The scales are certainly tipping in Turkey; well known as a powerful sending market, Today’s Zaman has reported that the number of international students studying in Turkish universities has increased dramatically over the past five years. According to data from the country’s Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM), the number of international students studying in Turkish universities was 15,481 in the 2005/06 academic year. By 2010/11, it increased to 26,228.
Associate Professor Savaş Genç, an academic at the department of international relations of İstanbul-based Fatih University, stated that most of the international students at Fatih University come from the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. Recently released figures from The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) indicate that Azerbaijan topped the list with 3,540 students, followed by the Turkish Cyprus with 3,503, Turkmenistan with 2,929, Iran with 1,305 and Bulgaria with 1,231.
The chairman of the Foreign Economic Relations Board’s (DEİK) Business Education Council, Dr. Mustafa Aydın, indicated that the council aims to raise the number of international students in Turkey from approximately 30,000 to 100,000 by 2015, which is expected to contribute an extra US$4 billion to Turkey’s economy.
Most foreign students study management, economics and engineering programmes in Turkey, the SETA report said, adding that 24 percent of them are on state scholarships and 13 percent receive government funding.
To simplify the recruitment process for international students, SETA suggested that Turkey should facilitate school applications and visa and residence permit-granting procedures, and should set up offices to help all the international students, not only those under the European Union’s ERASMUS programme.
Explaining the trend
The general director of Edufairs Recruitment Tour Turkey and chairman of the Turkish Educational Agents Group (TEAG), Özdemir İçin, further explained that the main reasons behind the increase in the number of international students in Turkey are as follows:
- the recent growth in the Turkish economy
- an improvement in living conditions
- the recent success of Turkish foreign policy
- the hospitality and philanthropy in Turkey
- its popularity as a safe and comfortable destination for Muslim students
- increased marketing by alumni and schools
Genç added, “Another major reason behind the increase is the recent attempts of Turkish private universities to attract more foreign students to their institutions. Because state universities recently increased their quotas for international students, private universities had some difficulties finding foreign students. This, in turn, has led Turkish private universities to start to promote themselves abroad by attending international education fairs or discounting their tuition fees. This contributes to the increase in the number of international students in Turkey to some degree.”
Aydın agreed that previously only a few Turkish universities had attended international education fairs in order to recruit foreign students. However, as a result of efforts by DEİK’s Business Education Council, education fairs are rising in popularity. According to Aydın, an increase in the number of students coming to Turkey to study is expected thanks to these initiatives. The ICEF Dubai Workshop, a popular event amongst Turkish schools and agents, has seen evidence of this trend, with year-on-year growth since its launch. In another move which emphasises the growing popularity of the Turkish market, the European Association for International Education (EAIE) will host its 25th annual conference next year in Istanbul.