The number of international students in Estonia has grown rapidly and most likely this trend will continue. Attracting international students to Estonia has been highly successful. The number of local students on the other hand is declining and the demand for qualified workforce in the labour market is increasing. Therefore it is important to analyse the potential of international students to alleviate the shortage of qualified workforce. Policy analysis examined the topic related to international students and came up with six conclusions:
- The recruitment of foreign students to Estonian universities has been statistically quite successful, but there has not paid enough attention to what kind of foreign students to attract and to their role in Estonia’s economy and society.
- So far, recruitment activities of international students have been, above all, related to education policy objectives to raise the quality and competitiveness of higher education, but in the situation of shortage of highly skilled labour the role and potential of international students in Estonian labour market and economy has not been addressed enough.
- The aim of higher education internationalization strategy is to attract talented and motivated international students to Estonian universities, but the achievement of the goals has not been possible to assess. In addition, the Study in Estonia concept of marketing international higher education has described the target group of its activities differently.
- So far the focus has been on attracting foreign students to Estonia, but lately the policy-makers have begun to consider what happens to international students after their studies, i.e. how to attract them to work in Estonia and how to support them in finding a job. Universities are currently responsible for the international students while they are studying, but after their studies students are left alone in looking for work.
- Most employers and experts stress the need for highly qualified labour in Estonia, but only few of them are willing to recruit foreign labour due to ignorance, lack of information and prejudices. In addition, the potential of foreign students to alleviate the labour problem has not been recognized enough.
- The recruitment of international students to Estonia has been so far based largely on the initiative of few active people. In Estonia, there is no cooperation between different stakeholders in terms of clear and coordinated strategy for the recruitment and employment of international students and therefore the sustainability of current activities is at risk. Constant staff exchanges in organizations and the absence of common base increases the risk further.