctoral degrees are postgraduate research degrees and take 3-4.5 years to complete. Estonia uses the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
Why Study in Estonia?
Students from more than 70 countries are already studying in Estonia. In addition to being a beautiful and friendly country that welcomes international students, Estonia provides an excellent, internationally recognized education. The capital city, Tallinn, has been designated by intelligentcommunity.org as one of the world’s seven most intelligent communities. In addition, English is widely spoken throughout the country and internet access is free in many locations. Estonia is one of the most connected countries in the world, with electronic identification cards, e-government and online voting.
Universities in Estonia
Estonia has 12 public institutions of higher education (3 multidisciplinary universities and 9 specialized universities) and 8 private institutions of higher education. Estonian institutions of higher education offer nearly 60 master’s degree programs in a wide variety of academic disciplines, from Accompaniment (music) to Wellness and Spa Service Design and Management. Many schools offer programs in English, including the Estonian Academy of Arts, the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, the Estonian Business School the Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tallinn University, Tallinn University of Technology and the University of Tartu.
Tuition and Program Duration
Tuition for Estonian-taught degree programs is free for full-time students. Tuition for English-taught programs varies widely depending upon the type of program and the school. Tuition per semester for English-taught programs is generally about €1500-2000 at a public university. Most master’s programs are two years in duration, but some can be completed in one year. Students earn between 60 and 120 credits depending upon the type of program.
The academic year begins in September and the autumn semester runs through the beginning of February. After a short break (about 10 days) the spring semester begins and runs through the end of June. The normal academic year includes forty weeks. Both oral and written exams take place during a four-week period at the end of each semester.
There are many opportunities for employment in Estonia, particularly for international and information technology businesses. EU citizens do not need a work permit. Non-EU citizens must obtain a work permit, which is normally issued for two years, but can be extended for up to five years at a time.
International students in Estonia are not generally covered by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, unless they are employed in Estonia, are permanent residents or have a long-term residence permit. EU citizens can use a EU health insurance card, which should be obtained before they depart their home country. Non-EU citizens should obtain health insurance before applying for a residence permit. Since only certain insurance companies are accepted by the Estonian Migration Board, students should check with their institution or the Board prior to purchasing insurance.
Students wishing to explore Russia during their time in Estonia will find plenty of inexpensive buses to Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other major cities.
Estonia is mainly a lowland country that is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Latvia, and Russia. It has numerous lakes and forests and many rivers, most draining northward into the Gulf of Finland or eastward into Lake Peipus, its largest lake. Estonia ranks high in the Human Development Index, and subsequently performs favorably in measurements of press freedom, economic freedom, civil liberties and education. Estonia is often described as one of the most wired countries in Europe, and is recognized as a leader in e-government.
Estonia is one of three Baltic countries located in Northeastern Europe. It has borders with Russia and Latvia and has a coastline along the Baltic Sea. Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia has quickly modernized and is now a member of both the EU and NATO. Despite a recent flurry of modern building construction, the country still has ties to its ancient history, and castles and other historical features abound. The small country is heavily wooded, with about half of the territory covered by forest and woodlands. Estonia is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, and companies do not have to pay taxes on profits that are reinvested into the company.
The climate in Estonia is mostly mild, with warm summers and cold winters. The average temperature in July is about 21 degrees with highs of about 30 degrees. The average temperature in the winter is about -8 degrees C, with lows of about 23 degrees C.
Estonians spend their time outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter. The country has a wide variety of cultural and sports offerings, including film, theater, art and music. Popular sports include cross-country skiing, soccer and basketball. Canoeing is very popular in the summertime.
Cost of Living
The cost of living is fairly low. Dormitory rooms cost €80-190 per month and apartments cost around €100-510 per month. Most apartments require a deposit equal to three months rent; one month is refunded at the end of the rental period if the apartment is left in good condition.
Students may work. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens do not need a work permit. Students from other countries must have a work permit, which can be obtained at the Police and Border Guard Board.
EU students do not require a residency permit for studying in Estonia; however, they must obtain a temporary right of residence permit, which is good for 5 years. Students who are EU citizens should first register with the local government authority within 3 months of arriving in Estonia. After obtaining the temporary right of residence, students should then obtain an Estonian identification card within 1 month.
All others students (including those from EEA countries and Switzerland) must obtain a temporary residence permit for study from the Estonian Embassy or Consulate in their home country. Students from these countries must register with the local government authority within 1 month of arriving in Estonia. Temporary residence permits are valid for only 1 year, but can be renewed at the Police and Border Guard Board; renewals should be sought at least two months before the date of expiration.