Universities Estonia: Russian citizens should be able to graduate from higher education

  • 2023-05-03
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Universities Estonia, a body bringing together the rectors of Estonia's universities, wants the Russian citizens currently studying at higher education institutions in Estonia to be able to complete their studies in Estonia and then either continue their studies at the next level of education or stay in Estonia to enter employment.

According to Universities Estonia, 342 students with Russian citizenship are studying at Estonian universities at this point, 178 of whom are due to graduate this spring. Like other foreign students, many of them wish to continue their studies in Estonian higher education institutions at the next level of study. 

"If they were to return home, they would probably be repressed, and this could mean, among other things, that young men who have studied in Estonia and helped Ukrainians here would be directly enrolled into military service and sent to fight in Ukraine," Tiit Land, member of the board of Universities Estonia and rector of Tallinn University of Technology, says in an appeal to Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas, Minister of the Interior Lauri Laanemets and Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna.

Universities Estonia pointed out that according to the government's regulation of April 8, 2022, persons with Russian citizenship who have obtained higher education in Estonia cannot continue their studies here at the next level of education or enter the Estonian labor market, unless they have another basis for stay in Estonia than a residence permit for study.

Since the sanctions were imposed after the university admission period, 19 people started their studies in Estonia last academic year on the basis of the 270-day right of stay after the expiry of the validity of their residence permit or on the basis of a long-term visa. In May, this time period will elapse for the first ones of them, and they may have to cut short their studies. A residence permit granted for study can be extended by one year, but not if the person stays in the country on the basis of the 270-day right of stay.

Land recalled that Estonian universities stopped cooperating with higher education institutions and research institutions of Russia and Belarus four days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Also, in March and April 2022, Estonian universities decided not to accept citizens of Russia and Belarus into their bachelor's and master's programs. 

Universities Estonia believes that those students who have studied or are studying in Estonia should be given the opportunity to finish their studies in Estonia and stay on to study or work here. In addition, Universities Estonia asks the ministers to consider amending the government regulation to allow students who are currently staying in Estonia on the basis of the 270-day right of stay after the expiry of their residence permit and can no longer apply for an extension of the residence permit to apply for a long-term visa.

Universities Estonia also asks the ministers to consider the possibility of supplementing the regulation with an exception for persons working in Estonia for the purpose of scientific activity or as academic employees, and to enable the extension of visas or the issuance of residence permits to those persons who have so far worked in universities on the basis of a visa and registration of short-term employment.