The most important directions and choices in Estonian education have been set out in the Estonian Education Strategy 2021-35. The strategy emphasizes, inter alia, the need to take account of globalisation and to ensure equal access to quality education for all in a rapidly changing world, regardless of social or cultural background, age, gender, etc. International co-operation is one of the basic principles and values that have guided the strategy and are the basis for its implementation. One of the action lines of the strategy includes the promotion of internationalisation and learning mobility in order to diversify study opportunities, increase the quality of education and promote the Estonian language and culture. To this end, it is necessary to increase the mobility of teachers, vocational teachers, support specialists and university teachers, to develop educational marketing and to promote long-term international strategic cooperation in the field of education and training.
Higher education programme 2016-2022 highlights the role of the internationalisation of education in supporting the development of Estonian areas of economic growth and the quality of higher education. Providing academic and professional foreign language training in Estonia, paying attention to work practice opportunities and creating employment opportunities for graduates in the Estonian labour market are also integral to the internationalisation. The same principles are also supported by the Research and Development, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Plan 2021-35. For example, emphasis is put on ´internationalisation at home´- creating a business environment that would retain and attract talent, recruiting top-level researchers to Estonia, creating opportunities for researchers and other academic staff to move between academia, public and private sector in Estonia and internationally.
Estonia has most opportunities for international mobility at higher education level with respect to both incoming and outgoing students. While in the European Higher Education Area aims to use the Erasmus+ program to strengthen mobility, the objective of the Estonian higher education policy is not only enabling an experience of mobility to Estonian students but also increasing considerably the share of foreign students in Estonia. According to the Education Strategy, in addition to pupils and students, more teachers, vocational teachers, support specialists and university teachers, including foreign lecturers, should be involved in learning mobility.
According to the Education and Youth Program 2018-24, it is important to promote the international competitiveness of education. The goal of the program is that by 2024, 10-15% of the Estonian student population will be foreign students. Since a lot of resources have been channelled into the internationalisation of higher education, by supporting mobility, international cooperation and marketing of Estonian higher education abroad, the number of foreign students in formal education has more than doubled over the last six years. While in the academic year 2011/12, the number of foreign students in formal education was 1,573, in 2020/21, the according number was 5.235, i.e., 11.57% of the total number of students.
Education and Youth Authority under the Ministry of Education and Research implements national, international and European Union education programmes, coordinates the award of different grants and scholarships, and engages in marketing of Estonian education abroad. The activities relating to marketing of higher education abroad are carried out under the brand name of Study in Estonia. The information targeted at foreign researchers has been brought together on the portal Research in Estonia administered by a foundation under the Ministry of Education and Research. In 2020, a brand Education Estonia was launched for introducing, global marketing and export of Estonian education and its success stories. The Education Estonia website is used to mediate or sell services and products related to Estonian education system, including digital solutions, knowledge, skills, experience, consultations, training, study trips that can be shared and exported to other countries at various levels, e.g. state agencies, local governments, organizations, institutions and companies.
With a view to increasing mobility, several scholarship programmes have been developed. The greatest of the scholarship programmes promoting the internationalisation of higher education is Dora Plus 2015-2023 funded from the European Regional Development Fund. The programme aims at increasing the popularity and attractiveness of Estonia as a place for study and research, and the international competitiveness of the education provided by the institutions of higher education. The sub-objectives of the programme include the improvement of awareness of young researchers and Master’s students of different study and research work practices as well as an increase in their participation in international cooperation projects, an increase in the share of international Master’s and Doctoral students in Estonian institutions of higher education, improve the efficiency of Doctoral studies, improve the demand for international students in the Estonian labour market and thereby support the development of higher education and economy and bring the Doctoral studies provided in Estonian universities more in line with the principles of innovative Doctoral studies.