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The rapid expansion of English-taught programmes in Turkey

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • We continue our “From the Field” interview series today in conversation with Dr Cemali Dinçer, the rector of Yasar University in İzmir
  • Dr Dinçer explains some of the important factors that have led to the significant growth in English-medium degrees in Turkey, and why Turkish universities have introduced so many undergraduate degrees in English in particular

One of the very interesting stories in higher education this decade is the continuing expansion of English-taught programmes (ETPs) in Asia and especially in Europe. The latest numbers point to the rapid growth in English-medium degree programmes through 2017, with many new options available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Turkey is a standout within Europe in terms of the high proportion of English-taught undergraduate degrees on offer. We were curious about this distinct programme mix in Turkey – in that most European countries emphasise graduate studies in English – and so we sat down recently with Dr Cemali Dinçer, the rector of Yasar University in İzmir, for his insights on these important trends in Turkish higher education.

Dr Dinçer explains that the expansion of ETPs is underpinned by the corresponding expansion of the foundation university sector in Turkey. As distinct from the country’s public institutions, foundation universities are operated by not-for-profit Turkish foundations that are typically set up by wealthy individuals or families. In some respects, they find a ready comparison with some Ivy League institutions in the US that are also governed by family-founded foundations.

The advent of foundation universities in Turkey can be traced to the early 1980s when higher education reforms opened the door to privately funded not-for-profit institutions. There are now more than 70 such universities in Turkey, which collectively enroll nearly 400,000 students.

Foundation universities share some regulatory mechanisms with public-sector universities in Turkey, but are generally understood to be more agile institutions that operate outside of the more restrictive government bureaucracy that administers public higher education in the country.

As Dr Dinçer points out in our first interview segment below, it happens that the medium of instruction in most foundation universities is English. “This is the most important reason,” he explains, for the rapid rise of English-taught degree programmes in Turkey.

In our second interview segment, Dr Dinçer goes on to explain that English language instruction is not well-established within the Turkish education system and so high education effectively “fills the gap” by offering opportunities for more intensive language study and, indeed, for full-degree programmes in English.

Our final interview excerpt considers some of the broader implications in Turkish higher education of the expansion of foundation universities and the wider availability of English-medium degrees. Looking ahead, Dr Dinçer expects a further expansion of ETPs within Turkish higher education, and some rebalancing in terms of language of instruction between foundation and public universities.

For additional background, please see:

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