And why do many opt to stay there after graduation?
Fifteen thousand Azerbaijani students are studying in Turkey.
“Azerbaijanis constitute the majority of foreign students in Turkey,” said Abdulgafur Büyüfirat, the educational adviser at the Turkish Embassy in Azerbaijan.
There were a total of 170 740 students in Azerbaijani universities from 2016 to 2017. It turns out that approximately every twelfth student that begins university in Azerbaijan leaves to study in Turkey. Many of them stay on afterwards.
Akif has lived in Turkey for 12 years. He received a higher education, is employed, and married. “I built a life,” as he said. For Akif, Azerbaijan is nothing more than his historical homeland:
“I couldn’t adapt in the land of my ancestors. After I graduated from university, I went back, looked for work for eight months and finally realized that nothing would come of it. So I returned to Ankara. Now I work as a sales manager in a company within my specialty. Everything’s normal. I brought my mother here as well so she wouldn’t be left there alone, but she often asks to be buried in her homeland when she dies.”
Why not Azerbaijan?
We asked young people who are preparing to study in Turkey, who are studying there now and who have already completed their studies there this question. Here are some reasons they gave against studying in Azerbaijan:
1. Local education is of very poor quality. More specifically, there is no education in Azerbaijan at all.
“Many of my friends are students, and I have yet to see books in their hands. It’s not clear what they’re learning and they only begin to fuss during exam periods. Then a good job is arranged for them. I have neither the opportunity nor desire for this,” said 20-year-old Eldar.
Amina, a former university teacher:
“I got a job because two teachers were fired for taking bribes, just as I was graduating from the institute. They both taught me and were much more professional than many other teachers in fact. We had a teacher that simply sat and stared out the window for entire lectures; it would have been better if he had taken bribes. There were good teachers too, but in general the system is designed in such a manner that you can not teach anything to anyone, and no one will notice either.”
2. Education in Azerbaijan is also expensive.
If you don’t score high enough on exams for the state to pay for you, you have to pay an inordinate amount on the ‘paid branch’, which doesn’t correspond with the quality of training received.
Prices are still rising. To study law at Baku State University, which cost 3 800 manat ($2235) a year ago, now costs a local student 4 300 ($2529). In other universities, prices are around 2 000 ($1176) to 3 000 manat ($1764) per year.
3. Many young people are disheartened by the Azerbaijani education system from school years. It is customary to hire private educators for a child several years before entering an institute.
This means at least two years of private studies in five subjects, which is a heavy burden on family finances. All because the entrance exam is somewhat more complicated than the school curricula.
Former Minister of Education, Misir Mardanov, openly acknowledged this problem:
“We spoon feed knowledge in schools, but the State Commission for the Admission of Students requires a ladle.”
4. Employers in other countries don’t acknowledge Azerbaijani diplomas. It’s even difficult to find a job in Azerbaijan.
“My nephew graduated from the Department of Architecture in Baku. He studied via the paid branch. Now, after five years, he still hasn’t been able to find a job in his field, because in reality he doesn’t have a field. He went to university for five years and didn’t learn anything. Now, wherever he tries to get settled, they say that he needs to pass a two-month course which is really expensive. I didn’t want my child to suffer such a fate, so I sent him abroad,” said Zeynab Guliyeva.
More on unemployment.
Salim Muslimanov, the Minister of Labor and Social Protection said that Azerbaijan is one of the top ten countries in the world in terms of the level of unemployment among young people. Unemployment among young people aged 15-29 years was 5% in 2015 according to the State Statistics Committee. This figure remained unchanged in 2016, and approximately 36 300 people are officially unemployed.
Expert-economist, Torgul Mashaili said that the level of unemployment in Azerbaijan is difficult to determine, and the methods used by the State Committee of Statistics doesn’t make the task any easier. The fact is that not everyone that’s unemployed is officially registered with the labor exchange, and not everyone working in Azerbaijan is officially registered as an employee:
“204 000 people applied to the labor exchange to register as unemployed in 2016, but only 11 000 received a statute of unemployment according to the Ministry of Labor. About 57 000 people were provided with work. It can also be concluded that at least 136 000 people lost their jobs in 2016, and on 1 January 2017, approximately 227 000 people had a status of “searching for work” .
“My father studied in Russia, and after returning to Azerbaijan he tried unsuccessfully to build a life here for nine years, after which he went back. I want to become a director, and the best way to do this is to go to Turkey. I’ll learn there, and then we’ll see what happens.
“My goal is not to return to Azerbaijan. If it’s possible I’ll go to Europe. If not, I’ll stay and work in Turkey.
“If I want to work in Baku, I’ll be forced to shoot videos for mediocre singers,” Eldar said.
Turkish culture day in Baku
- The quality of education in Azerbaijan can’t compare to that of Turkey. The American news magazine U.S. News & World Report published a list of the best universities in the world. Turkish universities are in the top 500, and three of them are in the top 50 universities in the world.
- Diplomas form Turkish universities are recognized all over the world. Turkish education isn’t just a platform for moving to Turkey, but also a springboard for a career in other countries. Moreover, it’s possible to study in English and other languages in Turkey. There are also scholarships that enable you to get an education for free.
- It will be much easier for a graduate from a Turkish university to find work in Azerbaijan, if they decide to return. There are many doctors with a Turkish education working in Baku clinics.
- Young people easily adapt to the Turkish language and culture, which are similar to Azerbaijani.
- Visa-free travel and geographical proximity make Turkey the ‘default’ option.
- Prices for education there are better. The cost of education in Turkey, if compared to those for the same degree in Azerbaijan, are often cheaper. Plus there are many programs where you can be granted a scholarship and study for free.
How much does it cost to send a child to Turkey?
There are many programs on Alibek Huseynov Street in Baku that send students to study in Turkey. We inquired about prices. Those wishing to enroll in state universities in Turkey pay at least 1 600 manat per year for preparatory courses. Beyond that, the exam for each university is paid separately, beginning at USD 50 ($29). An additional 400 manat ($235) is paid for learning the Turkish language up to the required level.
Taking all expenses into account, an applicant’s family must pay a minimum of AZN 3 500 – 4 000 for admission to a Turkish university. This is a large amount when the average salary is around AZN 500 ($294).
Will the state pay for the education of ‘lost children’?
Azerbaijan has a government program for studying abroad. Until recently, it was led by the Minister of Education Mikhail Jabbarov, a graduate of Pacific University in California. The idea was to get a plethora of young people with a Western education to further work towards benefitting their motherland. Students signed agreements that they would return to Azerbaijan and work for at least five years.
The ministry hasn’t said just how many students came back, and doesn’t openly acknowledge the brain drain problem in general. Recently, however, foreign students were promised that they would be accepted to work in state structures without examinations.
Unfortunately, salaries for such work are too low to outweigh the opportunities offered by a career in developed countries.
The state suspended funding for studying abroad in 2015. The Minister of Education announced preparations for a new program but nothing has been heard yet. Since Mikhail Jabbarov has become the Minister of Revenue Service it’s hard to say what will happen with this program as everything will depend on the new Minister and his policies.
Shakhlar Askerov, the former head of the educational committee of the Milli Mijlis (parliament), calls students who have left the country “lost children”:
“In the past 5 years, 3 500 – 4 000 young people have left the country and only half of them have returned. Our government has spent money to provide them with a higher education, but other countries are benefiting from it.”