The new regulations, which apply only to undergraduates, have been sparked by a large number of complaints to YOK that students had been accepted onto substandard courses abroad that were being taught by unqualified staff, it said in a statement.
“Students who could not gain a place at a Turkish university have easily received offers abroad without much effort. This has damaged public morale”
“During recent years, there has been a lot of demand to study degrees abroad relating to medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, law and engineering; these degrees relate to public health,” the statement said.
“Students who could not successfully gain a place at a Turkish university have applied for these degree programmes abroad and easily received offers without much effort,” it continued. “This has damaged public morale.”
Under the new regulations, which came into effect two months ago, if a student studies abroad their institution must appear among the top 500 institutions as listed by the CWTS Leiden rankings, Shanghai rankings or University Ranking by Performance established by Middle East Technical University.
Students who are accepted to any other university must sit the two-tier university entrance exam embedded in the Turkish education system.
The regulations will have the greatest impact on young men, who are legally required to complete 12 months of national service, which can then be reduced to six for university graduates.
However, if their qualification is not recognised by the government under the new rules, they will still be required to complete the full year of service.
The test score students must achieve varies by subject. Students wishing to study medicine must achieve a score among the best 40,000 test takers in the country, and those studying law must be in the top 150,000.
The new regulations have already received some pushback, with Izzet Aslantater, director of Alternatif, one of the country’s largest education agencies, branding the plan “completely insane”.
“When you talk about the first 500 universities around the world there are only maybe four or five Turkish universities in that group,” Aslantater told The PIE News. “So it’s quite bizarre to ask students to go to those universities directly whereas most Turkish universities are not in that list.”
Gokhan Islamoglu of Turkish agency association UED called the announcement “shocking”, and said that reactions among UED’s members had varied widely.
Some were concerned that the regulations may make studying more difficult for students who are already on pre-degree pathway or language programmes abroad.
“Under normal circumstances, a student who completes the minimum requirements of a Turkish high school diploma should be able to easily achieve the minimum score”
“Those students already started their pathway and do not have time to study for the local exam as they are already in the UK,” contended Eren Goker of GKR Education Consulting. “YOK accreditation has never been an issue for UK public higher education providers apart form the unexpected regulation changes like this.”
However, some agents specialising in sending students to markets such as the US, Austria and Germany said it would have no effect on their students.
“I don’t think this requirement is as bad as it sounds,” commented Irmak Ortac of Asba Education Consulting, who advises all the students she counsels to take the national university entrance exam anyway.
“Under normal circumstances, a student who completes the minimum requirements of a Turkish high school diploma should be able to easily achieve the minimum score of 180 to qualify to study a four-year degree,” she argued.
“This new regulation will not have any negative effects on students planning to study in the US, or in any other country for that matter,” she continued. “On the contrary, this regulation is actually for the students’ own sake to make sure they have enough academic infrastructure to benefit from the education they will receive abroad.”
Turkey is facing a critical shortage of domestic university places, according to UED, whose statistics from member agencies show that demand for study abroad is on the rise, and “huge numbers” of university-aged students are interested in studying abroad, particularly in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Spain.