Why Estonia? Priit Reiska Explains
We asked our Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Priit Reiska why he sees Estonia as a great potential destination for people looking to study abroad. Here’s what he had to say.
Why should a young English-speaking person looking for a good higher education prefer Estonia?
The reasons for choosing Estonia and our universities are varied, from an excellent geographical location to our fame as a digital society.
The higher education on offer in Estonia is internationally recognized, competitive, affordable and interesting. Various research projects, an international environment and innovative teaching methods make Estonia a desirable destination for acquiring a higher education.
Estonia offers interesting study opportunities for today’s youth. On the one hand, they pose a challenge to the students, but on the other hand offer the freedom for critical thinking and make their own conclusions. Compared to other European universities, the study groups are small, allowing for a more personal approach to studies. Students in Estonia can find a quality higher education from humanities to information technologies.
To answer why Estonia should be the top destination for an English-speaking person, we must emphasise that Estonia has an international environment and Estonians are among the top English-speaking nations in Europe. Thanks to this, a student from abroad will also find it simple to organize their everyday life, in addition to their studies.
There are already around 900 international degree and exchange students in Tallinn University. Who are they?
The international students in Tallinn University are a very heterogeneous group, as they come from very different socio-demographic backgrounds from very different countries – 75 to be exact. We have freshmen straight out of high school, as well as people who have already established themselves on the labour market, but are looking for opportunities to enhance their skills in a university abroad. At the same time, they all are curious, motivated and very able.
Do you know why they all chose Tallinn University?
There are many reasons for that. Many students in Tallinn University chose us because of a recommendation from their friend, acquaintance, or family member. That shows that our education is good and our students are so satisfied with their studies that they gladly recommend us to others. Affordable study fees are just a bonus next to the high quality of studies.
What is the academic profile and focus of the English programmes at Tallinn University?
Most international programmes at Tallinn University are interdisciplinary with a wide range of knowledge of their respective fields on a grassroots level. However, they still offer specialization opportunities within the field. The programmes have been compiled so that the graduate would be able to put their newly acquired skills into practice – seminars and internships are vital to our programmes. Our English-language programmes are either in very internationalized fields (arts, film, cross media, audio-visual media), or in fields that Estonia is at the forefront on the international scale (digital technologies, education). An exciting example would be the study programme called Digital Learning Games, which is simultaneously coordinated by four schools (BFM, SDT, SES, and SOGOLAS).
We also offer English-language programmes in those areas of social, educational and humanities research, where the internationalisation is within the research subject, such as politics, international relations, cultural studies, anthropology, etc. In addition, SOGOLAS has an international programme focused solely on the studies of Estonian culture, meant for non-Estonian students. It is a programme for valuing the Estonian language and culture.
BFM is the most prolific in BA and MA studies, as they have multiple English-language programmes in audiovisual arts, as well as two joint programmes with international partner universities – Joint Master in Cinematography and Joint Master in Film Arts).
All of our PhD programmes are in English; internationalisation is built in to the research areas as well as results.
Just a statistic – in 2016, 25.6% of study programmes were in English. This means more than a quarter of our teaching efforts are made toward international students.
What makes our university and our English-language programmes different from other Universities in Estonia?
One of our main strategic focus fields if the formation of interdisciplinary research-based innovation in education. To achieve that, we started the programme LIFE in 2015/16. LIFE (Learning in Interdisciplinary Focused Environment) is a programme where students and professors from various research fields join up to complete interdisciplinary projects. In addition to joining various fields, LIFE also works as a cultural integrator, giving a co-working platform to Estonian and international students and professors. Students can choose the projects they like and the ways to complete it. The goal of the LIFE projects is to enhance the general and teamwork abilities of students through interdisciplinary problem solving. For our professors, this is a great chance to develop and apply novel teaching methods and cooperate with colleagues from different fields and universities. With LIFE, the university moves toward a more interdisciplinary process of learning and research.
In addition to participating in a LIFE project, our international students get to take elective subjects from all the programmes in Tallinn University. For example, one could take up Chinese in our Confucius Institute. Or choose some subjects from any university within Estonia.
What internship opportunities do international students have? Will they be beneficial toward them starting their careers in Estonia?
Many of our academic units have partners that offer internship possibilities to Tallinn University students. Developing a varied and widespread internship system for our international students has been a burning issue at the university for the past few years. Even though in past years the Estonian employers were quite sceptical toward hiring and having international students as interns, this trend is changing along with the rest of the society. Thus, every year more and more international students will find internships and even permanent jobs in Estonia.
The student’s own initiative is no less important when starting a career anywhere. We also offer the opportunity to have an Erasmus+ funded internship in a foreign country, but sadly, this opportunity is used by only a handful of students.
In addition to studies, what are the factors that make Estonia and Tallinn University exciting to international students?
The first thing every international student usually notices is the difference in the physical and cultural environment in Estonia. To many students, the most exciting things are getting to know the Estonian sauna culture, and hiking in our beautiful moorlands. Tallinn Old Town is also very valued among students.
In addition, studies are made more exciting with the modern facilities and technologies used at Tallinn University. Many find it surprising that in Estonia, most things can be done online without leaving your home.
The international environment allows students to form an exciting personal social network – many find friends for life from here. The Tallinn University Student Union has various clubs from the Photography Club to the Debate Club. We also host the ESN International Club, who organize events for international students to get to know each other’s food and culture. They also offer mentor students to international students. BFM also offers free screenings at our very own SuperNova Cinema.
In addition to events at the campus, many different organisations from within and outside the university offer activities to international students – there is no lack of social activities in Tallinn.
What does the future hold for English-language degree studies? Are there plans to open any new exciting programmes?
Tallinn University has five focus fields and we aim to develop at least one high-grade international programme in each of these fields. 2018 sees the addition of two new MA programmes: Educational Innovation and Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship.
Questions by: Karolin Mägi