A boom in foreign language high school graduates in Turkey who opt to study abroad

İstanbul University's main gate in İstanbul's Beyazit Square.

Graduates of foreign language high schools in Turkey chose to study at universities abroad for their higher education this year following the massive purges of prominent academics from Turkish universities after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Cumhuriyet daily reported on Monday that there is 30 percent increase in the number of students who prefer to study abroad when compared to last year, with most preferring countries like Germany and Canada.

According to the report some 100 Turkish students on average applied to Canadian universities in the previous years, however the number soared to 800 this year. The number of applications to German universities also tripled this year, according to figures from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Cumhuriyet daily cited “quality and economic perks” as the reason for German universities being so popular among Turkish students.

More than half of the graduates of  İstanbul Erkek Lisesi, applied to universities abroad, especially in Germany, while the figure was much less in the previous years.

According to information provided by the Swedish consulate in İstanbul, the number of applications made by Turkish students to Swedish universities increased by 60 percent this year. Asked why the interest for Sweden was high, consulate officials said, “In a country where no discrimination exists, there is a chance of living a very relaxed student life. Sweden gives work permits to students and there is no limit on the number of working hours. The opportunities of scholarship are also very wide, and what matters for Sweden is the quality of the student.”

Aslıhan Özenç, a board member of the International Education Counsellors has also said that the number of Turkish students enrolled in preparation courses for international exams such as the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, and IELTS – required when applying to universities abroad – tripled this year. “This shows that next year as well the number of students planning to go abroad will be high,” she said.

A total of 23,427 academics have been affected by a state of emergency (OHAL) that was declared following a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, BBC Turkish had reported on June 10, 2017. According to the report, at least 23,427 academics either lost their jobs at universities when their contracts were terminated or were dismissed from their positions, or the universities where they worked were closed down by the government after Sept. 1, 2016.

There is no information about the number of administrative staff members working at these universities who were affected, but 2,808 academics were left unemployed and 65,000 students had to seek new universities according to figures from Turkey’s Council of Higher Education (YÖK).

Six state decrees issued in one year caused the dismissal of 5,247 academics from 117 universities. The rectors said they were working together with the relevant intelligence services while deciding on the dismissal of academics, but they did not explain what kind of information they received or what caused the dismissal of thousands of academics. One of the rectors, İbrahim Uslan from Gazi University in Ankara, said links to the Gülen movement was one of the criteria “assigned by the government” to dismiss academics.

However, according to a survey conducted by the Freedom of Academia, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government under the strict rule of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sacked more than 8,000 critical academics and led to 28 percent decrease in academic output since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The survey of the Freedom of Academia, a London-based research group focusing on the sufferings of the academicians in Turkey under the successive state of emergencies, has showed the short-term effects of the large-scale purges carried out by the autocratic Erdoğan regime targeting Turkey-based academics. According to the study, purge of more than 8,000 academicians in Turkey has resulted in many universities and academic departments to close – leaving many students without lecturers, many hospitals to be left with a lack of key personnel, and many scientific projects funded by the state to come to an abrupt end.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch AKP government along with autocratic President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15.

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