Syrian students give up studying in Turkey
Enab Baladi – Baraa Khattab
“I can no longer study human medicine; its annual costs exceed my family’s financial capacity,” says Mais, an eighteen-year-old girl, justifying her reluctance to study medicine in Turkey.
The Mersin-based student told Enab Baladi that the tuition fees of Turkish public universities since 2013 encouraged Syrian students to study and exempted them from tuition fees.
It also used to allocate symbolic sums for each student, ranging between 300 TL and 800 TL, but since 2020, universities have re-imposed tuition fees on Syrian students, like other foreign students in Turkey.
The tuition fees have become an obstacle for Syrian students, narrowing their options to register within the branches they prefer, amid a state of helplessness among the majority of them, especially that they carry the Temporary Protection Identification Document, known as Kimlik.
Mais added that she would not be able to achieve her dream of studying human medicine, despite passing the YÖS International Student Exam in order to be accepted into Turkish universities.
The student pointed out that her sister, who is a year older than her, is studying medicine at the University of Mersin, and the family cannot afford the expenses of their studies together after the high fees.
The high tuition fees are not limited to new students but also include students who have previous university registrations, which has created a state of confusion among students, depending on the different public and private universities and admission requirements and fees in each.
Tuition fees have increased dramatically, according to Mais. The tuition for the medicine branch at Mersin University for the year 2023 increased from 87,500 TL to 110,000 TL (about $4,075), including only students who registered in the academic year 2022-2023.
For students of the next academic year, the tuition has increased to about 150,000 TL (about $5,555).
University tuition fees have gradually increased since 2020, following the decision to cancel the exemption of Syrian students from university tuition, and the tuition for the medicine branch at Kocaeli University amounted to 150,000 TL, 100,000 TL for dentistry, and 50,000 TL for engineering, while the costs of studying engineering before the cancellation of the exemption did not exceed 421 TL.
Another student named Mira said that she studied for the YÖS exam for two years with the intention of entering the medical branch, and after obtaining a high mark in the second year, the universities began announcing the cancellation of the exemption for Syrian students.
Because of the high tuition fees, Mira decided to study computer engineering instead of medicine, and she works in addition to her studies to secure her university tuition, but engineering is not her favorite branch, although it is suitable for work after graduation because it provides many jobs.
There is no unified mechanism
Ali Nabhan, an educational consultant in Turkey, told Enab Baladi that there are no fixed laws for private or public universities in Turkey. Some private universities have fixed tuition from the first to fourth year, and some raise their tuition every year.
Nabhan added that the student must ask the private university before enrollment about how to pay the tuition during the study years and whether it is covered by the change that occurs every year regarding the tuition because the decision in some universities includes only the latest batch, and in others, it includes all students in different years.
Nabhan explained that there is no trust in public and private universities. It is possible for the university to tell you during registration that the fees are fixed until graduation.
However, it may issue a sudden decision to raise fees, including everyone, and in this case, the student will not be able to do anything, and this does not mean that there are no universities that adhere to the decisions, but they are few, says Nabhan.
Fees for foreign students vary from one university to another, and the tuition for Syrian students is supposed to be the same as the tuition for foreign students. However, some universities set tuition fees for Syrian students that are different from those for other foreign students.
Not to mention that some universities treat Syrian students as they treat Turkish students. As for Turkish students who take the “YKS” exam, which is an exam for Turkish students that is almost equivalent to the YÖS exam for foreigners, their university fees are symbolic, according to Nabhan.
The educational consultant explained that the student can file a lawsuit against the university in the event that the prices are raised exaggeratedly, but he will not get a result. In addition to that, the courts take “a long time,” and the costs of the lawsuit and the lawyer are “exorbitant,” and it is better for him to pay the required installments because it is hard to reach a settlement.
An official in an office specializing in university registration in Istanbul told Enab Baladi that private universities raise their tuition fees annually by between 5 and 10 percent, and these decisions are written in the papers signed by the student during university admission.
The employee, who refused to reveal his name or the name of his office, to avoid harm according to him, stated that some universities make offers to the student, such as giving him a date to pay, and if the student adheres to this date, he is not included in the decision to raise the tuition.
The office asked a question to a private university about the sudden increase in fees, according to what the employee said, and the office answered that these decisions are written in the admission papers, as the university has the right to raise the tuition for the following years, and keeps a copy and gives another copy to the student, “but the student does not read it and comes later to file an objection to raising the fees,” he concluded.
Decision made by the universities
The Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK) issues periodic decisions to determine annual premiums, but universities do not comply with it.
YÖK considers that determining the value of the tuition is up to it and that the registration system, installments, and payment methods are considered part of the university’s system, and the standards differ from one university to another. The university can also raise its tuition, whether approved by the Higher Education Council or not, according to Nabhan.
Enab Baladi contacted YÖK and asked questions about the reasons for the discrepancy in annual tuition fees between one university and another and the reason for treating Syrian students as foreign students, even though their residence is legal under the Temporary Protection law, but it did not receive a response.
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