Estonian University Education System
The education system in Estonia can trace its roots as far as the 13th century during the establishment of the first monastic schools. The University of Tartus is the Estonia’s national university, was well as its biggest, most prestigious, and oldest, having been established in 1632 when Estonia was still under Swedish rule.
Today, the higher education system in Estonia is divided into two branches: Academic and Professional.
The former specializes in research and general educational development while the latter focuses more on providing vocational training and the necessary competence for employment.
Academic study is split into three cycles namely:
Bachelor’s Studies (Bakalaureusekraad)
In the simplest of terms, the first cycle of higher education ensures that students are equipped with the basic understanding and knowledge in the programme they studied in.
- Bachelor’s studies are often completed after 3-4 years which amount to a study load of 180-240 ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits.
- Students can choose between two types of curricula:
- Theory Based – practical skills are developed based on theoretical principles and a strong knowledge in general education.
- Professional – emphasizes practical training where theoretical knowledge is developed based on practical needs. The Rakenduskõrgharidusõppe diplom is given after completion of the study.
- After graduating from both curricula, students are awarded a bachelor’s degree and are now eligible for the second cycle otherwise known as Master’s studies.
Master’s Studies (Magistrikraad)
This second cycle of higher education enhances the specialized knowledge and skills acquired at the Bachelor’s level, while also paving the way for more advanced forms of learning, such as Doctoral study.
- Master’s studies are generally finished after 1-2 years with a study load of 60-120 ECTS credits.
- In Estonia, the length of a Master’s level curriculum normally doesn’t differ among specialties.
- At least one year’s worth of work experience is required to pursue a Master’s degree in an institution of professional higher education.
- When combined with Bachelor’s studies, the length of study and the amount of work load should not be less than 5 years and 300 credits respectively.
- There are more than 50 English-taught Master’s programmes in Estonia.
Doctoral Studies in Estonia (Doktorikraad)
The highest level of study in higher education gives students the most prestigious set of knowledge and skills necessary for research, development as well as career advancement in their chosen field of work.
- The average length of doctoral studies in Estonia is 4 years with a study load of 240 ECTS credits.
- Estonia is home to international students from more than 50 countries across the globe.
Apart from the traditional two-cycle structure presented above, Estonian academic institutions also offer another method of acquiring Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees:
Integrated Study Programs
The education system in Estonia features single-long cycle studies in which both Bachelor’s and Master’s studies are integrated into one curriculum.
- These have a length of 5-6 years are equivalent to 300-360 ECT credits.
- Implemented in the study areas of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, architecture and civil engineering.
- Successful completion of the programme generally leads to a master’s level diploma.
The Estonian Academic Year
The Estonian academic year, which runs from September up until June, is split into two terms: Autumn and Spring. International students often begin their studies during Autumn.
Both terms last for five months. The Autumn term is generally from September to December with examinations taking place in January.
On the other hand, the Spring term begins either on the end of January or the beginning of February, lasting up to the end of May, with examinations taking place until the end of June.
Students are entitled to a holiday break which should be, at minimum, eight weeks long per year.
Learn more about education in Estonia: