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Survey: Increasing diversity among student population in Estonia

22. February 2018 - 15:47

According to the pan-European student survey Eurostudent, Estonian student population is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of age as well as other background characteristics. A fifth of students aged over 30, every fifth student is a parent, and two out of three work and study at the same time.

According to Janne Pukk, Chief Expert of the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education and Research, the survey results indicate that the society has embraced the concept of lifelong learning. “Learning is becoming part of a proactive stance and people are combining studies with their other duties. “This means that we should pay more attention to needs arising due to the different background of students, and focus on the reconciliation in working and learning without compromising the quality of education. The more diverse the background of our students, the more we need to offer flexible alternatives in terms of taking up and organisation of studies as well as in terms of mobility and practice.”

Working is an integral part of student life

66% of students work and study concurrently. On the average, a student works 31 hours and studies 33 hours per week. More than half (54%) of working students claim that they are above all employees, who pursue their studies whilst in employment.

According to Education Policy Analyst of Praxis Eve Mägi, usage of time by students and frequency of and reasons for working indicate that working is an integral part of student life. Even though 77% of students work to cover their living expenses, they don’t work for money only. “It is evident that the field of study and work experience are closely linked - more than half of working students work in their area of specialisation and 69% of students work to gain experience,” said Mägi. “Students choose to work because they prioritise competitiveness and gaining professional experience in addition to mere subsistence.

Estonian students enter the labour market early - 41% of 20-24-year-old students already work regularly. The analysis shows that there is no direct connection between the probability of students’ working and the socio-economic background of their parents.

The high rate of working students is largely explained by the diversity of Estonian students in terms of their age. The average age of students is 26 years which distinguishes Estonia from many European countries where their average age is 25 or less. “Apart from Doctoral studies, more than fifth of our students are aged 30 or over,” said analyst Eve Mägi. “72% of them are parents and 87% work and study concurrently. This means that we have many adults in higher education for whom learning is just one of essential sphere of life that competes with other spheres for time and attention - primarily family and work.”

The reduction of mobility can be largely explained by the diversification of the student population. The share of students who do not intend to study short-term in a higher education institution abroad in the course of their studies has grown. Major obstacles are the ensuing expenses, being away from the close ones, and losing paid employment, plus problems related to the transfer of academic credits obtained abroad. Chief Expert of the Ministry’s Higher Education Department Janne Pukk noted that fostering mobility requires the new mobility programmes to be developed with greater consideration for the possibilities and needs of various target groups. But she also pointed out a positive trend - there is an increasing number of foreign students and teachers in Estonia which opens the door for “internationalisation at home”.

  • EUROSTUDENT is a pan-European student survey to collect and compare data on the social dimension of higher education in Europe. The survey addresses topics like students’ choice of area of specialisation, satisfaction with studies, access to higher education, daily life, working and time use, income and expenses, and international mobility.
  • The Estonian survey covered 2,148 students who were studying according to curricula for Bachelor’s studies, professional higher education or Master’s studies or integrated curricula for Bachelor’s and Master’s studies in 2016.
  • The survey was commission by the Ministry of Education and Research and conducted by Praxis think tank.
  • The survey report is available here (in Estonian).

Further information: Lee Maripuu, Communications Manager of Praxis, phone: 56 482 209

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