In what is being heralded as a positive step towards Turkey’s ambition of becoming an education hub, the country’s Council of Higher Education (YÖK) has announced that limitations on the number of international students accepted to study at Turkish universities have been abolished.
Prior to the announcement, universities could only accept international students if their total number did not exceed 50% of the overall student quota that each university defined annually for new admissions.
“The goal is to make Turkey a centre of attraction for higher education opportunities”
According to a report in the Daily Sabah medicine and dentistry courses will be the only exception where the 50% quota will still apply.
“However, universities with enough facilities to house a large number of students and meet criteria for education standards will be allowed to admit any number of students into these branches, providing a separate class for them,” the report stated.
Medicine and dentistry courses will be the exceptions where the 50% quota will still apply
YÖK president Yekta Saraç explained that the goal is to make Turkey “a centre of attraction for higher education opportunities”.
He pointed out that YÖK took the first steps to achieve this goal by setting up an international relations department and drafting a strategic plan for international efforts.
“I think we are conducting a successful process,” Saraç said, noting that Turkey signed deals with 34 countries since the 1980s in cooperation on education and to boost the number of students choosing Turkey for higher education.
“The recognition of our universities, especially in neighbouring countries, increased and we get good results from our initiatives to make Turkey more known for its universities in Africa and the Balkans.”
Saraç added that they have seen “a leap” in the number of international students. According to statistics released by YÖK last year, 125,138 international students were in the country in 2017-18.
“This is the result of serious planning… a new student and lecturer exchange program, updated accredited diploma regulations, new scholarships and initiatives to attract qualified foreign lecturers played a role in the increase,” Saraç added.
Speaking with The PIE News, vice director for Global Education and Partnerships at Istanbul Aydin University and coordinator of EURIE Ayse Deniz Ozkan noted that the lifting of undergraduate restrictions is expected to increase international student numbers overall.
In the past, when YÖK deregulated university admission criteria to allow institutions to set their own admission criteria, total international student numbers increased.
“Particularly foundation universities tend to take initiative and develop proactive marketing and admission policies when regulatory frameworks allow,” she said.
“Some may open more English-taught programs where the majority of the students will be international”
However, it is key that universities now develop the right internationalisation strategy to suit their individual institution.
“Some may open more English-taught programs, possibly where the majority of the students will be international,” Ozkan explained.
“We may see over-concentration of international students in certain study fields. These may create new challenges for university administrations.”
“It will be up to the universities themselves to navigate through this new era by setting the right admissions criteria and competitive tuition fees and by offering quality academic programs, and more services and support structures for international students,” Ozkan added.