Ukraine War: Estonian Universities to Collectively Bar Russian & Belarus Students

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Russian and Belarus students who want to pursue their academic careers in Estonia might not be able to do so as the country’s higher education institutions plan to impose a new sanction on them.

The news came after the University of Tartu (UT) announced it would not enroll new Russian and Belarus students due to safety concerns and solidarity with Ukraine. At present, there are a total of 440 Russian and 50 Belarus students enrolled in Estonian universities, Erudera.com reports.

“Unfortunately, the war has an impact on the academic world just as it does on any other field of life. Last Friday, about 200 members of the Russian Union of Rectors signed a statement supporting the President of Russia and the invasion in Ukraine. In response, the European University Association suspended the membership of the universities whose rectors had signed the statement,” Vice-Rector at UT, Aune Valk wrote in a statement, pointing out that the European Union has also introduced sanctions on Russian universities and research institutions. 

Following this announcement, other universities in Estonia, including Tallinn University, and the Estonian University of Life Sciences, which is in Tartu, revealed they intend to introduce similar restrictions on Russian and Belarus students, attributing the sanction to safety concerns.

According to Hendrik Voll, Vice-Rector of studies at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), the rest of the universities in Estonia will adopt a similar approach, saying the matter has been discussed previously by education representatives.

“We have also discussed this issue with security experts outside the university; the university lacks the ability to differentiate those Russian and Belarusian student candidates who are loyal to Putin’s regime from those who are not,” Voll said.

However, this decision initially announced by the University of Tartu won’t affect those with permits to stay in Estonia or European countries. In addition, those already enrolled – 257 from Russia and 25 from Belarus, will be able to finish their studies, as the restriction applies only to bachelor and master students. Russian and Belarusian students who are holders of dual citizenship would also be able to continue their studies in the Baltic country.

The decision was protested by Russian students, with Areta Grape, studying life sciences and economics in Estonia, saying no one agrees with the Russian government, and everyone is against war.

“None of us is racial, none of us discriminates against others on the basis of race or ethnicity, or who we are and who we live with. We are all here to learn,” Adilet Dossymbekov, also studying life sciences and economics, said.

However, the decision might be revisited as the Estonian President, Alar Karis, who served as a rector of the University of Tartu, criticized the sanction.

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