At the end of the last year, the President of Turkish Higher Education Council Mr. Yekta Saraç made a statement that received wide coverage in the press. According to 2018 data, with the international student numbers of 2018 in higher education, Turkey entered the top 10 in the world. We believe that the number of international students, which was 125,138 then, has exceeded 200,000 today. Still, the 2018 data alone is of great value.
The transfer of power brought by the New Council of Higher Education and providing universities with a vaster range of action was effective in this success. Likewise, the incentives offered by the state to universities to promote themselves abroad, of course, also played a role. However, considering that the incoming students are also interested in Turkish education instead of an education in Western languages, which have become their official language, it is perceived that all these are insufficient to explain the momentum alone.
The real reason for this success, which has been achieved with little effort, is that Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, even our expatriates have been waiting for us for a long time. We know very well that our universities in total have spent very little money compared to Western universities for international promotion. It is worth remembering a Kenyan journalist Aggrey Mutambo said, "Give us a hand." to our President recently. Our only bond with Kenya is the Ottoman rule lasted for about 5 years at the end of the 16th century. Apart from that, we don’t maintain a significant relationship with this country. We should equally consider what African experts care about the way we cooperate: An emphasis on local values. The story of Portugal, the UK, or France in Africa did not start by invitation like ours, and we know what they have done.
When we have a close look at the approach of Western countries that are advanced in the scientific field in attracting international students, we see that the goals of talent hunting and financial interest come to the fore. Whereas Turkey is concerned, we encounter a dimension that can not be measured or expressed with numbers: The Geography in the Hearts. The motive that determines our approach is free from ambitions and interests; it is the desire to meet our brothers to help them. How many nations would have such a pure purpose?
We are color-blind, as Malik Al-Shahbaz (Malcolm X) said. A large number of international students on our campus are African, and all of them are popular. These young people do not feel bad because of their skin color in Turkey. Things do not happen to them that will cause them to feel pitiable. Some of them wanted to study Nursing even though they could enter the Faculty of Medicine. Listen to their reason: There are doctors in our country, but there are not enough nurses. There is also a future pilot who said "I chose Konya for its mosques."
While opening our doors to these young people is a source of joy in itself, we are happier when we think ahead. Those who return to their countries will take us with them. They will carry the altruism of Anatolia, everything we can teach and share, to their country. One of them studied in Turkey and became a Minister of State in his country. He is sending us greetings and inviting us there. This means the land of those with a broad heart expands.
KTO Karatay University accepts 100% and 50% scholarship international students to all departments. The online scholarship exam we have been performing for the last two years has also dismissed the problems that originated from flight bans introduced with the pandemic. With the KTO Karatay Hybrid education model, we have also eliminated the problems in education.
The fact that the online exam is not widespread is still an important problem despite our country’s success in recruiting international students. A student who wants to study in a university in the USA can apply to universities in this country by taking the SAT. He can attend the test at the examination centers in his own country, maybe six different times a year. However, a vast majority of our universities either prefer doing these tests on their campuses which require students to get a visa and pay for expensive flight tickets or these universities send their staff abroad to carry out the exam with classical methods. Both methods are inadequate to boost the number of international students in Turkey. Thanks to the online examination system the number of our international students rose to 500 in the last two years, and 64 countries are represented on our campus. Our international-local student ratio is far above Turkey’s average, and it is more than 5%.
Much will change when Konya discovers the possibilities it has.
Though Konya does not offer rich opportunities in social terms like Istanbul and Ankara, the city already has many things that an international student would want. An international student first seeks peace. Konya is a real student city in this regard. We have not witnessed universities, foundations, and associations in Konya turning their backs on students. Living expenses in Konya are much more reasonable for a student than in Istanbul and Ankara. We are also a city wealthy in culture, and our kitchen possesses the characteristics of a palace cuisine. Local transportation in the city is easy, fast, and common. The most important of all is the work experience international students can gain in Konya. Only in very few cities of the world, biscuit, F1 simulator, shoe and food factories can be found so developed or widespread. If we realize the opportunities that we can offer these students to gain work experience and bring them together with these opportunities, the economy of the city will benefit in the long run.