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Serving as the link between Asia and Europe, Turkey has long been a melting pot of culture and knowledge. Its large youth population is increasingly eager to broaden their educational horizons and gain exposure to different ways of thinking and learning by studying at universities abroad. Demand from Turkey for overseas higher education continues to grow, and with borders and travel routes reopening, key study destinations should carefully consider their approaches to attracting more students from this expanding and competitive market.  

In this article, we’ll explore the Turkish student market, hearing insights from two experts who specialize in the market. We’ll also look at global demand trends from Turkey using our IQ Demand Tracker tool, which tracks the search behavior of millions of prospective students, and see how these may guide institutions to optimize their engagement with prospective students from Turkey.  

Postgraduate Demand from Turkey 

C. Ece Yılmaz, IDP Office Manager for IDP Turkey says, “There is significant demand from Turkish students to study abroad; we are expecting pent-up demand to boom on the other side of the pandemic, especially for postgraduate courses abroad.”  

Our IQ Demand Tracker tool reveals noticeable differences between postgraduate and undergraduate demand from Turkey. Looking at the 2-year period of September 23, 2019 to September 23, 2021, the UK takes a clear lead for postgraduate demand from Turkey, followed by the US, Canada and Australia. Canada, however, is the biggest success story in this picture with demand increasing from 11.67% at the beginning of the 2-year period to a considerable 23.45%, while demand for the UK has remained relatively steady. The US has also seen a rise in demand, albeit less dramatic. It’s hopeful for Australia to be featured in the top 5 considering the negative impact its COVID-related restrictions have had on international student demand.  

Postgraduate demand from Turkey,  September 23, 2019 to September 23, 2021

Ece believes that one of the most effective ways for institutions to attract more Turkish students is to focus on speeding up the application turnaround time, especially closer to intake to allow sufficient time for the obtainment of visas.  

She adds, “Institutions should utilize testimonials in their marketing campaigns focused on current Turkish students talking about their experiences studying abroad. Other effective means to engage include Instagram Live and Facebook Instagram Live, however, in-person events are certainly preferred when this becomes possible again in the near future. Finally, institutions should promote their country-specific scholarships for high achievers.” 

Diving deeper into the IQ Demand Tracker tool, we can see that Health and Medicine is the most searched subject area at postgraduate level in the UK with 37.2% of demand coming from Istanbul. Demand from Ankara is also relatively strong and worth nurturing through targeted marketing campaigns. When drilling down further, we can see that under Health and Medicine, Psychology is by far the most popular subject with slightly more market share from Istanbul.    

City and subject area demand at postgraduate level from Turkey for UK 

Looking at the US market in the graph below, Health and Medicine is still the most searched subject area, but unlike the UK, Engineering and Technology is the second-most searched subject area with a relatively even breakdown of sub-disciplines and more pronounced demand from Ankara. Under Engineering and Technology, Civil Engineering and Aerospace Engineering are the most searched sub-disciplines. It’s a similar picture in Canada with Health and Medicine at the top, followed in second place by Engineering and Technology.  

City and subject area demand at postgraduate level from Turkey for the US

Undergraduate demand

Despite tumultuous growth over the last 2 years, the US is the strongest contender for undergraduate demand, claiming 30.04% of market share. In second position, the UK shows steadier growth, followed by Canada, which has seen a gradual increase in demand from 16.36% at the beginning of the 2-year period to 24.52% at the end.  

Undergraduate demand from Turkey,  September 23, 2019 to September 23, 2021 

Ece believes that the key factors that contribute to the popularity of the US, UK and Canada include destination familiarity, the high quality and reputation of universities within these destinations and postgraduate work opportunities.  

Competition for Turkish international students is tight – each of these destinations offers world-class higher education opportunities, which means that institutions need to think outside of the box when marketing their unique selling points to showcase what else they can offer. Cevriye says that Turkish students particularly appreciate programs that show how they are supported in a host country and that institutions should actively promote these. “Buddy mentor programs, career development workshops, mental health and wellbeing support, and academic and language support are all highly appreciated”, says Cevriye. “Turkish students generally like attention, which is why these types of programs definitely improve their overall experience, particularly during the critical transition phase into university life.” 

Boosting enrollment 

The sector dashboards available on My IDP Connect for the US, UK and Canada tell an interesting story about national enrollment numbers for 2019/20 and 2018/19. Of the three destinations, the UK is the only market that has seen slight growth from Turkey, rising from from 2,020 enrollments in 2018/19 to 2,060 in 2019/20. The US went from 10,200 enrollments from Turkey in 2018/19 down to 9,500 in 2019/2020, and Canada saw a significant drop in enrollments from Turkey from 3,250 in 2018/19 to 1,900 in 2019/20. Despite Canada’s drop in enrollments, our IQ Demand Tracker tool shows that demand for Canada continues to rise. With the recent reopening of its borders and government announcements supporting post-study work arrangements, Canada is likely to see a rise in enrollments more aligned to demand.  

The post-pandemic era will bring new challenges and stronger competition for institutions around the world. Esengul Kercin, Country Digital Marketing Executive for Hotcourses Turkey, shares her insights into how to best engage with prospective students from Turkey, echoing the importance of showcasing support programs.  

“It’s vital for institutions to promote their student support services - students want to feel protected by their university, particularly when they have problems while studying abroad. As is the case in most Mediterranean countries, Turkish students love being part of the community and groups. Turkish students love the family-focused approach rather than individual life. Institutions should share content about available financial support, internship and work opportunities, and services that can help students obtain a visa and find accommodations. Most Turkish students study abroad to remain permanent residents - this is one of their main motivations, so the promotion of work opportunities is particularly effective.” 

She concludes that institutions should focus on the factors most important to Turkish students when marketing to them. These include living and tuition costs, work/career/ internship opportunities, a favorable exchange rate, English-speaking country, policies that allow international students to combine their studies and work activities, an active social life and innovation in technology.  

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Franki Clemens05 October 2021