Funding Overview

Higher Education in Estonia

There are almost 70.000 students in higher education in Estonia. There are around 1300 foreign students, most of whom come from Finland, Russia, Latvia and China. There are 29 public institutions controlled by the Ministry of National Education and 13 private higher education institutions. The language of instruction is normally Estonian and institutions require ministry approval to offer instruction in other languages. However, there are around 100 degree programmes offered in Estonia which are taught in English.
Profit from a great level of higher education in Estonia
Profit from a great level of higher education in Estonia

Educational system

Estonian Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are made up of two broad groups. These may be state-funded or private. Since 2003 Estonia has organized its tertiary education system to conform to the European Bologna Process and standards.

Universities ülikool

  • A University must advance research, education and cultural values.
  • It will offer degrees at all three levels, as well as carrying out research relevant to its areas of instruction.
  • Its role in the development and preservation of Estonian culture is considered especially important.
  • There are six state and three private Universities in Estonia.

Institutions of Professional Higher Education Kutseoppeasutus

  • In these institutions the emphasis is on developing motivated professionals with professional skills and work attitudes. Degrees and Diplomas are usually restricted to first and possibly second-cycles.
  • Programmes are designed in cooperation with business, unions and the needs of the labour market.
  • There are 33 professional higher education institutes, 10 of which are private.

Admission Procedures

Estonian HEIs offer equal access to all eligible students. There are ‘Open’ sections at most universities where students are admitted solely on the basic of an upper secondary-education certificate. Many of these Open University courses are taught on-line and degrees can be obtained on a part-time basis. However most institutions have supplementary admission requirements: such as possession of the National Examination Certificate, entrance exams, aptitude tests and aptitude interviews. Students lacking proficiency in Estonian will be given an opportunity to spend a preliminary year studying the language, thus extending the length of their degree by one year. Although a student’s previous study and professional experience can be taken into account it cannot be used to compensate for basic admission qualifications.

EU residents are admitted under exactly the same conditions as Estonian residents. However, they must know the language of instruction well, or study it in a preliminary year, and have the equivalent certificate for completion of upper-secondary education. They must have the European Health Card to cover their health costs and must apply within one month for the Estonian ID-card. Foreign students from outside the EU need a temporary residence permit which can be obtained from an Embassy in their country of residence, or with the Border Police. Foreign students must also have health insurance. Estonia participates in the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) which allows students from EU countries to use credits from other Universities towards a degree in Estonia, or transfer credits from Estonia to a degree in another EU country.

Bachelor’s Degree Bakalaureusekraad (first-cycle degrees)

  • Both University Bachelor degrees and Professional first-cycle qualifications normally take four years to complete. There are no short-cycle programmes in Estonia.
  • Theory-based (academic) degrees build practical skills based on theoretical knowledge. Professional degrees use practical activity to develop knowledge and use theory to supplement that. At least 15% of this training is through practical work in a work environment.
  • Graduates from professional programmes receive the rakenduskkõrgharidusõppe diplom.

Master’s Degree Magistrikraad (second-cycle degrees)

  • Students must hold a Bachelor’s degree in the appropriate area of study to be admitted to a Master’s programme in that area.
  • A Master’s takes one or two years full-time to complete and the combination of study for Bachelor’s and Master’s must be at least five years.
  • In addition, for Professional Master’s entry, at least one year of practical experience in the relevant field must be demonstrated.
  • Medical, veterinary, pharmacist, dentistry, architectural, civil engineering and teachers’ training for general teachers are all offered through integrated Bachelor/Master’s programmes that normally take five years to complete. Students graduate with a Master’s.

Doctoral Programmes Doktor (third-cycle degrees)

  • Doctorates are offered by Universities only. They normally require four years to complete on a full-time basis.
  • Relevant lower degrees – Bachelor’s and Master’s - are required for admission.
  • Study is primarily through independent research and presentation of a thesis is required.