- The tradition of excellence in semiotic theory in Tartu was established by Juri Lotman, the founder of the semiotics of culture and the Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School and the oldest journal of semiotics Sign Systems Studies.
- The Department of Semiotics is one of the most important centres of semiotics in Europe, with deep roots for cultural semiotics and biosemiotics. UT is one of the few institutions teaching complete master’s and doctoral degree programmes in semiotics.
- UT collaborates and is regularly visited by professors from all over the world.
- The finest collections of semiotic materials in Tartu include the memorial library of Thomas Sebeok and the Centre of Jakob von Uexküll.
- After graduation, you can work in semiotic consulting companies, marketing, media, translation, design and architecture, international organisations or continue studies on a doctoral level.
The programme in Semiotics provides interdisciplinary background and gives a theoretical base for applying semiotic ideas to a wide variety of disciplines and scientific study. The programme binds together the theory of semiotics and three core modules - cultural semiotics, biosemiotics and sociosemiotics. The programme also combines the major semiotic traditions of Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles S. Peirce with the leading contemporary and innovative thought.
Semiotics is the general study of sign processes or semiosis. Semiosis makes the world meaningful. Today’s world, where processes have a disbalance of global and local dimensions, challenges us to understand the need of individuals and societies for defining their identity. Semiotics is centrally relevant to achieve this understanding.
The Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu is one of the most important centres of semiotics in Europe, with deep roots for cultural semiotics and biosemiotics. Jakob von Uexküll and Juri Lotman, founder of world-renowned Tartu-Moscow Semiotics School, form the cornerstone of the Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu. The Department of Semiotics also holds the memorial library of Thomas A. Sebeok, which was received as a donation.
Why study Semiotics at the University of Tartu?
- The tradition of excellence in semiotic theory in Tartu was established by Juri Lotman in the 1960s, the founder of the semiotics of culture and the Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School and the oldest journal of semiotics, Sign Systems Studies.
- The University of Tartu has been one of the few institutions teaching full Master’s and PhD degree programs in semiotics since 1993.
- As one of the world’s significant semiotics centres, the University of Tartu collaborates and is regularly visited by professors from all around the world: Paul Bouissac, Dinda Gorlee, Winfried Nöth, Roland Posner, Frederik Stjernfelt, Eero Tarasti, Kristian Bankov, Paul Cobley, Robert E. Innis, Katalin Kroó, Ekaterina Velmezova and many others.
- The finest collections of semiotic materials in Tartu include the memorial library of Thomas Sebeok, one of the world leaders in the 20th-century semiotics, and the Centre of Jakob von Uexküll, a Baltic German whose works have been essential to the development of biosemiotics.
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).
- Graduates can apply their expertise in the professions that require complex knowledge of cultural analysis, i.e. semiotic consulting companies, marketing or media.
- Practical applications of semiotics include translation and science writing, design and architecture, advertising, and communication strategies.
- Employees of international organizations, e.g. embassies, where tolerance and conflict management skills are vital, can improve their professional education.
- Programme graduates can continue to do doctoral studies and research. Semiotics is particularly relevant to advanced study in the life sciences, where biosemiotic understanding and semiotical interpretation prove to be of remarkable value.
Admission requirements for Semiotics
bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification, previous studies in semiotics are not required (the degree 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.
Updated on 8 March 2022:
1) The application deadline for Ukrainian citizens for the first and second level of study (excluding Medicine) will be extended to 1 June.
2) As of 7 March 2022, University of Tartu has decided that citizens of Russian Federation and Belarus can submit applications for first and second level programmes offered in the academic year 2022/2023 only if they hold a residence permit or long-term visa of the European Union or are currently studying in Estonia.
Applications are evaluated based on
the score of the motivation letter (yields 50% of the final score)
the admission interview (yields 50% of the final score)
The motivation letter must be submitted with your online application by 15 March at the latest.
Please write a brief motivation letter (in English, maximum of 4600 characters with spaces) based on the following points:
- describe what skills and knowledge you have acquired through previous education and working experience;
- analyze how the master's programme in Semiotics can contribute to your personal development;
- describe your current ideas about a research topic you would like to focus on during your master's studies
- motivation and general aptitude for studies in Semiotics
- analytical and argumentation skills
Applicants with a positive result (51% of the maximum score for the motivation letter) are invited to the interview.
The interview is designed to determine the applicant's readiness for continuous learning, professional development, and aptitude to study in the master’s programme.
The interviewee will be evaluated based on the following conversation topics:
- motivation and fields of interests pointed out in the motivation letter;
- acquaintance with the field of Semiotics;
- readiness for continuous learning and professional development;
- skills in analysis, argumentation, and self-expression in English.
The duration of the interview is 20 min and it is conducted online in English. The interviews take places on April 18-22, 2022. In April, once the motivation letters have been evaluated each qualifying applicant will be contacted personally via e-mail by the programme's admissions committee to schedule the exact time for the interview.
The maximum score for the interview is 100 points and the result is positive only if the applicant gains 51 points or more.
General information regarding the online admission interview
The University of Tartu uses different video communication programmes to conduct an online interview (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, Big Blue Button). The admissions committee will notify you, which software programme will be used and when does the interview take place.
The applicant needs the following for the online interview:
- a computer or smart device. The computer or smart device must have a web camera, earphones and microphone (built-in or separate). As the applicant must be visually identified at the interview, the use of the web camera is mandatory, not recommended;
- The internet connection with a speed of at least 1 Mb/s (upload/download) is recommended for the video call.
At the online interview:
- the applicant must have an identity document;
- the applicant has to ensure that the room where they stay is free from other persons or background noise;
- the applicant must take into account that they are not allowed to save the interview.
For each assignment, the maximum score is 100 points and minimum positive score 51 points. Only the candidates who receive at least 51 points from the motivation letter, will be invited to the interview. After the interview, the final admission score is calculated. Only those applicants who score 66 points or higher (out of 100) as a combined score from both the motivation letter and the interview, 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 (including also the grades/results for the last autumn semester) 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 (no later than by the end of July).
- official certified translation of the bachelor’s diploma and Diploma Supplement (transcript) into English. As certified translations we consider 1) official translations made by the issuing institution (university) bearing their original signature, stamp etc, or 2) translations certified by a sworn translator or notary.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.