Tartu university to restrict applications from Russian, Belarusian students

The University of Tartu's main building. Image is illustrative
The University of Tartu's main building. Image is illustrative Source: Simo Sepp/Minupilt.err.ee

Russian and Belarusian citizens who do not have permission to stay in Estonia will not be able to apply to study at the University of Tartu from next academic year, following a university ruling. Those already studying may remain.

Aune Valk, Vice-Rector for Studies of the University, told ERR that the decision arose in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

She said: "We firmly believe that this is Russia's war against democratic Ukraine, led by Vladimir Putin, and not a conflict between two peoples."

"In a situation where innocent people are dying in Ukraine, the university stands in full solidarity with the Ukrainian academic community, and with the country as a whole," Valk went on, adding that, however, with the transformed security situation, the university has had to make the decision on the grounds it cannot check or take into consideration attitudes of candidate students.

The move would also be in line with sanctions generally issued against Russia and Belarus, Valk said.

"Access to our educational services is in a similar vein to the hundreds of products and services that depend on western countries and businesses which are not currently available to [Russia's] citizens. .. The university has made the decision in the context of those sanctions today," Valk went on.

The decision was made by the university senate and means that citizens of the Russian Federation and of Belarus who lack a residence permit or long-term visa of any of the EU27 states will not be able to attend the University of Tartu to study, Valk said.

The ruling relates to future applicants; the current 257 Russian and 25 Belarusian students studying at the University of Tartu can remain, Valk added.

"All those students who have already matriculated at the University of Tartu are members of the university family, and the residence permits issued to them are valid and they can continue their studies," Valk continued.

Similarly, Russian and Belarusian citizens with residence permits in any EU state can remain or come to study in Tartu.

The decision relates to bachelor's and master's degrees, ERR reports, and comes into effect from the start of the next academic year, in September.

President Alar Karis: Controversial decision which is likely to need revisiting

President Alar Karis, a former rector of the University of Tartu, called the decision controversial and says he thinks it is likely to be reviewed.

One issue the head of state highlighted is that some Russian citizens have dual nationality and may be able to apply via that loophole.

The president told daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL – link in Estonian) that: "It is certainly a controversial decision, especially since some Russian students can apply. We know very well that there are Russian students who have multiple passports. So where can the line be drawn? I'm sure this decision will be reviewed at some point."

President Alar Karis Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

The president, who was rector of the University of Tartu 2007-2012, said that he had not been able yet to talk to current rector Toomas Asser on the matter, but added that decisions can be made in difficult times which need reviewing subsequently.

"This is probably not the only decision that will need to be amended. Looking at the current situation in Russia, many young people are still getting access the truth and have come out to the streets to protest the war," the president added.

Ultimately, distinguishing between those sanctions which will work towards ending the conflict in Ukraine and those which will hamper that is needed, something which will become clearer in due course, while it is hard to make a decision coming into effect in the autumn without knowing how the land will lie at that time.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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