New Latvian law to bring Russian-speaking students to Estonia

EUAS, also known in Estonian as Mainor, provides degree programs in Estonian, English and Russian.
EUAS, also known in Estonian as Mainor, provides degree programs in Estonian, English and Russian. Source: EUAS

Latvia has introduced a law banning the provision of higher education taught in Russian, as a result of which the number of students from formerly Soviet-occupied countries to come study in Estonia has increased.

Kristina Piliste, chief specialist of the national Study in Estonia initiative, which coordinates the international marketing of Estonian higher education, said that admissions of students from former Soviet republics had increased by more than one third in fall 2018.

"The final figures for the academic year that just began have not been drawn up yet, but interest remains high," she added.

According to Piliste, the highest numbers of students coming to Estonia from former Soviet republics are from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Latvia.

"More systematic marketing efforts have also been made toward these countries both by the schools themselves as well as by Estonia's higher education cooperation platform Study in Estonia," she noted.

Kristjan Oad, general manager of the Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences (EUAS), the only institute of higher education in Estonia to offer Russian-language bachelor's and master's studies alongside its Estonian- and English-language programs, said that the number of candidates from former Soviet republics to EUAS increased by approximately one half last year, and has increased as much this year as well.

"A law came into effect in Latvia according to which higher education can only be provided in the official languages of the European Union," Oad explained, noting that this essentially meant a ban on Russian-language higher education.

"Latvia dropping out of competition may have quite a strong impact on the Estonian education market," he continued. "There are approximately 5,000 students studying in the Russian language in Latvia, and some of them will now come study here of their own money."

According to the school's general manager, candidates to EUAS have applied mostly from Ukraine and Russia, but also from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, for example.

"For many, this means the opportunity to acquire European higher education, but in their native language," Oad noted. "Many will also begin their studies in English-language courses, such as software development. Admissions are still nearing completion, but at the moment, Russian-language master's programs in strategic management and web technologies are by far the most popular."

Russian-language studies to be phased out in Latvia

This January, a law entered into effect in Latvia according to which institutions of higher education are not allowed to admit any new students to Russian-language courses; existing Russian-language courses must also be closed by Dec. 31, 2022 at the latest.

According to statistics available from Study in Estonia, the highest number of students from former Soviet republics studying in Estonia as of the end of 2018 were students at the University of Tartu (TÜ, 546), Tallinn University of Technology (Taltech, 313), Tallinn University (TLÜ, 113), and the Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences (EUAS, 82).

Students from former Soviet republics most frequently study in courses taught in English; some 10 percent study on courses taught in Russian, while another 8 percent study in Estonian.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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