The Council of Rectors appealed to the three ministers to permit Russian nationals enrolled in Estonian higher education institutions to conclude their current studies here and then continue their education further or remain in Estonia to work.
342 Russian students are enrolled in Estonian universities. This spring, 178 of them will receive their diplomas, but many of them wish to continue their education at Estonian universities. Under the current circumstances, this is impossible.
In April of last year, the government issued a decree stating that Russian citizens who have completed their higher education in Estonia and have a residence permit issued for study are not permitted to continue their education or begin working in Estonia.
Rectors want that Russian students currently enrolled in Estonian higher education institutions could finish their studies, continue their education at the master's level, if desired, or remain in Estonia to work.
"Many students with Russian citizenship have completed in-depth Estonian language studies and their Estonian language proficiency is adequate for further studies or employment. These young people share democratic values and a desire to establish future ties with Estonia. If they returned to their home country, they would likely face repression, which could lead to young men who have studied in Estonia and assisted Ukrainians here being conscripted and sent to fight in Ukraine," they appeal says.
The new regulation, according to the Council of Rectors, should not apply to Russian and Belarusian citizens who have graduated from an Estonian higher education institution in 2022 or later and who applied for a temporary residence permit to study at an Estonian higher education institution or a temporary residence permit to work, or who have begun studying at an Estonian higher education institution in the current academic year and applied for a residence permit to study.
In addition, the statement suggests that students currently in Estonia with a 270-day right of residence should be allowed to file for a long-stay visa application after the expiration of their residence permit. 19 pupils began their studies with a 270-day right of residence or a long-stay visa during the previous academic year. The first of them will reach the end of this period in May and may be unable to complete their studies.
According to rectors, those who previously worked in universities on the basis of a visa and short-term registration should also be eligible for visa extensions or residence permits.
The council also states that the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu is in agreement with them on the issue. In response to the students' petition the committee said that "people with higher education, who speak Estonian, are pro-Estonian and want to contribute to Estonian society are needed in Estonia. Therefore the Foreign Affairs Committee supports the granting of a narrowly defined exemption that meets these conditions."
According to the Commission, those who have completed higher education in Estonia may be eligible for an individualized and case-by-case approach when applying for a residence permit to study or work.
In March and April of 2022, Estonian universities decided not to admit Russian and Belarusian students for undergraduate and graduate programs.
The Council of Rectors forwarded the appeal to the ministers of the interior, education and research, and foreign affairs.
Editor: Marko Tooming, Kristina Kersa