Higher Education for Syrian Youth
Name and position of contact person: Aylin Yıldız - Project Expert at the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB)
Introduction to the project
Ongoing for six years
With around 3.6 million people, Turkey is home to the largest Syrian refugee population which had to flee their country after the break of civil war. The Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) works specifically in the higher education sector of Turkey and plays a significant role in building community resilience among Syrian youth, by responding with an effective and exemplary way in responding to the education needs in emergent and protracted refugee situations.
To facilitate access to tertiary education, YTB has utilized many tools including, but not limited to, granting scholarships, payment of tuitions and provision of advanced level Turkish language courses. The ‘Türkiye Scholarships’ program, provided by YTB on behalf of the Turkish Government, offers unique educational experiences in the most prestigious Turkish universities for Syrian students under temporary protection in Turkey. In this context, scholarships offered by YTB have influenced the prospects of young individuals, especially of young women, and have served as a tool of social inclusion in the host country.
In line with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, YTB has ensured an inclusive and equitable quality education opportunity for the Syrian community and significantly contributed to the achievement of 7 per cent higher education enrollment rate in Turkey while the accession rate in tertiary education for refugees worldwide remains only at 1 per cent.
Main Activities of the Good Practice
YTB acts as an exemplary model in the promotion of access to higher education. This model is exercised through a variety of useful practices in the form of tuition fee coverage, language training courses and all-inclusive scholarships for students under temporary protection in Turkey.
Within this context, it is important to note that YTB covers tuition fees of Syrian students in Turkey to facilitate accession to higher education programs. Moreover, using its most important instrument in the provision of higher education opportunities for international students, YTB has significantly utilized “Türkiye Scholarships” in response to the needs of Syrian youth. In this regard, “Türkiye Scholarships” have provided Syrian students with an all-inclusive package of university/program placement, tuition fee, health insurance, accommodation, monthly stipend and a year-long Turkish language course. Since 2012, 5,172 Syrian students have benefited from Türkiye Scholarships.
Since 2013, YTB has also been providing Turkish language courses up to C1 level, which is a requirement for foreign students to be able to enroll in Turkish universities. YTB has also benefitted from collaborating with UNHCR to increase and facilitate enrollment. Within this cooperation, 14,758 bursars have been granted language scholarships since 2013.
Additionally, YTB has taken efforts to explore the potential of financing mechanisms and instruments to mobilize international funding on tertiary education. In this regard, HOPES, DAFI and HESP programs have facilitated the access of 1,259 students to higher education programs. From 2019, students were also supported by 40 academic advisors assigned in Turkish universities hosting the largest number of Syrian students to increase retention in higher education.
Challenges and how they were overcome
YTB recognizes that language is the greatest barrier for Syrian students seeking higher education opportunities. The most common challenge for Syrian students in pursuing academic studies is to demonstrate a sufficient level of proficiency in Turkish language, since Turkish is the medium of instruction in most universities. Therefore, language preparation courses towards degree programs are designed to develop academic language proficiency.
Furthermore, academic advisors are assigned in order to increase the retention of students. The advisors are intended to be the first point of contact of all Syrian students. With the support of advisors, sociocultural problems and academic conditions of the students are followed-up. Reasons for failure during academic studies are addressed and solutions are developed.
With regards to the interaction of Syrian students with the host community, students are also diversified across provinces with different universities and degree programs. The student’s place of residence is also taken into consideration to provide easier access to the educational institutions.
Results of the Good Practice
The number of Syrian students studying at the undergraduate and graduate levels in Turkey exceeded 27,000 students as of 2019. Among the Syrian youth, there is a high demand of post-secondary education reflected in the large number of applications to “Türkiye Scholarships”. By 2019, the number of applications of Syrian youth to the Türkiye Scholarships reached 20,067 applicants.
Since 2012, YTB has provided scholarships to 14,496 Syrian students, including scholarships from international funds with 3RP partners. Between 2012 and 2018, scholarship provision for Syrian students increased by 18,4%. This good practice by YTB has had a significant impact on the attainment of a 7 per cent higher education enrollment rate among Syrian youth in Turkey, which is considered a commendable result.
Inclusion in the national education system also directly contributes to the self-reliance, resilience and economic prospects of the Syrian students in Turkey.
The good practice has creating opportunities for higher education, while also investing in human capital. Students are equipped with the necessary skills for a meaningful contribution to the labor market. More importantly, graduates of these successful programs are expected to assume active roles in the reconstruction of their country in the future. YTB strives for high levels of enrollment in tertiary education for the attainment of qualified human resources which would eventually engage in Syria’s rebuilding process.