International Relations and Regional Studies
Admission requirements and deadlines for the 2023 intake will be published on our website in December, 2022.
- The University of Tartu is ranked in the top 200 universities in the world in politics (see Rankings & Surveys).
- Become an expert in one of the geographical regions: the European Union, Russia and Eurasia, or the Baltic Sea region. Gain an in-depth understanding of international relations and political practices in these regions.
- Extensive practical knowledge is acquired through field trips to conflict zones and international organisations.
- You can join a double degree programme by the University of Tartu and Freie Universität Berlin and spend your second year in Germany.
- After graduation, you can work in foreign ministries and other governmental bodies, the EU institutions, lobby groups, journalism or academia.
The International Relations and Regional Studies master's programme combines a comprehensive study of international relations as an academic discipline and political practice with an in-depth understanding of particular geographic regions, including the European Union, Russia and Eurasia, and the Baltic Sea region. The programme is a good fit for all those aiming for a career with an international focus, be it in diplomacy, public service, private sector or with non-governmental organisations and academia.
How do states, international organisations and other actors pursue their interests, reinforce their identities and interact with one another in a complex and volatile international environment? How effective, adequate and fair are regional and global norms, rules, and institutions that regulate such interaction, and how can these be upheld and improved? Bridging academia and the "real world", our programme emphasises acquiring knowledge and applying it.
The programme provides extensive knowledge about contemporary international relations, traditional and critical approaches to security, foreign policy analysis, conflict management and resolution mechanisms, international law, and politics, society, and international relations in the EU, Russia and Eurasia and the Baltic Sea region. These regions grow out of our faculty's research interests and reflect Estonia's historical experience at the border of Europe and Russia - an experience which is highly relevant to other countries located in-between bigger powers.
Since 2021 the "European Union – Russia Studies" programme has become part of the International Relations and Regional Studies programme..
What will you get from this programme?
The versatile curriculum ensures that graduates emerge with a comprehensive understanding of international and regional issues and have a wide variety of skills and competencies that enable them to research, discuss, and address these issues effectively.
Wide-ranging study-abroad opportunities enhance the international dimension of the programme. The Institute has numerous agreements which enable students to spend a semester at a university abroad. In addition, students admitted into the IRRS programme are eligible to join (on a competitive basis) a double degree MA programme jointly managed by the IGP at the University of Tartu (UT) and Institute for East European Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. Students attending the joint programme spend their first and second semester at Tartu and their third semester in Berlin. Upon graduation, they receive a double degree: Master of Arts in Social Sciences «International Relations and Regional Studies» from UT and Master of Arts «Osteuropastudien» from FUB.
The learning outcomes of the programme include:
- comprehensive understanding of core IR concepts, approaches, and practices, including familiarity with international law, the global economy, and international security arrangements;
- detailed knowledge of a specific geographical region (the EU, Russia and Eurasia, Baltic Sea Region);
- ability to identify and formulate meaningful research problems and/or questions in the field of International Relations, and the theoretical, analytical and methodological competencies to effectively address these;
- specific knowledge, skills and norms relevant to the practice of international relations (e.g. conflict mediation, negotiations, skills relevant to foreign and security policy formulation and implementation);
- a range of general-purpose skills (e.g. effective oral and written communication skills, critical thinking, responsibility, initiative, leadership and teamwork skills);
- an international perspective that will enrich your career prospects both at home and globally.
Why study International Relations and Regional Studies at the University of Tartu?
Our research and teaching in the field of IR is internationally visible and recognised placing us among the top IR schools in Eastern and Central Europe.
Our record of extensive international collaboration with universities in the U.S. (George Mason University, George Washington University), various universities in Europe, partner institutions in Russia (Higher School of Economics, MGIMO and others), and major international academic networks (e.g. PONARS-Eurasia, EISA, CEEISA) translates into excellent prospects for various partnerships in the realm of teaching.
We believe that in the current international context, learning about IR in one of the smallest EU member states which is situated at the centre of the Baltic Sea Region and on Russia’s doorstep has the potential to offer unique insights into international politics.
Since 1989, Estonia has been in the centre of democratic, economic and geopolitical change in Eastern Europe. The University of Tartu has played an active role in charting these developments.
In academic scoreboards, UT ranks among the TOP 1.2% of universities in the world (see Rankings & Surveys).
The University of Tartu offers advanced study facilities, excellent libraries, well-equipped computer labs and modern residence halls. Interactive and innovative teaching and learning methods are widely used. There is a wide variety of opportunities to study abroad, including Erasmus agreements with a broad range of European partner universities.
Studying in Tartu is both attractive and affordable – it means high-quality education at a low cost in a country that is simultaneously both ancient and very modern, close to nature and technologically advanced, proud of its unique culture and traditions and open to the world (Estonia is a member of the EU and NATO and it belongs to the eurozone and the Schengen space).
