University of Tartu: Changing Aliens Act harms higher education

University of Tartu
University of Tartu Source: Andres Tennus/Tartu Ülikool

The University of Tartu's Senate and Council has said changing the Aliens Act, Higher Education Act, education allowances and student loans would be too hasty, unnecessary and stops the fulfilment of longterm national goals.

In a letter sent to the Ministry of Justice, chairman of the university's council Ruth Oltjer wrote that the plan to ban free higher education to third country students could cause several problems.

"These changes are unnecessary and are in conflict with several national goals, including creating a talent-friendly environment, which is one of the aims of the ongoing 'Eesti 2035' strategy," Oltjer said.

Oltjer said the university is only able to create a quality studying environment for all students when they are internationally open. She added that it should be emphasized that talents students come to study not only students with money.

"I am convinced we can only serve Estonia's society in the open world if we aim to be one of the leading research universities in Europe. Estonian society and our young people should not accept anything less," the letter said.

Changes would also be harmful to Estonian students

She pointed out that restricting the admission of foreign students hinders the development of priority specialities, especially Computer Science and Information Technology.

Oltjer wrote the state expects that the acceptance of the curriculum would increase by 30 percent in three years. However, Oltjer said that it is not possible to do this by only accepting young people from Estonia.

In addition, the Council and the Senate believe that scholarship schemes for talented international students need to be developed and should be done before free places are lost. Scholarships could be funded from needs-based study grants.

"Making the change overnight hits several smaller English-language curriculum, in which both Estonians and foreigners study together. Closing the curriculum as a result of the changes means the opportunity to study also disappears for Estonian students," Oltjer points out.

The university proposes a transition period of at least two to three years, as the recruitment of international students will take about 10 months and the changes would take effect in the middle of the application cycle.

"All in all, a small but well-targeted investment to bring the best students here does not reduce the learning opportunities of Estonian students, but helps them to create a developing, open and international learning environment where they can acquire knowledge with talented young people from around the world. It is a breeding ground for innovation and new ideas. Additionally, the university contributes to the Estonian economy through such smart, but very limited and targeted migration with students and graduates coming here." Oltjer wrote.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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