A strong desire to study abroad among Turkey’s growing number of young people makes the country a prime location for international student recruitment, a study suggests.
Some 95 per cent of Turkish students surveyed by the British Council’s Education Intelligence research service say they want to study overseas, with the UK and the US the most desirable destinations.
Ninety-six per cent of the 4,816 students polled in all 81 Turkish provinces think overseas education will help them to secure professional jobs, says the report, The Importance of International Education: A Perspective from Turkish Students, published on 12 September.
There were about 3.5 million students enrolled in tertiary education courses in Turkey in 2010, but a great deal of demand remains unmet, says the report, which was launched at the European Association for International Education’s annual conference, held in Istanbul from 10 to 13 September.
Only 530,000 of the 1.8 million pupils who sat the country’s university entrance exam, known as the YGS, gained places at domestic institutions, the report says. While 86 per cent of the students surveyed by the British Council cite cost as the greatest barrier to overseas study, the report says that tuition fees at Turkey’s 71 private universities often exceed those levied by Western European and American institutions.
Students not offered state-funded places at home show increased interest in studying abroad, the report adds.
Elizabeth Shepherd, Education Intelligence’s research director and author of the report, said that many UK and US universities were overlooking Turkey as a market for international students despite its growing affluence and soaring numbers of young people.
“There is not a great deal of awareness about the potential of Turkey, but there will be soon,” Ms Shepherd said. “There is a real opportunity for Turkish students to go abroad…and many of them think it is important to get an international education.”
Turkey has a greater proportion of young people than any European Union member population (43 per cent are aged 24 or under) and overseas universities may be an option for many of those wishing to enter higher education in the decades to come, the report says.
With its demographic advantages and healthy economic indicators, an increasing number of Turks “of relevant age can afford to pay for education, either directly or indirectly via their families”.
“The…increased personal disposable income of the growing middle class could mean overseas study [becomes] more affordable for more students,” the report adds.
However, this may benefit Germany more than the UK. In the former, overseas student tuition fees and living costs are about a fifth of those in the latter (£4,020 a year on average compared with £19,450, according to an HSBC report published last month).
Germany’s large Turkish diaspora has also made the country an attractive destination for young Turks, who often move there to apply for university. About 28,500 Turks were studying in Germany in 2012, compared with fewer than 4,000 in the UK and about 12,000 in the US, the report adds.
Nevertheless, the UK and the US are the joint favourite destinations for overseas study, the survey finds, with 30 per cent of respondents placing them top of the list, compared with 8 per cent who favour Germany and 4 per cent who prefer Canada.
Twenty-six per cent of those who favour the UK say that learning in English is their primary rationale, but only about 5 per cent state that study in the country would aid their employment prospects.
Germany, which has recently liberalised its post-study employment restrictions, is seen as the most attractive destination for getting a job, with 17 per cent listing employment as their top reason for studying there.
However, the academic reputation of British universities appears to be the highest among respondents, with 63 per cent citing it as the most compelling reason for studying there, compared with 62 per cent for Germany and 53 per cent for the US.
“Students in Turkey see an overseas university education as a way to achieve greater individual success, and education as a whole as the way for the entire country to move forward,” Ms Shepherd said.