Universities hope international students will follow quarantine rules

Tallinn University.
Tallinn University. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Some higher education establishments in Estonia, such as the University of Tartu, have opted to admit third country students from states where infection rates exceed 16 for 100,000 persons for the coming school year, bringing a large group of students in from some of those states as the new academic year approaches. Universities have expressed hopes that there will be no issues regarding quarantine and self-isolation.

A government decision in July allows third country nationals entry to the country for education if they follow required protocols for quarantine and testing. If foreign students fail to follow these requirements, they could be sent out of the country, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Thursday.

While many EU/EEA states have reported coronavirus figures above the 16 per 100,000 threshold, these students are not barred entry, though they must still self-quarantine upon arrival in Estonia, for two weeks.

Students from third countries (broadly defined as non-EU/EEA states and in practice affecting Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, India and Bangladesh most)3, even those with a lower coronavirus rate than the threshold, often do not have it so easy, however.

Helen Joost, director of the Academic Affairs Office at Tallinn University (TLÜ), said it is still not completely clear how, and in what way, schools have to enforce isolation conditions.

She told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" that: "It is made complicated by the fact that, although schools have been given the directive, we have not been given the right to use all opportunities, in order to actually ensure compliance with these measures."

On Thursday, Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) stated that ignoring quarantine rules could end badly for students from foreign countries.

She explained: "In the regulation that allows foreign students to enter the country /.../, it is written that if they break the 14-day quarantine period, they will lose the right to remain in Estonia.

Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) vice rector for academic affairs Hendrik Voll responded: "The point of the problem is actually that returning students have not informed us of where they are arriving from, when they will arrive and where they will stay. And in those conditions, it is extremely difficult for TalTech to enforce self-isolation requirements. And testing as well."

While TLÜ and TalTech have both made the decision to defer many students to next year, the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) says it will look at each admittance separately.

Helen Jürgens, specialist at EKA's education department, said foreign students are required to provide their test results, and to keep in contact with the school.

She said: "Because the number of foreign students in our school is low, individual communication is viable."

The University of Tartu (TÜ) has decided to trust its students, but has made e-learning capabilities available for all students, at least in the start of the school year.

Aune Valk, vice rector for academic affairs of TÜ, said the school is asking every student if they have taken a test. If the student fails to follow self-isolation and quarantine requirements, they are subject to Estonian laws as everyone else.

Private higher education institutions such as the Estonian Business School (EBS) have generally chosen to allow third country students in.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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