In the past five years the number of Estonian higher education institutions has decreased, however, the number of students has increased. This international research project focuses on the socio-economic background and on the living conditions of students in order to help higher education policy to become more effective on national level as well as on European level.

In Estonia, most students are financially independent and do not depend on their family – most cover their study and living expenses with paid jobs. In 2010 average Estonian student income was 8200 Estonian Kroon but the income varied a lot between students. In Europe, only Ireland has a higher student income inequality than Estonia. Student income distribution is more unequal than it is for the population.

Students spend more time in employment than studying. Younger students are more dedicated to studying and 25-29 year olds students the least dedicated. Students over 30 years old prioritise both work and study, spending 61 hours a week working and studying.

International mobility of Estonian students is high. Estonia is first in Europe for the number of students who have enrolled abroad for part of their studies. Main reasons for studying abroad are opportunities for individual and socio-cultural development, experience and wish to learn a language.

Policy recommendations for Ministry of Education and Research:

  • create flexible study and financing opportunities for different types of students
  • homogenise resource distribution between university courses
  • raise awareness among current and potential students of good quality higher education
  • find opportunities to attract better staff and teachers to pedagogical fields, to ensure the quality of teachers and tutors

Recommendations for higher education institutions

  • offer flexible admission process, so that higher education would be accessible for motivated students from various backgrounds
  • find out students’ expectations and satisfaction with the higher education offered to them
  • ensure enough information is given to high school and primary school students before they make their further study and career choices
  • bring distinguished academics to Estonia and use leading-edge teaching and study techniques