The Estonian Study Abroad Market

In this market report on Estonia we will cover socio-economic, educational and mobility trends. Education is often said to be the corner stone of the economy and society as a whole. Few people would guess that Estonia is a role model when it comes to education and the economy.

Estonia is a small Baltic republic with a capita income of 14,000 dollars a year, just over half of Italy’s figure of 25,000 dollars. And on closer inspection, it is not even one of the continent’s fastest growing economies. However, it is perhaps the only emerging EU economy to focus on education as a driver for growth. It is the fifth European Union country in terms of education investments, after Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Finland, and the only emerging economy to have over 6% of GDP invested in education.

According to a recent BBC report, Estonia is Europe’s newest education powerhouse. ‘Estonia is outperforming major European economies, including the UK, in influential global education tests, run by the OECD. These Pisa tests measure the ability of 15-year-olds to apply their skills and knowledge to real-life problem-solving in reading, mathematics and science.’ All this and more in the Market Report on Estonia.

Quick facts

  • Population: 1,3 million (2020)

  • Education: until the age of 17

  • Academic year: September – August

Secondary education

  • Starting age: 11

  • Duration: 6 years (3 years general, 3 years upper secondary education)

  • Enrollment numbers: 82,646 (2019 data)
    Enrollment rate: 118%

Higher education

  • Duration: 4 – 5 years (bachelor 3 years, Master 1 – 2 years)

  • Enrollment numbers: 47,794 (2019)

  • Tertiary enrollment rate: 70%

  • Universities/Higher Education Institutions: 19 (13 public universities, 6 private institutions)

Estonian Education System

Secondary education

Secondary education is based on basic education and divided into general secondary education, provided by upper secondary schools, and vocational secondary education, provided by vocational educational institutions. General secondary education constitutes a set of knowledge, skills and competences, set out in the national curriculum for upper secondary schools, the acquiring of which is the precondition for further studies at universities and vocational educational institutions.

Upper secondary school

The upper secondary school is a general education school, which follows on from basic school and has a nominal study period of three years. Upper secondary schools consisting of years 1to 12 (i.e. the study period lasts 12 years) have historically prevailed in Estonia. There are few upper secondary schools specializing solely in the provision of upper secondary education (i.e. years 10 to 12). As of 2010, the Government is actively promoting national upper secondary schools that provide exclusively upper secondary education. Everyday learning is based on school curricula prepared based on the national curriculum for upper secondary schools. (Source: Minstry of Education Estonia)

Admission to Higher Education

Admission to higher education is decentralized and takes place at higher education institution level. The results of the national centralized final examination for secondary education form the basis for admission. The individual higher education institutions are permitted to formulate admission requirements in the form of examinations, interviews or an aptitude test. In principle, the gümnaasiumi lõputunnistus (full general secondary education certificate) and the lõputunnistus kutsekeshariduse omandamise kohta (secondary vocational education diploma) grant access to all forms of higher education. (Source: Nuffic)

Higher Education

In Estonia, the higher education system has two branches: study is carried out in the academic and the professional higher education branch. Since the academic year 2002/03, the general structure of academic study has three levels or cycles. The first level is Bachelor’s study and the second level is Master’s study. The third and the highest level is Doctoral study.

Professional higher education is, similarly to Bachelor’s study, the first level of higher education, which ensures access to Master’s study. Completion of respective studies at each level of higher education is considered the graduation from an educational institution.

The duration of bachelor degree programs generally covers 6 semesters, which corresponds to 180 ECTS. The Bakalaureusekraad degree is awarded upon completion of the program.

Master degree programs have an average length of 1 to 2 years (60 – 120 ECTS), which means that the total duration of the bachelor’s and subsequent master’s degree program is at least 5 years, or 300 ECTS. The Magistrikraad degree is awarded upon completion of the program.

All final university assessments resulting in the award of a magister degree grant access to the pursuit of a doctorate. The average length of these programs is 3 to 4 years. Graduates of doctorate programs are awarded the degree of Doktor.

Visual depicting the Estonian Educational System

Latest Estonian higher education study abroad stats

At this point a total number of 3,626 Estonian students are studying abroad (source: UNESCO). These are the most popular study abroad destinations for students from Estonia:

Estonian students studying abroad
UNESCO study abroad data

Study Abroad Developments in Estonia

Estonia has a tradition of providing high-quality education. According to statistics from a recent poll by the non-profit organization Dream Foundation, over 60 percent of Baltic students would like to study overseas. An increading number of Estonian students are looking for opportunities to gain high quality international education, professional training and experience. Foreign language courses are becoming more and more popular. The number of Estonian students going abroad, to colleges and universities, is growing year by year.

Over the past few years the Baltic States have become increasingly attractive for education providers from all over the world. This is not a casual interest, but a developing tendency proving that the potential and demand for the educational industry abroad in the Baltic region is very high. More and more top institutions are finding their way to the Tallinn.

IB schools in Estonia

Best performing Estonian Universities

Looking to partner with Universities from Estonia? These are the best performing universities.

University of Tartu

THE Rank: 301 – 350

Tallinn University

World Rank: 801 – 1001

Tallinn University of Technology

THE Rank: 801 – 1001

Upcoming Education Fairs in Estonia

Scholarships for Estonian students

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