Prof. Dr. M. A. Yekta Saraç President of Council of Higher EducationTerritory of Republic of Turkey which witnessed various civilizations throughout history, and carries a unique cultural heritage has been enriched by achievements from both the Eastern world and the Western world. Tradition of higher education, which is one of the reflections of this history, dates back to the XVth century, until foundation of most important educational institution of the period “Sahn-ı Seman”, which is known as Istanbul University today.
Higher education area of Turkey, with quantitative growth it has demonstrated in recent years, has made significant progress in many areas, especially in access to higher education. As of Today, more than 8 million students, 207 higher education institutions with over 170 thousand lecturers constitute the higher education area of Turkey. Turkey is the most prominent country in the European Higher Education in terms of the number of students. In addition to this quantitative size, policies are determined to enable our institutions to perform their own missions in a higher quality manner, decisions are taken within the framework of regional development-oriented mission differentiation, research universities are selected and investments are being made accordingly. As a result, our higher education institutions come to better points in their fields, integrate with their regions and become the focus of attention in their regions.
Access to higher education, internationalization and quality of higher education are the fundamental issues related to higher education area. Within the framework of our country's Vision 2023 goals, our main objectives are to produce policies that will that facilitate access to higher education and increase the qualified human resources, to further improve our mission differentiation and specialization project and to develop various strategies in order to make Turkish Universities, an international center of attraction. When we look at these main objectives, we can say that we are at a very satisfactory point of access to higher education.
The second important issue after quantitative, numerical achievements obtained by access to higher education is to raise the quality bar in higher education. For this purpose, administrative and financially independent Higher Education Quality Council was established in 2015. Today, each of the universities under the higher education system in Turkey are obliged to pass at least once in five years from institutional external evaluation process carried out by Higher Education Quality Council, which gained autonomy in 2017. Increasing threshold score in Higher Education admission system, introducing limitation in the order of success in Medicine, Law, Engineering, Architecture and Teaching Programs approved by all sections of the society and initiating base score application, increasing admission criteria of doctorate, initiation of accredited programs in guideline where associate and graduate degree programs are listed, updating of teaching principles of foreign language education are some of the many important projects developed to increase input quality of Higher Education System.
As Presidency of Council of Higher Education, we believe that internationalization in higher education is an investment for the future and that it should progress as a sustainable process with an understanding of responsibility towards students, academic staff and institutional stakeholders.
In the last few years, significant increases have been observed in the number of international students involved in the Turkish Higher Education System. The number of international students, which was 48 thousand in 2014, exceeded 180 thousand today. International students who prefer to study in Turkey are faced with European standards of education opportunities in various fields. On the other hand, among the countries that have European Credit Transfer System Label (ECTS Label), in terms of the number of universities receiving the ECTS label, Turkey has always been ranked first among AYA/European Higher Education Area countries since 2009. The diplomas that our students will eventually obtain are not only recognized throughout Europe, but also an important key that opens the door to them in many leading countries of the world.
With the inclusion of Turkey in the Bologna Process in 2001, the academic recognition, which is another important element of internationalization, has been placed in a more priority position in Turkish higher education. More than 45 thousand students, who are offered internationally qualified education in over associate's, undergraduate, master's and PhD degrees, 2748 of which are provided in foreign languages have a chance to continue their education in a foreign country. Through the Erasmus/Erasmus + program, more than 63 thousand students have come to our country for education since 2004, and around 170 thousands of students have gone to different countries of European Union and continued their educations abroad for one or two semesters. At the Ministerial Summit of the European Higher Education Area, which was held between 24-25 May 2018, Turkey has taken 5 over 5 full points and has once again demonstrated that it is in front of many European countries in terms of the achievements defined by the Bologna Process under "Qualifications Framework", "European Credit Transfer System" and "Diploma Supplement” subjects of Development of Degree Systems main topic.
Mevlana Exchange Program, which is initiated and supported by the Council of Higher Education, is a student and academician exchange program of Turkish universities and universities abroad, which allows students to study at a university abroad for a period of one or two semesters. Within the framework of this program, the number of Mevlana Exchange Protocols signed between our universities and universities abroad has reached 3000.
Project-Based International Exchange Program is another important step that CoHE has taken towards internationalization of higher education. Higher education institutions develop joint projects in areas approved by Executive Council of Higher Education. Within the scope of this program, support has been provided for the exchange of students and academic staff to 114 joint scientific projects conducted between our universities and 40 universities of other countries.
Education and training quality of Turkish Higher Education System is increasing day by day. "Mobility" and "Exchange" opportunities that we offer to our students and academicians, as well as joint projects and joint diploma programs conducted with reputable universities of the world contribute this. Today, the number of joint diploma programs with major universities in the world, especially in the UK, France and Germany universities, has reached 267.
We have been implementing CoHE International Scholarship Program with success for three years to meet the needs of the trained manpower of some close countries. The basic feature of this program, which is unique in the world, covers determination of the areas to be studied by the relevant country. After graduation, those scholars are obliged to perform their compulsory services in their own countries. In this respect, CoHE foreign scholarships are prioritized for the benefit of his/her country rather than the benefit of the individual. Thus, Our Council of Higher Education offers a significant contribution to the efforts of New Turkey in the understanding of sharing its possibilities with friendly and sibling countries.
I invite International students to study in Turkish universities where quality and qualified education is offered in many areas, especially in health and engineering areas. I strongly recommend that they do not miss the opportunity to reach their dreams with diplomas they will achieve in Universities of Turkey by experiencing the privilege of great hospitality of Turkish people, who cherish Eastern and Western civilizations and cultures live together and who see diversity and differentiation as wealth.