The rector's office of the University of Tartu decided on Tuesday that all international students enrolled in the university, as well as current and new international employees, will be able to continue their studies and employment in the fall.
The decision concerns all international students admitted to the university this year and new employees from abroad as well as international students and employees already previously enrolled in and hired by the university and about to return to Estonia within the coming few months.
The government decided at the start of July that arrivals for the purpose of studies and work are permitted from all states; however, citizens and residents from third states where the infection rate is high will be subject to a set of requirements.
Adherence to these rules will be the responsibility of the international student or employee as well as the university as the inviting party.
The University of Tartu will inform citizens from third countries of the requirements imposed on them for a period of two weeks following their arrival in Estonia.
The latter will sign a confirmation declaring that they have acquainted themselves with the requirements and will self-isolate for 14 days and only use separate means of transportation during this time.
They will be tested for COVID-19 immediately after their arrival and retested after 14 days of self-isolation. Those exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 must immediately turn to a family doctor. The University of Tartu will assist in the organization of transport and testing where needed.
Two-week self-isolation is mandatory for all international students and employees arriving in Estonia from or via a third state not listed on the website of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The same applies to students arriving from or via a state where the number of new COVID-19 positive test results per 100,000 residents has been higher than 16 over the past two weeks, or from or via a state where said data is not available yet the risk of the spread of the virus is high.
During their period of self-isolation, international students and employees must remain in their place of residence and avoid any contacts unless there is an urgent need for it. Leaving one's place of residence is only permitted for seeing a doctor, purchasing food, essentials and medicinal products or in case of an emergency.
Aune Valk, vice rector for academic affairs of the University of Tartu, said prior to making the decision, the university had consulted Irja Lutsar, professor at the Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine of the University of Tartu, according to whom the society needs to learn how to live with the virus.
"Choosing to enroll in a university is a long-term decision as the studies span for at least two years and in this context, a two-week period of self-isolation is not an unrealistic effort. Due to our readiness to start e-learning in the fall, students will have more time to arrive in Estonia and the university, too, will have somewhat more time to prepare for their arrival," she said.
We cannot be completely certain that nothing will happen as the virus might as well spread among Estonian students, but I believe that the case of the Raatuse student residence hall equipped us with the knowledge of how the spread of the virus can be curbed locally with clear rules and systematic housing arrangements."
Ulle Tensing, head of the University of Tartu's study abroad center, said the university has admitted over 500 international students this year.
"Considering the global situation, likely only one-third to half of those admitted this year will arrive. It is difficult to say how many students will be subject to the isolation requirement as the university is also expecting the return of students who have been enrolled previously and are at present staying abroad," Tensing said.
Tensing deems it important that as many international students as possible should be able to start their studies together with Estonian students in the fall.
"The organization of testing and isolation will be an additional burden for the university, but openness must also be preserved in difficult times. International students and employees are an important part of our academic community," she said.
Rector Toomas Asser said: "At the University of Tartu, international students make up an important part of the university community, and despite the complicated situation in the world, we will try our best to ensure that all international students, regardless of their country of residence, can start their studies at the University of Tartu in autumn."
On Wednesday TalTech announced they would not be admitting students from countries with a high risk of coronavirus or with unreliable data.
Editor: Helen Wright