1,500 people sign petition against UT's Russian, Belarusian student ban

University of Tartu.
University of Tartu. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition against the University of Tartu's decision to ban new applications from Russian and Belarussian students for bachelor's and master's degrees for the coming year.

The petition was created by university alumni and students and says citizenship and support for Russia's war in Ukraine cannot be considered equal.

The petition's statement points out no other university in Europe has adopted such measures, it closes "doors for future professors, scholars, and civil leaders" from Russia and Belarus and "does not help fight Putin's regime in any way and will likely assist Russian propaganda in its manipulations".

"We think that the Senate's decision is harmful and only exacerbates the division between the Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, and Estonian people at a time when it is highly necessary to unite all efforts to cope with the ongoing tragedy," the statement says.

Earlier this week the university's senate council agreed only Russian and Belarussian students who are already residents of the European Union will be able to apply for courses next year. The decision will be in place for the 2022/2023 academic year.

The University of Tartu's Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Aune Valk said the decision was made, firstly, to show support for Ukraine and, secondly, because the security situation has changed.

"There is no credible and accurate data on the mentality of Russian residents, while it is clear the country has plenty of those who support this war. We cannot be sure that the authorities in Russia and Belarus will not take advantage of the possibility to send to Estonian universities people whose stay can be used for other than free academic pursuits," she wrote on Thursday.

Other universities have also said they may follow the Tartu university's lead.

President Alar Karis, a former rector of the University of Tartu, said on Thursday the ban can be easily circumvented by people with dual citizenship and may need to be reconsidered in the future.

As of Friday morning, more than 1,500 people had signed the petition.

On February 24, Russia launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Since then more than 2 million people have fled to European countries and over 12,000 displaced people have arrived in Estonia.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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