Brain drain among Turkish academics is at alarming levels, report shows

The likelihood of Turkish academics moving to abroad has been increasing since 2015 according to the Turkish Informatics Foundation’s (TBV) new “brain drain” report. The report indicated that even though significant amount of resources allocated to higher education, these resources are not used efficiently and do not lead to scientific output.

Turkish police enter Ankara University's campus by stepping dismissed academics' robes in 2017

Duvar English

The Turkish Informatics Foundation’s (TBV) has published a report titled “Turkey Academic Diaspora Report: From Brain Drain to Brain Power” in order to highlight the problems experienced by Turkish academics and reasons that led them to move abroad.

According to the report, there had been a strong increase in the number of researchers per capita in Turkey starting from the 1970s until 2015. After 2015, this increase reversed and a decline started. The likelihood of researchers leaving Turkey, which had been flat (or partially declining) since the 2000s, increased significantly after 2015.

The report revealed that Turkey experiences a brain drain phenomenon, with the most productive researchers likely to leave for abroad. However, the country also experiences a reverse brain drain, as less productive Turkish researchers are more likely to return to the country. This means that Turkey loses its top talents while gaining back lower-performing researchers, according to the report.

According to the recent findings, the average rate of female researchers among active Turkish researchers between 1980 and 2020 standed at 37%. However, this rate has dropped significantly to 28% among Turkish researchers who have spent time abroad. Societal barriers may be impeding women's mobility in the field according to these findings.

Boğaziçi University's academics are protesting against the appointed rector for two years.

The data from the OECD showed that Turkey ranks poorly in terms of scientific publications per capita. However, when it comes to the proportion of national income spent by the government on higher education, Turkey is ahead of many other countries. This suggests that a significant amount of resources is allocated to higher education in Turkey. However, they do not translate into scientific output due to the ineffective use of these resources.

The OECD data also demonstrated that Turkey's government spending on primary, secondary, and high school education is among the lowest compared to other countries. However, private spending on education by households is among the highest. This implies that young people with wealthier parents receive a better education, while talented research candidates born into poor families may struggle to receive an adequate education.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has increased it pressure against scientific community in Turkey especially after the coup attempt in 2016. Dozens of academics has been dismissed from their post with over night presidential decrees under emergency rule. 

Also, in 2016 approximately 1,000 academics signed the petition named "We will be not a party to this crime!" against the civil war in the southeastern Turkey during 2015-2016 between Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish Military. Afterwards, many of them were dismissed from their jobs and prosecuted.

In another case, Istanbul's prestigious Boğaziçi University's academics and students have been protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's rector appointments for more than two years. In this process, some students were detained and even stayed behind bars for months while several renowned academics were dismissed.