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Regional modules of the programme
This module provides in-depth knowledge about EU institutions and policy-making processes, the historical evolution of the Union, and key theoretical debates on European integration. It offers an introduction to EU law while covering contemporary issues and challenges in EU politics.
This module provides the analytical tools to critically read and interpret the political, historical, and institutional developments in Russia, the European Union, and their shared neighbourhood. It offers an in-depth comparative and specialised perspective on their mutual relationship and the practical skills to assess its development.
Russian and Eurasian Studies
This module introduces Northern Eurasia as a vast and diverse region, which has been shaped by competing imperial orders, the Soviet experiment and the recently attempted democratisation. By focusing on the current political, economic, and social trends in this region, this module highlights its uniqueness and role in global developments.
Baltic Sea Region Studies
This module introduces the most dynamic and integrated area in Northern Europe that includes the Baltic states, Nordic countries, Germany, Poland and Russia. It offers a conceptual toolbox to analyse and comprehend the developments in the Baltic Sea region both in political and economic terms.
The following structure of the programme applies to the current academic year. To view the most updated version, please visit the University of Tartu Study Information System and choose the next academic year (if available).
Our faculty is highly accomplished in scholarship and teaching, with wide-ranging expertise in international relations and regional studies. Our staff encompasses people from nearly a dozen nationalities, offering students a multi‐faceted perspective on international and regional developments and problems. Our multinational teaching team values an interactive and non-hierarchical approach with students.
The faculty's research themes include:
- critical geopolitics; territoriality and sovereignty issues; de facto states dynamics (Prof. Eiki Berg)
- identity and nationalism in Russia; Russian foreign policy; EU-Russia relations (Prof. Viacheslav Morozov)
- Biopolitics; Russian foreign policy discourses; soft power and international security (Prof. Andrey Makarychev)
- European studies, regional integration, populism and political ideologies (Dr Stefano Braghiroli)
- EU's foreign and security policy (Mr Thomas Linsenmaier)
- international political economy and de facto states engagement (Dr Raul Toomla)
- Baltic Sea region politics (Dr Heiko Pääbo)
- European integration; Europeanization; Baltic-Russia relations (Dr Piret Ehin)
To combine academic quality with "real world" application, we involve stakeholders and decision-makers with key national and international responsibilities, such as the Estonian Members of the European Parliament, national and European policy-makers, and ambassadors.
Johan Skytte was the initiator of the idea of founding a university in Tartu, and since 1632, the first chancellor of Tartu University. In his inaugural address, he said that besides noblemen and burgesses the peasants, too, should have the right to study at the university. Jakob Skytte, the son of Johan Skytte, was a student of the University of Tartu, and at the same time the first rector of it.
Read more about the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies.
The programme prepares you for a wide range of careers in international affairs, including work for national governments, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and the private sector. Our graduates work, for example, in the national Foreign Ministries and other governmental bodies, EU institutions, lobby groups, and in journalism or academia.
Admission requirements for International Relations and Regional Studies
bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification (must be obtained by the end of July) – please see country-specific document requirements here.
English language proficiency – acceptable tests and exempt categories are specified here.
Applications are evaluated based on
the score of the motivation letter (yields 100% of the final score)
An important part of the application procedure is the motivation letter. Please prepare it with great care. The motivation letter must be submitted with your online application by 15 March at the latest.
Please write a motivation letter (in English, 5000-7500 characters with spaces) focusing on the following points:
- Explain your motivation for applying to the programme (Why are you interested in international relations and regional studies? What are your plans for the future and how would this study programme help you achieve your goals?);
- Explain how your educational and professional background relates to the programme you are applying to (What makes you a good candidate for this programme? What have you accomplished in the past? What knowledge, skills, and experiences do you have that are relevant to this programme?);
- Please tell us about your specific research interests within the field of international relations and regional studies (What subfields or issues are you most interested in?);
- What problems or issues would you like to examine in more depth? What would be a possible topic for your MA thesis?).
- Relevance of previous educational and professional experience for the programme (25%);
- Motivation and ambition (25%);
- Identification of specific research interests compatible with the substantive content of the programme; ability to formulate a research problem/topic (25%);
- Writing skills and command of the English language (25%).
The maximum score for the motivation letter is 100 points. Only those applicants who score 66 points or higher will be considered for admission.
For further information on assessing candidates´ academic performance and calculating admissions´ score see here.
How to apply
The following information applies to international students and Estonian students who graduated abroad:
Application system opens on 2 January and closes on 15 March. The following documents must be submitted electronically via DreamApply by 15 March:
- online application
- motivation letter
- official certified copy of the bachelor's diploma or its equivalent and Diploma Supplement (transcript) in the original language (must include description of the grading scale).
