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Turkey in plans to woo African students to its universities

The government of Turkey is using the recent third Turkey–Africa summit as a springboard to attracting more African students to its universities, and among other measures it will start accepting high school certificates to admit students from the continent to the majority of degree programs beginning in 2023.

There are now more than 25,000 Azeri students in Turkey, an official in Azerbaijan said in late 2021. Photo: pexels

The largest cohort of international students in Turkey is from Syria, which accounts for 47,482 students

The country will exempt African students from the Turkish International Student Admission Examination, save for those applying for courses in engineering, medicine and law, according Erol Ozvar president of Turkish Council of Higher Education.

“We have taken an important step in the direction of our goals of internationalisation. It has been decided to hold Turkey’s International Student Admission Examination. In other words, TR-YOS (foreign students’ admission exams) will be implemented by a Selection and Placement Centre (OSYM) as of 2023.”

“The YOS exam results will be used for student admission to Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Law, Teaching, and Engineering programs and those who have the TR-YOS base score will be able to apply to these programs,” he said in an opinion piece published Turkish news website Anadolu Agency on the eve of New Year.

“For other programs, it will be possible to accept students with criteria such as TR-YOS, national exams of countries and high school diploma grades. In this context, we expect the third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit, held on Dec.16-18, to further strengthen the bond between our countries in the field of higher education and to be an incentive for cooperation between our universities,” he continued.

The council, he added, had signed memorandums of understanding for cooperation in higher education with 21 African countries, all at the ministerial level, which paved the way for the activities including student and faculty exchange, and joint research between universities.

Orientation into universities he said was easy due to “religious and cultural proximity” many African countries had to Turkey.

He disclosed that around 40,000 African students from 54 countries were studying in the country, a third of them female, and 20% of them being enrolled in postgraduate studies.

He noted, “A total of 220 academics from 24 African countries work in our universities, and the scholars make a significant contribution to the development of joint academic affairs between our universities”.

“The Republic of Turkey has now become an important hub for international students”

During the December summit with African heads of state, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan disclosed that Turkey had awarded 14,000 scholarships to African students, and had trained close to 250 African diplomats.

“The Republic of Turkey has now become an important hub for international students. As of 2021, we have 260,000 international students from 182 countries. While 2005 was declared the Year of Africa ​​in Turkey, new embassies were opened in Africa, and flag carrier Turkish Airlines launched new flights to the continent,” the president added.

“With 204 higher education institutions, more than 8 million students, nearly 182,000 higher education teaching staff, and 105,000 PhD students, the Turkish higher education field is growing every day and can compete strongly with other countries that dominate the global arena,” he said.

Analysis published by Study International on 5 January observed that Turkey was using soft power to win African students. It attributes the growth to use of institutions such as Turkish cultural and language organisation, Yunus Emre Institute, a non-profit organisation operating as Turkey’s cultural arm, and which has lately opened centres in African cities. In 2017, it opened locations in Ethiopia and South Africa.

It also credits The Maarif Foundation, the country’s overseas education organisation, for actively recruiting Africans into Turkish universities through education fairs.

According to an analysis by Study in Turkey published in 2019, countries sending the most students to Turkey included Syria, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany.

There are now more than 25,000 Azeri students in Turkey, an official in Azerbaijan also revealed in late 2021.

Education advisor to the Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan, Nihat Boyukbash, detailed in December that more than 25,000 Azeri students currently study at Turkish universities, while more than 3,000 Turkish students are hosted in Azerbaijan.

According to statistics from YÖK, in 2020/21 Turkish institutions hosted a total of 223,952 international students, with 23,770 hailing from the former Soviet republic.

The largest cohort of international students in Turkey is from Syria, which accounts for 47,482 students.

“Relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey in the field of education have been developing rapidly since the 90s of the past century,” Boyukbash said, as reported by Trend news agency.

Rounding off the top five source countries for international students in Turkey in 2020/21 were: Turkmenistan with 19,384; Iraq 14,799; and Iran: 11,223, according to YÖK.

Other top sending countries include Afghanistan (8,428), Yemen (5,829), Egypt (5,821), Germany (4,959), Nigeria (3,174), Pakistan (2,948), Kazakhstan (2,909), Morocco (2,531), Uzbekistan (2,421) and Indonesia (2,252).

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