Turkey is aiming to treble the number of international students at its universities.
The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has announced that he wants to attract about 350,000 foreign students by 2022, up from the current 115,000, which would put Turkey in the world’s top-five study abroad destinations.
“We not only open up our schools to visiting students, but our hearts as well,” said Mr Erdoğan at the 11th International Students Gathering in Istanbul, the Daily Sabah reported.
He added that “all students will get health insurance without waiting three months” and that he would examine ways to retain highly skilled foreign graduates.
“In the past, hundred[s of] thousands of guests have been educated in our country, and they have returned to their home countries. We have not established a mechanism for continuing the relationship with these students,” said Mr Erdoğan, who added that “no matter where they are coming from, we would like to continue our relations with them in the future”.
The announcement comes amid Turkey’s ongoing crackdown on political dissent, which has led to the dismissal of almost 6,000 academics and 151,000 public servants over their alleged links to the banned Gülenist group, which Mr Erdoğan blames for the failed military coup of July 2016.
Last month, 16 academics from the Istanbul Technical University, one of Turkey’s top universities, were jailed over membership of the Gülenist group, which is viewed as a terrorist organisation, according to the Turkey Purge website.
Five of the academics were sentenced to six years and three months in jail, while eight academics were jailed for seven and a half years. Other sentences ranged from three to four years.
The trial for a further 19 accused academics continues.