NB! Applicants graduating in the upcoming spring/summer and having their diploma and final transcript issued later than the application deadline should electronically submit their most recent official transcript by the application deadline. The transcript should be supplemented by an official statement from the issuing institution indicating current enrollment and expected graduation date. Admitted candidates are required to post certified copies of their graduation documents as soon as these have been issued (must reach us no later than by the end of July).
- official translation of the bachelor’s diploma and Diploma Supplement (transcript) into English, translation certified
- proof of English language proficiency
- copy of the passport page stating the applicant’s personal particulars
- confirmation/receipt of application fee payment (if applicable). All international applicants are required to pay the application fee EUR 100, unless they have completed the previous study level in Estonia. An application will only be processed after the fee has been received by the UT.
Submitted applications can not be edited. It is only possible to upload new documents (e.g. graduation certificates). Applicants will receive feedback and notifications through the DreamApply system to their e-mail. Incomplete applications or those submitted by e-mail will not be considered for admission.
The evaluation of applications will be made based on the electronic copies added to DreamApply. A general ranking list will be formed based on the electronically submitted applications and admission results (including offers) will be announced to all applicants personally via DreamApply by May 15 at the latest. Admitted candidates are expected to accept or decline the offer in DreamApply in 7 days. If the decision is not communicated to UT via DreamApply by the stipulated deadline, UT reserves the right to withdraw the admission offer.
NB! It is not possible to postpone the beginning of studies to the next academic year.
Terms and conditions of the admission offer
Admission offers are conditional. This means that there are conditions in the offer which the applicant needs to fulfil in order to be admitted (e.g. sending application documents by post; obtaining the required level of education). If the conditions are not met, UT has the right to withdraw the offer. Also, UT reserves the right to withdraw or amend any offer or revoke the matriculation of a student, if it becomes evident that the application contains fraudulent information, the qualification does not provide access to the chosen study programme or the student is found to have omitted key information from the application. Should such circumstances occur, UT will not be liable for any material or immaterial loss which the student may suffer as a result.
Once the admission results have been announced, all admitted students are required to send the application documents by post to: Student Admissions, University of Tartu, Ülikooli 18-133, Tartu 50090, ESTONIA.
The documents are expected to be mailed only by those receiving the admission offer (unless instructed otherwise by the admissions staff). The documents must reach the university within 3 weeks from the announcement of the offer. If the application documents do not reach us by the deadline, the university has the right to withdraw the admission offer. Applicants will be informed when their documents have arrived.
Requirements for educational documents
All copies of educational documents (diplomas and Diploma Supplements/transcripts) must be officially certified. By certified we mean that the copies should bear an original signature and seal of the authority certifying that these are true copies of the original document(s). The copies can be certified either 1) by an authorised official of the issuing institution, or 2) by a notary, or 3) with an Apostille attached. NB! Country-specific requirements may also specify the way documents from certain countries must be certified.
Please note that UT does not accept simple copies made on the basis of already certified copies (primary copies are needed).
All admitted students are required to present their original qualification certificates upon arrival (unless these were sent directly from the issuing institution).
Paying the tuition fee (applicable to those receiving a fee-based study place offer)
- EU/EEA/Swiss citizens are required to pay the fee for the first semester once they arrive in Tartu (by 20 September at the latest after signing the fee contract, please read more here).
- Admitted students from other countries are required to pre-pay half of the first semester's tuition fee. The invoice along with the pre-payment deadline and payment details will be sent to applicants via DreamApply after they have accepted the admissions offer and the University has received the hard copies of the application documents. Second part of the fee is due on 20 September. NB! The official admission letter (necessary for visa application) will only be issued once the University of Tartu has received the pre-payment.
- NB! Once you have been offered a fee-based study place, be aware that it will not be changed into a fee waiver study place. By transferring the pre-payment to the university, you confirm that you have informed yourself about the process of the visa and temporary residence permit application and you are able to arrive in Estonia by the start of the academic year. If you have any questions please contact email@example.com.
The official admission letter will be sent to admitted students electronically via DreamApply only after the admissions office has received and reviewed hard copies of the application documents, and received the tuition fee pre-payment (if a pre-payment was required, please see step 3 for more details).
NB! The electronic admission letter is also sufficient for non-EU students for applying for visa/residence permit at an Estonian embassy.
Once the admission letter is issued, accepted students may proceed further with arranging their arrival. All non-EU students should first consult information on the process of visa and temporary residence permit application to be sure, as where and when the relevant documents need to be applied. Note that housing at the UT dormitories can be applied during a limited period of time, unless specified otherwise on the website. For housing alternatives please find further information on Tartu Welcome Centre website.
Travel information can be found here.
Based upon common queries, the most important information has been summarised into a pre-arrival information website UT Getting Started.