As European Commission officials discuss Turkey's potential involvement in student mobility programmes as a step on the road to eventual membership, Cambridge University has signed a provisional agreement that lays the foundations for extensive co-operation with Turkey's higher education council.
The deal includes a commitment to joint-finance scholarships for ten Turkish postgraduates at Cambridge and the creation of a centre for Turkish studies at the university. A final agreement will be signed in London next month.
The scholarships are seen as the first step in a far wider cooperation. Anil Seale, head of Cambridge University's Overseas Trust, said: "It is extremely important for both the council and Cambridge... No university can stay in the front rank unless its doors are open to the world."
Dr Seale said cooperation with Turkey, which he felt had huge potential as its student numbers have increased tenfold since 1980, would help Cambridge to secure high-calibre students.
The university intends to set up the Turkish studies centre in one to two years, covering a broad spectrum of activities from literature to modern politics and Turkish language, as part of a major commitment to studying the country.
Turkey is also to play a pivotal part in the centre - Kemal Guruz, president of the council, is expected to sit on the board.
The scheme is a coup for the British Council in Turkey, which has been courting Dr Guruz as a key to the lucrative Turkish higher education market.