Exploring Smart Growth for Higher Education in the Mediterranean

Smart Growth in Higher Education: Future Scenarios for Northern Cyprus and the Mediterranean Region
Smart Growth in Higher Education Group Photo
December 11, 2018
Higher education systems and leading universities in Northern Cyprus, Turkey and more generally the Mediterranean region, are undergoing significant enrollment and program growth. This poses challenges for coordination of the growing number of Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s). At the same time, universities are expected by lawmakers and other stakeholders to provide an expanding array of activities, and ministries are seeking for evidence of productivity gains. HEIs operate in local, national, regional, and global contexts.

A two-day international conference titled Smart Growth in Higher Education: Future Scenarios for Northern Cyprus and the Mediterranean Region, held on October 10 and 11th, 2018  in Girne, Northern Cyprus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), was Organized by CSHE researchers Grace Ufuk Taneri  and John Aubrey Douglass and hosted by Girne American University.

The conference provided a forum for presentations and discussions focused on macro issues of national/state higher education coordination and effectiveness in Northern Cyprus and the Mediterranean region, and on the micro issues of institutional performance and quality. Funding support was provided by The Mathematical Society and the Quality Society of Northern Cyprus, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Development and Economic Cooperation Office of Northern Cyprus, the Turkish Embassy in Northern Cyprus.

Northern Cyprus offers a particularly interesting case study as its higher education system is growing rapidly, and international enrollments largely from Turkey and Africa constitute some 90 percent of all students. Higher education is Northern Cyprus’ largest “import” and constitutes a larger income generator than the tourist industry. International students also nearly the sole source of funding for universities.

“There is quality among some of the universities,” states Douglass, “but rapid growth in the number of private institutions have been largely unregulated and pose challenges for Northern Cyprus’ reputation as a quality provider in the market for international students.” “Cyprus needs a higher education system that includes government funding and not merely dependent on tuition income,” note Taneri. Northern Cyprus also has complicated politics; since the 1974 political division of Cyprus, its status as a nation has only been recognized by Turkey and its economy is highly dependent on Turkey for financial support.

In preparation for the conference, a number of universities applied an institutional evaluation of their activities and performance in key areas, such as teaching and learning, economic engagement, and community service, using the New Flagship University Model developed by Douglass. “We asked a number of Turkish and Northern Cyprus institutions” notes Douglass, “to use the model to evaluate their institutional activities and values – strengths and weaknesses, and areas to seek improvement.”

Featured speakers included Grace Ufuk Taneri, Chancellor Emeritus Eastern Mediterranean University, who explored the Current and Potential Uses of Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education, and Research Professor Douglass who spoke on “Beyond Rankings and the New Flagship University Model.”

Ali Cevat Taşıran from the Middle East Technical University METU Northern Cyprus Campus discussed the role of Higher Education in Northern Cyprus’ Economy; Kata Orosz from the Yehuda Elkana Center for Higher Education, Central European University explored the “Changing International Market for Students.” “Innovation and How to Build Regional Enrollment and Academic Program Capacity” was the topic presented by Murat Özgören Vice Rector for Research Dokuz Eylül University and Turkey’s Representative at the EUA – Council for Doctoral Education Steering Committee.

The first day was ended with an interview by Douglass with Isak Froumin, Director of the Institute of Education at the Higher School of Economics - Moscow on the “Role of the World Bank in Promoting Higher Education.” Froumin formerly served as a World Bank expert based in Moscow. Additional comments and questions for Douglass and Froumin were provided by Fikri Toros, a Member of Parliament in TRNC MP and former President of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce.

Day two began with a presentation on strategic planning by Maury Cotter, Director Emeritus for the Office of Quality Improvement, University of Wisconsin followed by presentation by Vice Chancellor Sualp Davut, Vice Chancellor Murat Özgören of Dokuz  Eylül University, Chancellor Mustafa Güden of Izmir Technological University, Ercan Kâhya the Rector of Istanbul Technical University ITU Northern Cyprus campus, Aykut Toros, Dean, Faculty of Political Sciences at Girne American University, Zafer Ağdelen, Rector at Bahçeşehir Cyprus University, and Doğa Kavaz, Coordinator for Rectorate, Cyprus International University). The final session featured a panel of doctoral students led by Igor Chirikov.

A conference informed report is being prepared by Taneri and Douglass realizing the collective wisdom of distinguished speakers of the conference, providing a candid assessment of what needs be done to move Northern Cyprus Universities through the 21st Century and beyond, to imagine the possible at a time when the pressure placed upon higher education to change and adapt has been greater than ever. For that purpose, Professor Taneri is visiting CSHE here on the Berkeley campus in December.