Turkey is increasing its international scholarships in an effort to become a global education hub, according to officials.
There are over 54,000 international students from around the world enrolled in Turkish universities. More than 13,000 of them are funded by the government’s education programs.
“Turkey aims to have more than 200,000 international students by 2023.” said Serdar Gundogan, head of the International Students Department in Turkish Prime Ministry.
Turkey has allocated about $96 million on government scholarship programs for 2014, a new record, Gundogan said.
Afghanistan has the largest number of students in Turkey, followed by Azerbaijan and Kosovo. Africa's share has increased in the last three years, due to Turkish policy toward the continent, which involves outreach and financial aid, Gundogan said.
Nearly 90,000 applications from 176 countries have been filed for the coming academic year, the highest number ever. The number of applications was 56,000 in 2013 and 44,000 in 2012.
There are more than 20 scholarship programs under the Turkey Scholarship program, Gundogan said. Medicine and engineering are the most popular majors. International relations and economics are also popular.
“There are more than 4,5 million international students across the world," Gundogan said. "We have only a 1.1 percent share, with 54,000 students. We aim to increase Turkey’s share.”
“There has been growing interest in this program from Latin America. Colombia is the leading country in terms of application and enrollment in the region with about 400 applicants in 2014.” he added.
The motivation to pursue higher education in Turkey varies from student to student.
‘’To learn a new language, experience the huge economic developing process of Turkey at the same time studying is a unique opportunity for me,’’ said Lebohang Matsoso, who is from Lesotho. He is working toward a master's degree in public law at Anadolu University.
‘’To be taught in the prestigious educational facilities in Turkey was my dream,’’ he said.
Non-scholarship students also receive attention from the Turkish government program. They are monitored and supported by the projects designed for international students.
Turkey started “Great Student Project” in 1992, to form strong cultural ties with Central Asia, Caucasia and Balkan countries by funding graduate students. In 2010, the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities was established to update the education policies. Since 2012, the Turkiye Burslari, or Turkey Scholarship, has been used by the presidency to organize and finance international education in Turkey.
Since the 1950s more than 80,000 international students have graduated from Turkish universities.