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Turkey building universities on sand?

Starting this year, Turkey is going to implement some serious changes in the higher education sector. The Turkish Government is planning to build in total 15 new universities in the immediate future, many of which are to be located in the underdeveloped regions, especially in eastern parts of the country. Reasons for the sudden building boom are the growing domestic economy, thanks to the generous Russian, Saudi-Arabian and Indian investors, as well as rapidly growing secondary education graduate generations. Even though the number of national universities rose from 53 to 85 in the last five years, from the 800,000 young people leaving secondary schools, a place in higher education can nevertheless be guaranteed for only one quarter. The need for new universities is thus more than urgent. At the moment, only one percent of the Turkish GDP is used on higher education.

The new plans are not welcomed without doubts, though. Many professors are expressing concerns about the size, infrastructure and quality of the future universities. In the smaller towns with around 50,000 inhabitants, the universities would not have enough skilled staff to guide the students. For the 15 new institutions, only 2000 staff positions have been budgeted. The meagre state funding has led to the foreign scholars’ preference for Turkey’s 25 foundation universities. Due to their high tuition fees they are often able to offer better learning and research conditions for their students and staff.

It may not promise well for the future, when the ambitious plans no not look good even on paper. Turkey needs to invest more money in higher education before the generations of secondary school leavers grow too huge to handle.