Other universities may follow Tartu lead in barring Russian students

Tallinna Tehnikaülikool (TalTech) is one of the universities whose spokespersons have hinted might follow Tartu university's lead in barring Russian and Belarusian students.
Tallinna Tehnikaülikool (TalTech) is one of the universities whose spokespersons have hinted might follow Tartu university's lead in barring Russian and Belarusian students. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Universities in Estonia may follow suit in a bar on admitting new students from Russia and Belarus, after the University of Tartu announced plans to do just that, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Wednesday.

A total of 440 students who are citizens of the Russian Federation study at Estonia's higher education institutions, AK reported, joined by 50 from Belarus.

Hendrik Voll, Vice-Rector of studies at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), told AK that the position of Estonian universities is tends to be to act along the same lines.

He said he shared Tartu university rector Toomas Asser's concerns about the security issue surrounding Russian and Belarusian students.

Voll told AK that: "We have also discussed this issue with security experts outside the university; the university lacks the ability to differentiate those Russian and Belarusian student candidates who are loyal to Putin's regime from those who are not."

Renno Veinthal, undersecretary at the Ministry of Education and Research, says the focus is to remain on Ukrainian students fleeing the war.

Veinthal told AK that: "Universities are doing their best to create study opportunities for Ukrainian students whose study options in their home country as of today have been terminated. In Russia and Belarus, students can still continue their studies."

Hendrik Voll said similar decisions would be likely with other higher education institutions in Estonia.

"Rectors and councils of Estonia's public universities have been discussing this issue for a long time, and the current position is that the Estonian public universities act in the same way here," Voll said.

Other such universities include Tallinn University, and the Estonian University of Life Sciences, which is in Tartu.

Russian and Belarusian students already studying in Estonia will be able to continue their courses if the proposed bar comes into effect, at the start of the next academic year, provided they have a residency permit.

One Russian student, Danila Kuklianov, from Moscow and in the second year studying technology and robotics at the University of Tartu, said that he had friends who had already wanted to come to Tartu before war broke out, adding that now would be an opportunity for them to flee the Putin regime.

Another, Areta Grape, studying life sciences and economics, said that their compatriot students were united in their opposition to the Ukraine war. 

Grape said:  "I don't know anyone who agrees with the Russian government about the Russian students studying here. Everyone is opposed to the war, everyone wants peace and to be able to study in Europe."

Another student, Adilet Dossymbekov, also studying life sciences and economics, said that the conflict had not impacted student relations, regardless of where they were from.

He said: "None of us is racial, none of us discriminates against others on the basis of race or ethnicity, or who we are and who we live with. We are all here to learn."

The University of Tartu announced on Wednesday that, from next academic year, students from Russia and Belarus would not be able to study, unless they already had a permit to stay in Estonia or any other EU member state.

Those students already enrolled – 257 from Russia and 25 from Belarus – would be able to continue their studies, while the bar only applies to bachelors and masters students.

Meanwhile, 79 Russian citizens and 10 from Belarus are currently studying at TalTech, AK reported.

Russian and Belarusian students who had dual citizenship would be able to get round the ban also, assuming their other citizenship was of a state Estonia finds amenable.

The main rationale was security concerns about students whose sympathies may end up lying with the regime in their home country and its attack on Ukraine, as well as to keep in line with sanctions issued against Russia, Belarus and their citizens, in other areas.

President Alar Karis, a former rector of the University of Tartu, was quite pointed in his criticism of the announcement, adding it would likely need revisiting.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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