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Turkey’s ‘new target’ of 350,000 international students

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that the country is aiming to attract 350,000 international students – nearly doubling the Council of Higher Education 2021-2022 target of 200,000. However, there is apparently no clear timeframe for reaching the target.

YÖK show that in 2017-18 there are 125,138 international students in the country. Photo: Pixabay/ twalmediaYÖK figures show that in 2017-18 there are 125,138 international students in the country. Photo: Pixabay/ twalmedia

Applications for 5,000 scholarships have risen from 42,000 in 2012 to 120,000 students in 2016

At an event in May 2018, the president also hinted that “soon all foreign students and graduates will receive working permission in Turkey”, The Daily Sabah reported.

“Professionals of the field in Turkey were surprised to hear this ‘new target’ of 350,000 for the first time”

Statistics from the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) show that in 2017-18 there are 125,138 international students in the country.

“In the past, hundred thousands of guests have been educated in our country, and they have returned to their home countries,” Erdogan said.

“We have not established a mechanism for continuing the relationship with these students.”

The acting president of the Turkish Prime Ministry’s Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), Ahmet Algan, told media agencies that scholarships would be an important role in attracting more students.

Turkey Scholarships currently list six undergraduate scholarships on its website, two graduate scholarships and three short-term scholarships.

Every year 5,000 scholarships are provided to students from over 160 countries.

Reports show that the number of applications for these has risen from 42,000 in 2012 to 120,000 students in 2016.

Algan also suggested that agreements with different countries and universities have led to more students visiting the country to learn.

“The announcement that foreign students will be given work permits can change the numbers dramatically”

In March 2018, Ibn Haldun University in Turkey signed a MoU with Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar, which involves student exchange across relevant programs.

Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan, has signed a similar agreement with Izmir University of Economics, and the University of Sindh in Pakistan signed a MoU with Yildiz Technical University.

Barış Yeşilbaş, an entrepreneur who runs Study in Turkey said the president’s announcement came as a surprise for many in the industry.

“The professionals of the field in Turkey were surprised to hear this ‘new target’ of 350,000 for the first time from the president,” he said.

“It was nearly doubling the 2021-2022 target of 200k put by the new Strategy Document of CoHE for 2018-2022 period.”

For Yeşilbaş, it is not yet clear what this announcement made will mean for the future.

“We are in pursuit of clues to understanding if the speech was the statement of a new elaborated plan,” he said.

Burak Arıkan, coordinator, International Collaboration & Education Office at Kadir Has University told The PIE News reaching the 350,000 target is possible, but it is not clear when that will happen.

“Turkey recruits around 20,000 students per year. With this pace, it is impossible for us to recruit 350,000 students by 2022.

“The announcement that foreign students will be given work permits can change the numbers dramatically though,” he added.

“Still the numbers in my opinion at most can be doubled by 2022. So 200,000 would be a reasonable number.”

According to Arıkan only 10 to 15 foundation universities are active in student recruitment efforts. He said that more universities should participate in marketing activities abroad.

“The Ministry of Education support already creates a great window of opportunity for Turkish universities”, he said, adding that the ministry will reimburse expenses for specific recruitment events abroad.

If they are in ‘target’ countries such as Pakistan or Azerbaijan, international offices will receive up to 70% reimbursement.

Turkey’s international cultural and language body, the Yunus Emre Enstitüsü, established new learning centres in Ethiopia and South Africa and reported an enrolment of 900 students in 2018 for Turkish language classes.

“200,000 would be a reasonable number”

Students have been learning the language with the hope of winning scholarships for graduate studies in Turkey.

YEE has been aiming to increase its language teaching programs across the world with centres opening in USA, China, Ukraine, Russia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Argentina and Brazil. It aims to have 100 offices around the world by 2023.

The Turkish Summer School Program the institute runs received 25,000 applications from students around the world. A distance learning portal reached nearly 100,000 users a year after launching.

In 2017, research found that Turkey had the highest number of English-taught bachelor’s programs.

However, Arıkan added that the number of English taught courses must increase in order to reach targets.

“If Turkey wants to [reach the 350,000 target], we need visionary university leaders who believe in spending money for earning money,” he concluded.

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