Universities in Estonia have said they could face funding shortfalls of several million euros if foreign students from third countries are barred from entering the country this autumn, as suggested by the Ministry of the Interior.
On Monday, Ruth Annus, head of the Department of Citizenship and Migration Policy at the Ministry of the Interior, said university students from third countries may not be allowed to enter the country for the start of the new school year.
She said the second wave of coronavirus is expected in the autumn and several said countries where students will travel from have high levels of coronavirus.
Additionally, she said countries of origin of around half of students with residence permits coming to Estonia, include India, Nigeria, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which have a high immigration risk.
If students cannot enter the country, the state stands to lose millions of euros in income. A survey by Statistics Estonia has shown foreign students paid income and social tax of €8 million to Estonia during the 2018/2019 academic year.
Universities will also lose millions in fees as a result. Approximately 67 percent of international students pay study fees, which range from €1,700 to €5,500 per semester.
Aune Valk, Vice-Rector of Studies of the University of Tartu, told ETV morning show "Terevisioon" on Wednesday that barring entry to third-country students would cause them great financial losses.
"If we talk about freshmen and third-country students, it probably translates to a hole of about half a million in one semester; if we talk about the longer term, and all international students, this means several million [euros]," Valk said.
Restricting foreign students also makes teaching more difficult for Estonian students, as their international peers tend to make up class sizes.
"What is happening is that in quite a number of curricula, foreign students make up half the class, and Estonian students make up the other half, which means that in fact Estonian students will also find it difficult to study, and this begins to hinder the university's entire studies," said Valk.
Hendrik Voll, Vice-Rector for Studies of Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), said on Wednesday 1,000 students from third countries study at the university, paying a total of approximately €2.5 million in tuition fees.
Voll said problems may also occur with the school's performance indicators, if students are admitted but are later expelled because they have not been physically present at classes.
"If they start studying now, the student must have matriculated at the university, but it is a high risk to matriculate a student if they are not physically present. And if they don't arrive, and disappear for a while, the school will have to expel them, which in turn lowers the university's performance indicators, which no university wants," said Voll.
Editor: Helen Wright