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Sema Alpaytac, Kare Education, Turkey

Sema Alpaytac has worked in the education industry in Turkey for over 15 years. With Kare Education, she is involved both in counselling Turkish clients about outbound opportunities and helping Turkey market itself as an international education destination, which the government is now backing as an agenda.

The PIE: Can you explain your job?

"Unless there is one code of conduct approved and implemented by local authorities we are not willing to be under the roof of any of these associations"

SA: We are private education consultancy company, Kare Education, based in Istanbul, mainly operating in two areas: we enrol students to study in institutes of higher education around the world and also we consult countries and institutions trying to enter the Turkish market.

The PIE: Tell me a little bit about how you worked with Estonia to promote the country to Turkish students [discussed in an EAIE session].

SA: In 2009, Estonia approached us to make a presentation to the international officers of all their universities in Estonia. So I flew to Tallinn and briefed them about education in Turkey, Turkey as a country, numbers, student numbers and gave them facts and figures about the country. And they were all excited about the possibilities their institutes would have coming in to the market themselves.

With Erasmus students and with short summer courses the number of Turks in Estonia reaches several hundreds

As of 2009 we signed an agreement with Archimedes Foundation of Estonia and there is a Study in Estonia scheme whereby we were appointed as their official consultants in Turkey to help them market their HEIs in different event and activities in Turkey via different channels.

The PIE: And how many Turkish students have gone to Estonia now?

SA: Before we started, in 2008, it was only like four students and now this number has reached 3 digit figures, which is already a good thing because Estonia is a small country with 1.3 million population. And I’m only talking about the fee-paying degree students or postgraduate students. With Erasmus students and with short summer courses the number reaches several hundreds.

The PIE: And what is it about Estonia that appeals to Turkish students do you think that you’ve managed to tap into?

SA: It’s not too far to start with. With a direct flight it must be only a three and a half-hour flight. Also the people who come in the market, the institutes, are quite young and dynamic and their marketing tools are very nice and they appeal to Turkish students.

Estonian HEIs somehow creates such colourful and attractive giveaways that students are attracted to their stands and in Turkey, it’s a cultural thing: you cannot take something from someone without giving something in return.

The PIE: So have you seen changes in recent years with the political unrest and the country feeling like it’s shaping its future; has it impacted the study abroad plans of Turkish students?

SA: For Turkish students, Erasmus programmes have given them the vision that they can study abroad – it’s a good thing and it’s affordable to them. Now they know, thanks to Erasmus, that they can go study abroad. Still it’s an expensive thing, not everybody can afford it.

“If the student is not placed yet can afford to study abroad, we give them some options”

When you think we have almost two million people applying for the central exam and only one-third placed where they want to go, then we have a problem. If the student is not placed yet can afford to study abroad, we give them some options: like ‘why don’t you consider so-and-so country, why don’t you consider the other?’ and that helps them to decide. We place students in 22 different countries.

The PIE: And which are these countries most likely to be?

SA: US, UK, Canada are the most popular and Europe is picking up… The UK has always been the most popular though.

The PIE: And any problems placing students in the UK?

SA: We’ve been in business long enough and we know what it takes them to get a visa, we prepare perfect application files for a student to apply for a visa but still might have no luck.

We recently had a case when a student was accepted by St George’s Medical School in University of London – that’s a big thing for a Turkish student and a success story in a way – but last week she was refused the visa though she had perfect financial stability.

The PIE: Tell me briefly about Turkey as a study destination – you said there’s no central government policy at the moment but universities are mobilising themselves?  [more>]

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