The study aims to find out what students plans are after secondary education regarding higher education, vocational study and employment, in Estonia or abroad and what factors affect their decisions.

Most Estonian high school graduates wish to continue studying: 70% of all the students plan to study in higher education institutions in Estonia, 7% wishes to continue with vocational education and 11% would prefer to study abroad. Few are interested in going into employment – 2% would like to work in Estonia and 4% abroad.

The most popular areas of study are social sciences, business and law; less preferred are art subjects and natural sciences. Students prefer subjects relating to topical issues in the society. The two major factors contributing to subject choices are the interest in the subject and the availability of free education.

Better grades, interest in deep learning and better national exam results help with the choice to continue studying in higher education. Students choosing higher education are often from better socio-economic backgrounds and their parents are more likely to have higher education. Furthermore, these students believe higher education is the best option even when their career choices are unclear. Many students are not sure about their career choices and are willing to drop their first choice if they are unsuccessful securing the place or when another option is financially more viable.

‘One third of Russian students in secondary education wish to leave Estonia after they finish high school.’ – Eve Mägi

Some high school graduates wish to continue their studies abroad. The main reason being the wish to test themselves , however, many students do not find the standards of Estonian higher education satisfactory. The biggest factor contributing to the wish to study abroad is the students’ language background. High school students studying in Russian are 6 times more likely to prefer studying abroad.