We are in cooperation with Africa on the subject of education.
Akdeniz University, having made great progress in all departments within its body in the last years, maintains its success rate standing as the significant value of Antalya. The University, having become a cradle of culture thanks to the students coming to Antalya from different corners of the earth for education, has been the university widely preferred by especially African students in the last years.
Akdeniz University drew attention of educational institutions and high-ranking bureaucrats in Africa. Providing academic consultancy for the universities to be determined in Africa, Akdeniz University has begun working on projects that will ensure interuniversity information sharing.
Akdeniz University will contribute to the development of project culture and R&D culture by devising joint projects. It prefers to create a difference and perform actions befitting Antalya which is a world city rather than dealing with the routines. Akdeniz University Chancellor İsrafil Kurtcephe, mentioning that their university is watched closely by the whole world with interest, takes the proper pride of having created a university integrated with Antalya.
Would you please introduce yourself?
I’m a historian graduated from Ankara University the Faculty of Language, History-Geography. I started my professional life in Selçuk University. Then I went to the armed forces. I worked as an academic member for 4 years in Kuleli Military High School and for 14 years in Turkish Military Academy, carrying on my academic studies. I did my doctorate. I became a professor in Akdeniz University in 1998 and have been the chancellor for 5 years. Thanks to the scientific and cultural studies done during your chancery, Akdeniz University received widely acceptance among foreign students.
What kind of things are you working on in relation with the foreign students?
Foreign students are pretty much interested in our university. We have a policy. Assuming that Turkey is going to make adistinguished name for itself, someone who wants to receive education in my university has to do it in my language. Turkish language has to be transformed into a world language. However, it is inevitable that when you specify the language of education as Turkish, you limit the number of students applying. That is our policy. We took a decision involving not undergraduates but postgraduates. As you know, science is a universal value. We have to help Akdeniz University receive world-wide acceptance, and in order to achieve this objective we have to open disciplines not only in English language but also in Turkish language too. A discipline taught in English language would mean a discipline for everyone. I believe that will attract thousands of students. Students demand education in English. Although we have been teaching in Turkish language so far, we are one of those universities that have a great number of foreign students. Behind this, two factors lie: Antalya’s fame and recognition level and success of the university.
What would you like to tell about our students from Africa?
I am one of those people believing that Africa will no more be dark in the future. I am a historian who knows that Turkey shares the same values and identity with those people in this continent, just like it does with people from various other geographies of the world. Almost half of this continent is a geography where people once lived with us now lives on. Our values are identical with those people’s values. Human values are prioritized in the world view of our people. Race, religion, sect, color of the skin, or any other that sort of specification of a person is not important for us. What is important is his/her being human. As Turkey gets stronger, Africa will become a more independent and more self-sufficient country. I hope it will transform into a continent on which contented people live. I believe this with all my heart; because when we look at the history, we see things that were once considered impossible to happen have become real in a short time. From this perspective, I’m sure that Africa will leave its mark on the 21st century with the help of its natural sources, young population, and university youth that are now headed towards the science and a Turkey that leads them all the way and works in cooperation with them. Africa will be the leading dynamic continent. Sure.
How many African students do you have in your Akdeniz University campus?
It changes. They graduate. If you’re asking for the exact number, I don’t know. I’m not sure.
What do you do for African students’ adaptation to the campus? What sort of opportunities do you provide?
We are closely interested in our students’ problems. I conduct weekly meetings with our student council. We take their demands into consideration and try to fulfill them within opportunities offered by our university. Since Africa is hot in temperature too, incomers from Africa find this place attractive. This reminds them of their home land. Yes, it reminds, but even they complain about the temperature…Normally you cannot find the same comfort when you go to foreign country. Their treating you well or the climatic condition does not make it sweet home. There is a proverb, saying “They put nightingale in a golden cage. It still craved for its country.” They will miss their country. Their current feelings or their complaints are not important. Things they will remember about us and whatever they feel deep in heart are important. As far as we understand from our evaluations, satisfaction level is pretty high. You are in education. You are also experienced in this issue. What would Turkey’s suggestions for Africa be in terms of education? Education level in African countries differs; also the quality is not standardized. I would like to mention some general facts on it. Science is the most important wealth that human beings possess. Trusting in individuals is way better than trusting in the natural resources lying under or springing out of the ground, people have to invest on training people. When a trained person combines his knowledge with his wisdom, he comes up with resolutions in direction with getting rid of all sorts of problems. African people will hold a significant power to destroy their ill-fate if only they spare resources for education, train a major part of the folks and specify science as their mentor. Trained and educated African people will get rid of all vicious circles and conflicts happening among themselves and will use their power to change their fate. For this reason, I would suggest sparing more resources for education and gravitating towards studies on people training more.
Do you have a sister university there [in Africa]?
We stand on the northern African line. We are in the Southern Africa. We have partner universities but we are also planning to extend this. The authorities from Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia made their visit to us. In addition to this, their ambassadors paid their respects to us. They want to cooperate with Akdeniz University. We worked on it, and now we‘re planning to go to those places.
What do they demand from you?
They demand guidance in the academic field. They desire to make use of the scientific background. We will send them lecturers, and welcome and train their lecturers here. We will accept students for master education; we will help them do their doctorate. We will perform common projects, contribute their development of project culture and R&D culture.
Do you have a schedule of your visits?
The international office arranges it, makes a schedule of it and presents it for us. They make preparations; since it is summer, we’re just doing the preparations. They will present it to me, it will be clarified upon my approval and we’ll do what the schedule says.
What is new with the Mevlana Exchange Program?
In Mevlana Program, Republic of Turkey aims to train and prepare foreign students in Turkey. Some countries, i.e. Japan, perform such programs. You bring people, meet all their expenses, train them in your universities, teach them your language; and in the end, they return home and spend their life with a diploma carrying your name. This is what great countries do. In a way, Turkey is late in such programs. A country like Turkey desiring to be great has to follow this. Our university is preferred in this respect. We are the most preferred university in Mevlana Program. We signed agreements with 22 countries and it is still increasing. Yesterday people came from Kazakhstan. It was a university ranking 369 in Kazakhstan. We signed an agreement. Surprising part of this program is that we are acutely preferred by European countries too. European students want to come and get education here.
Can we say that this increasing level of attraction is connected with the international success of Akdeniz University?
This is the reflection of Turkey’s success in the science area. We are shining like a bright star in the area of science just like we do it in the areas of economy and others; people out of this country realize this situation. For example, we were not treated well when we visited those countries 5 years ago, which is not in question anymore. Today, high level protocols are applied; we are welcomed in the airports. We are exclusively treated. Rectors drive official cars when they host us. These all depends on Akdeniz University and people’s changing perception from an outer world. I many countries we are perceived as a country to shape the world. As historians, this was what we kept telling. Since 1989, “21st century will be the century of Turks.” Americans and Russians told too. Now it is becoming real. If we keep our faith, if we trust ourselves, if we try harder without thinking exhaustion, there is nothing we can’t do.
This article was taken from “Africa Time” magazine by demanding all necessary permissions for copyright.