Are you still undecided about where to study for your university education? Looking for a study destination which is beautiful, safe, technologically advanced and well regarded in the higher education sector? Why not study in Estonia?
This northern European country is one of the safest countries in the world, and is also famous for its leadership in the fields of digital and internet technologies, having been one of the first nations to pioneer electronic ID cards, e-government systems, e-health, e-school, e-parking – you name it, Estonia has digitized it! There’s even an entire website dedicated to describing all the components of “e-Estonia”.
Famous tech startups that began life in Estonia include Skype, TransferWise, CrabCAD, Fortumo and others, and today the country is well known for its entrepreneurial culture, not only in the digital sphere. This innovative spirit is also encouraged among students, and there are various initiatives in place to support students keen to develop their own ideas and transform graduate-level research projects into commercial ventures.
Click on the tabs below to find out about top universities in Estonia, popular cities for students, applications, visas and costs.
Estonian higher education is well respected around the world. The country is a participant in the Bologna Process, which aims to standardize higher education across Europe, and its university diplomas are internationally accepted. Currently there are 15 public universities in Estonia, and nine private. English is widely spoken, and most universities in Estonia offer a wide variety of English-taught programs.
Two universities in Estonia feature in the QS World University Rankings® 2016/17, and one more features in the QS University Rankings: EECA 2016, a ranking of the leading universities in Emerging Europe and Central Asia.
The University of Tartu is ranked at an impressive fifth place in the latest QS University Rankings: EECA. Established in 1632, it is Estonia’s oldest higher education institution, and one of the oldest in northern Europe. The University of Tartu teaches about 13,400 students, including over 800 internationals. It is a member of the Coimbra Group and the Utrecht Network, both of which promote international collaboration in higher education. The university is also a participant in the Erasmus Mundus program, which brings it into cooperation with more than 200 universities worldwide. The University of Tartu prides itself on having many notable alumni, including two Nobel laureates, in medicine and chemistry. Tartu itself is Estonia’s second largest city; well-known as an intellectual hub, it’s home to the Ministry of Education and Research.
The Tallinn University of Technology also features in the EECA rankings, placed at 30th. Established in 1918, it is the only dedicated technology specialist among Estonian universities. The Tallinn University of Technology has eight faculties and around 12,000 students enrolled, including 1400 international students. It offers degrees in engineering, economics, business administration, social sciences and information technology. Partly due to its strong innovation focus, the university is one of the most popular choices for international students coming to study in Estonia, currently hosting overseas students from more than 60 countries. Located in the beautiful capital city Tallinn, the university has well-established connections within industry and offers a good selection of work opportunities and placements to its students.
Also featured in the QS University Rankings: EECA is Tallinn University, at 87th place. The third-largest university in Estonia, Tallinn University joins TUT in the capital city. It offers a wide range of courses and has well-established exchange programs and support for international students.
Estonia boasts one of the world’s most digitally connected societies, with free Wi-Fi almost everywhere. But aside from its highly impressive leadership in modern technologies, Estonia has much more to offer. For those keen to escape the city (and even temporarily de-tech), there are plenty of opportunities to explore the country’s green forests, picturesque lakes and white-sand beaches. Alternatively you can enjoy roaming the medieval streets of old Estonian towns, attend concerts, participate in the lively city night-life, or join the range of student-run events on campus – everything from cycle trips to photo competitions.
Discover Estonia’s major student cities:
The Estonian capital and largest city, Tallinn is arguably one of the most innovative and interesting cities in Europe. Throughout its history, Tallinn has been attacked and invaded by the Danes, then the Teutonic Knights, the Swedes, the Russians, the Nazis, and the Soviets, and it retains monuments and memories from each and every period. The Old Town district allows you to wander the cobblestone streets of the Medieval Ages; the Nõmme suburb offers a trip back in time to the 1930s; the Kadriorg area paints a picture of the Czarist-era with its tree-lined streets and garden parks; the Lasnamäe apartment district represents the ambivalent facets of the Soviet period. While offering a rich feast for history enthusiasts, Tallinn is today a highly modern city, characterized by innovative architecture (especially in the center) and a reputation for being forward-thinking.
The second largest city in the country, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and academic capital of Estonia. Its population is approximately 97,000 people, and the city is located in the center of the southern part of Estonia. During World War II, Tartu was heavily bombed and left in ruins. Most of the historical buildings were destroyed and the city was declared a "closed town" to foreigners. However, after Estonia regained its independence from Soviet rule in 1991, the city center, St. John's Church and other old buildings were completely restored and renovated. Today Tartu is a vibrant city with unrivalled culture and nightlife, at least in part thanks to the numerous domestic and international students based here.
Tartu is home to Estonia’s highest-ranked institution, the University of Tartu. Other higher education institutions in the city include the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Baltic Defense College, the Estonian Aviation Academy and others.
In order to apply to universities in Estonia, you need to prove that you have successfully completed the previous stage of study (secondary education if you apply for an undergraduate course, or a bachelor’s degree if you apply for a master’s program). If you are an international student applying to study an English-taught program, you’ll need to show proof of proficiency in the English language. All internationally recognized language tests are accepted, but some Estonian universities may ask you to sit a language test of their own. Depending on your course and the university you are applying to, you may be required to attend an interview, write an application essay, or present a portfolio of work.
Students coming from a member state of the European Union do not need a student visa to study in Estonia. However, they do need to obtain a temporary right of residence in Estonia after arriving in the country. EU students should register with the local authorities within three months from the day of entry in Estonia. In addition, students must apply for an Estonian ID card within one month of obtaining the temporary right of residence.
International students coming from non-EU countries should apply for a temporary residence permit for studying (TRP); this serves as the equivalent to a student visa. In order to obtain this document, you should contact your closest Estonian Embassy and check the specific requirements for your country of origin. The TRP must be renewed every year, at least two months before the date of expiration. For more information visit the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board website.
Tuition fees at universities in Estonia vary considerably and depend on the course you wish to study and the university in question. Generally, tuition fees are between €1,000-7,500 (~US$1,140-8,500) per year. Medical degrees are more expensive, at about €11,000 (~US$12,500) per year, and degrees in law, business administration and social sciences are usually at the higher end of the fees range. Doctoral degrees are free of charge.
Various scholarships are available to international students, most of which are at master’s and PhD level, though there are some for bachelor’s degrees. Current guidelines from the Estonian government advise students to allow €300-500 (~US$340-570) per month to cover accommodation and other living expenses.