''Universities in Turkey Have Started to Attract Academicians in the International Arena'' PDF Print E-mail
2011-07-18 03:13:47
Image The Council of Higher Education has been in the eye of the storm in Turkey ever since it was founded after the military coup in 1981.  With 27 universities with schools, institutes, conservatories and colleges under its umbrella when it was first founded, today it has 103 state universities as a result of the government’s project to build a university in each province, and 63 private foundation universities with an increasing number particularly in the last 10 years.
While the student enrollment share in private foundation universities was only 4.2 percent in 2005, this figure doubled in 2010 and increased to 8.9 percent. While the number of  private foundation universities  in 2000 was 20, today there are 63 of them.

Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, fourth president of the Council of Higher Education, answered TURKOFAMERICA’s questions.

What is the place and role of the private foundation universities in higher education in Turkey?
Private foundation universities have importantance at three points. The first important point is, those universities help us to increase our tertiary education supply. As is well known, the  most inveterate problem of higher education in Turkey is failing to meet the demand. This problem, which has been going on for the last 30-35 years, could not be solved somehow, and turned into a social pressure.
I may gladly state that we have achieved many essential improvements in order to overcome this problem. Building new state universities, increasing the number of available spaces in the current universities, and the increasing number of private foundation universities in the recent years have all acted as catalysts for the  growth that we achieved in the higher education system of Turkey in recent years.

When we look at the private foundation universities, while the student enrollment share of private foundation universities was only 4.2 percent in 2005, this figure doubled in 2010 and increased to 8.9 percent. Approximately 20 private foundation universities that opened this year and last year have not started holding classes yet. Once those private foundation universities open their doors to students, this figure will probably go higher.

The second important point is the concept that different institutions have different missons showed up in the higher education system through the private foundation universities. Particularly in recent years, we see that some institutions and organizations have been founding universities mainly in the areas in which they are specialized.

The third important point is that the increasing diversity through the private foundation universities has brought a significant dynamism and competition to the higher education system in favor of both the students and faculty. For instance, some foundation universities offer better employment conditions compared to the state universities, and such conditions pave the way for world-wide faculty members and researchers.

Briefly, the Turkish higher education has been growing, becoming more diversified and mature with each passing day. Private foundation universities as well as newly built state universities have made significant contributions in this growth and diversity. Since there is an excess demand for higher education, I’ve supported this growth and diversity since the day I was appointed as the President the Council of Higher Education (YOK).  

How is the increasing number of private foundation universities, particularly in the last 10 years, expected to develop in the next 10 years?
While the number of  private foundation universities  in 2000 was 20, today there are 63 of them. This increase mostly happened through the private foundation universities which opened especially in the last 4 years. In addition, the ratio of the private foundations universities in the Turkish higher education system is on the increase compared to the total university ratio. While this ratio was around 27 percent in 2000, it is 37 percent today. In other words, the number of the private foundation universities increased faster than the number of state universities.
In fact, since there has been a  significant improvement and increase in the number of available spaces in the state universities in recent years, some private foundation universities have had diffuculty in filling their available spaces. However, the growth in the system will probably continue in the coming years in spite of a reduction in its speed. This is because the supply and demand in higher education has not reached a balance yet. We anticipate that the private foundation universities will develop several new strategies in order to adjust to the new competitive conditions and find new students.

For instance, these universities will be in for offering a higher quality education in some fields, in order to get ahead of their competitors. And this means new opportunities both for the faculty members and the students.

How competitive is the atmosphere between the private foundation universities and state universities?
I may gladly state that, since the higher education sytem has tremendously developed and  grown more mature by becoming diversified day by day in recent years, competition significantly increased in the system. Both the private foundation universities and the state universities committed to finding qualified faculty members. Some rectors organize several trips abroad in order to find faculty members and reseachers outside the country. Particulary in the newly built universities, the rectors have had to develop new non-hierarchical forms of relationships, because the faculty members can easily find an alternative university now if they are not satisfied. The competition among the private foundation universities also increased after the Council of Higher Education implemented a set of changes for opening new departments in order to increase the quality.

Would transfer of qualified and well-trained academics from the state universities to private foundation universities cause any problems for the state universities in the future?
The biggest criticism of the private foundation universities is that they do not make an effort to train up their own faculty members. When we look at the past, this criticism is right. Therefore, as the Council of Higher Education we want the foundations applying for permission to build a new university to submit plans concerning what they are going to do about training up their own faculty members.  There are satisfactory improvements on this issue. For instance, some foundations grant several scholarships for training up their own faculty members before they officially start offering classes. Furthermore, transfers of the faculty members to the private foundation universities reveal the fact that the state universities need to make some improvements. However, I’d like to emphasize that there are still many advantages to working in state universities. Job security and government employment are some of those advantages. Consequently, many faculty members prefer to continue working in state universities even though they have offers from the foundations.

