Globalization is a term that we usually associate with businesses and organizations branching out overseas, but it also applies to higher education. For some students, they study abroad to immerse themselves in other cultures and gain life-changing experiences, and for others, pursuing an education in another country provides a chance for a future with more academic and professional opportunities. Turkey is one particular country where students routinely study abroad – an estimated 35,500 in 2017 – due to institutional limitations. According to export.gov, “the number of Turkish universities are insufficient to meet the increasing demand for higher education.” A higher quality of education and more job opportunities are just two reasons why approximately one-third of the 35,500 Turkish students end up studying abroad in the United States.
In 2000, the State University of New York (SUNY) began a system-to-system partnership with the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK), developing relationships between SUNY institutions and Turkish universities. An undergraduate dual diploma program in several academic fields is seen as the star of the partnership. As of 2016, there are 10 SUNY campuses and 6 Turkish Universities participating, with 20 academic fields and 2,219 graduates of the dual diploma programs.
The SUNY-YÖK Turkish Dual Diploma Program is an undergraduate program in which students spend half of their education at a Turkish university and half at a SUNY campus. At the end of the program, students receive two diplomas: one from the Turkish university and one from SUNY. Students are placed into dual diploma programs based on their placement score from the Turkish National University Entrance Exams (YGS-LYS) by the Student Selection and Placement center (ÖSYM).
Each program is designed to fit the needs of the specific academic field, so there are various patterns of study. Typically, students spend years 1 and 3 at the Turkish university and years 2 and 4 at the SUNY campus. The dual diploma program prepares students to work in a multi-cultural environment by ensuring they develop excellent English-language skills and by allowing them to experience two distinctively different cultures. Students who complete programs with their final year in the United States are typically eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) – allowing them to work in the US for up to 12 months.
The dual diploma program received the Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education from the Institute of International Education in 2007, under the category of international exchange partnerships.
The programs have much to contribute to the universities in each country. Dual Diploma Program Coordinator, Valerie Chou from Binghamton University says;
“Binghamton University is so fortunate to have Turkish Dual-Diploma students; their distinct backgrounds and perspectives have brought more diversity to the community. They have brought stories, experiences, and ideas to Binghamton that the faculty, staff, and the student body may not have been exposed to before.”
Mrs. Chou also states the importance of the programs for Turkish students:
“I think the Dual-Diploma Programs are wonderful in so many ways. For students from Turkey, it is a fantastic opportunity to immerse themselves in a different culture, make new friends from all over the world, listen to different voices and perspectives, increase English proficiency, and most importantly, learn how to be independent. Dual-Diploma students can experience college life in a way their friends from home may not be able to.”
This partnership is a great example of how far opportunities can take you when you start at SUNY.
Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.