ERG SES C 06, Migration and Education
In this paper I seek to examine Turkey’s policies to support inclusion of Syrian Refugees in higher education and argue that Turkey has a unique model –only for Syrians- which may be called as “a three pillar model”.There has been some research about refugees’ access to higher education which has mainly focused on challenges or barriers, however this paper argues that Turkey has a unique policy which has a potential and capacity to overcome the so called challenges and barriers.This model is mainly based on cooperation with Higher Education Council, Ministry of National Education and Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities.
After conflict started in Syria in 2011, more than 6 million Syrians are internally displaced and another 6 million have fled abroad. Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees: approximately 3.6 million refugees live in Turkey.
Education is a basic right and is accepted as a fourth pillar of humanitarian aid. Refugees’ access to primary education and secondary education are supported by donors however higher education is considered as a privilege or luxury. Refugees’ access rate to secondary education is 23%, and higher education is 1% according to UNHCR. Higher education has a crucial role for host countries as a means of local integration, self-reliance and livelihood and for the sending country it is hope for the future as a means of reconstruction after the conflict resolves.
It is estimated that 90,000-110,000 Syrians aged 18-22 years are qualified for higher education. Enrolment rate of Syrians in higher education before the war is estimated 26% of urban and 15-17% of rural. Demand for higher education among refugees is really high and after Syria crisis this demand has become prominent. Challenges are financial difficulties, documentation, language, limited access to secondary education etc. Turkey had to come up with a plan to deal with this unmet higher education demand.
In 2013, Turkish government expanded its policies beyond humanitarian aid and took policy measures to include Syrian youth in universities. At the beginning main challenges emerged as language barrier and documentation, so measures focused on these. For the 2013-2014 academic year 1.785 Syrian students and for the 2017-2018 academic year, 20.701 Syrian students were in Turkish universities.
First step reflecting the change was to allow Syrian students to enrol universities as a special student without documents and at the beginning 7 universities and expanded all public universities. Besides, scholarship programmes expanded for the Syrian students. Medium of instruction in most universities is Turkish and just a few offering Arabic. To overcome this issue Advance Turkish Language Learning programme started at camps and expanded in city centres later. Government took huge step and changed the regulation related to the tuition fees in 2013 and accepted the responsibility of paying tuition fee for any Syrian student who got acceptance from public universities. Besides, opening of new language of instruction Arabic degree programmes high school diploma equivalency also facilitated.
This study helps us explore policy possibilities going beyond the discussions on refugees’ accessing higher education whether luxury or not and fills an important gap in current research on the theme by documenting current practice and synthesizing legal documents and policy analysis of Syrian refugees’ inclusion in higher education on systematic and country-level analysis. This study also focuses on the effectiveness of the “three pillar” model which is utilised by Turkey in dealing with Syrian refugee crises and addresses how policies can be set to integrate the youth as potential members of community.
Syrians are under temporary protection in Turkey according to Foreigners and International Protection Law. There is no single strategy and policy document or model on inclusion of Syrains in higher education. Document analysis as a qualitative research method is used in this research. Main barriers and policy issues related to inclusion of Syrians in higher education compared year by year. So, policy changes and implementation mechanism examined. In this research, Turkey’s policies to include young Syrians in higher education analysed by using document analysis method. Policy changes and implementation aiming inclusion of Syrians in higher education are analysed through the data of: *Ministerial decrees and decisions: Special student programmes, tuition fee exemption, Arabic degree programmes *Brochures, web page, press release: Mainly for scholarships and Advanced Turkish Language Learning programmes, secondary school diploma equivalency. *statistics acquired through YOK, MONE and YTB documents.
Increasing protracted refugee situations demonstrates that education is the most important element of self-reliance to have a durable solution. Supporting higher education is a long term process of improving refugees’ capacity and hope for integration. Although higher education is perceived as privilege or luxury for refugees most of the time, Turkey’s policy of inclusion in higher education consider it more as a necessity than a luxury for the well-being of both the host and home countries. Turkey’s experience has demonstrated that states can be able to take comprehensive measures to include refugees in higher education taking into consideration of long term benefit of investing human capital. Even though policies supporting inclusion of refugees in higher education in Turkey is mostly successful, cutting down drop outs and additional education supporting programmes such as career building and job finding are also necessary. Based on the analysis of the documents this study argues that Turkey’s model is unique and effective in dealing with large numbers of young people to include in the education system. It must be noted, though, while Turkey’s inclusion policy in higher education support Syrians, other refugees are not within the scope of some policies for the time being.
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