There are more than four thousand college and universities in the USA, and the rapid growth of the for-profit education sector has diversified the marketplace, giving rise to discrepancies in academic quality. May the rapid growth in the number of foundation universities in Turkey bring this problem along with it as well?
In a higher education system serving more than half of the university age population such as in the USA, you cannot expect all the higher education institutions to be of the same quality or have the same mission.  Our higher education system has also been moving forward to serve more than half of our university age population. When our system significantly matures, mission difference among the institutions will naturally become clearer. For instance, while some universities make most of their profits from foundation income, some would make such profits from student tuitions.  As you know, unlike in the USA, private foundation universities in Turkey cannot be for-profit. A foundation university has to spend all its income on the university itself. This means the income earned from education shall be spent for education again.

It’s known that approximately ten thousand Turkish academicians live in the USA and Canada. What could the role of the Council of Higher Education (YOK) be in turning this brain drain around?  
Turkey is a country developing and growing in all aspects. The economy has been steadily and progressively developing. As you know, while academicians in the USA have had diffuculties in finding jobs because of the financial crisis of the last few years, Turkey has significantly increased the number of oppportunities for academicians by opening many new universities. Academicians receive serious transfer offers  in this atmosphere of opportunity. We have started to attract not only  Turkish academicians but also international academicians. As the Council of Higher Education (YOK), we try to eliminate the barriers preventing the universities from carrying out their primary functions of serving the community through science and education.    

Our universities would attract our researchers living abroad to the extent that they concentrate on their primary functions. In addition, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) offers significant opportunities in research funding.

For instance, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) started a ‘’post-graduate returnee scholarship program’’ this year, in order to encourage Turkish post-graduates

Turkey is one of the top 10 countries sending students to the USA. Approximately ten thousand Turkish students come to the USA every year. What is the ratio of international students in Turkey, and what has the Council of Higher Education been doing in order to increase the number of international students in the near future in Turkey?  
The number of international students in Turkey is a little less than 1 percent. Needless to say, this figure is very low when compared to countries like the USA and Britain. One of the reasons for such a low ratio is  the failure to adopt long term and stable policies in the past. While the number of international students was 18,214 in 1998, it decreased in 2004 to 14,693. The number of international students began to rise again after that, and in 2009 it exceeded the number of international students in 1998 for the first time. I may gladly state that the number of international students has shown a stable increase and reached 21 thousand by 2011.  We’ve carried out a series of important studies on this issue. We’ve signed many agreements and protocols. We’ve removed the International Student Exam in order to increase the number of international students. Similarly, we keep carrying out a set of studies to find ways of eliminating any kind of bureaucratic difficulties preventing the increase in the number of international students.
In spite of all those positive improvements in our higher education system, there has always been a complaint that our universities are not promoted abroad. As of last month, our government has taken a resolution for supporting our universities’ promotional and marketing activities abroad. This is a very positive improvement in such promotions. I think such activities will make a significant contribution to increasing the number of international students.

Prof.Dr. Yusuf Ziya ÖZCAN     President
Prof. Dr. M. A.Yekta SARAÇ     Vice President  
Prof. Dr. Ömer DEMİR         Vice President
Prof. Dr. Atilla ERİŞ             Executive Board Member
Prof. Dr. Berrak KURTULUŞ     Executive Board Member
Prof. Dr. Durmuş GÜNAY         Executive Board Member
Prof. Dr. İzzet ÖZGENÇ        Executive Board Member
Prof. Dr. Muhittin ŞİMŞEK          Executive Board Member
Prof. Dr. Yavuz ATAR        Executive Board Member
Prof. Dr. Şaban H. Çalış        Executive Board Member
Prof. Dr. Ayşe SOYSAL     
Prof. Dr. Harun CANSIZ     
Prof. Dr. Fikret ŞENSES     
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Akif AYDIN     
Prof. Dr. Mustafa İLHAN
Prof. Dr. Mustafa İSEN           
Naci AĞBAL     
Prof. Dr. Necmi YÜZBAŞIOĞLU     
Prof. Dr. Sait BİLGİÇ     
Prof Dr. Yunus SÖYLET
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Last Updated ( 2011-07-18 03:14:40 )
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