Turkish Dual Degree Program

2007 Heiskell Award Winner: International Exchange Partnerships

Nomination submitted by: Mr. Robert Gosende, Associate Vice Chancellor for International Programs

Program Overview 
Grown from roots of the Fulbright program in Turkey, the unprecedented success of the dual diploma programs between The State University of New York (SUNY) and the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YOK) is an example of what can happen when two systems work together to the benefit of both.

SUNY’s 64 campuses serve 418,000 students in nearly 7,700 degree and certificate programs, comprising the nation's largest comprehensive system of public higher education. The Turkish Council of Higher Education is a public body responsible for the planning, coordination and supervision of a higher education system consisting of 77 universities (53 public and 24 private) and thirty-eight non-university institutions of higher education (police and military academies and colleges). Given the size and breadth of the systems, they faced significant organizational challenges.

However, a thoughtful approach to curriculum planning and financial arrangements, a series of face-to-face visits and strong faculty involvement enabled them to launch relatively quickly and smoothly a series of ten pilot programs in the fields of business, economics, global and international affairs, information systems engineering, marine technology management engineering, and marine transportation management engineering.

The joint program has evolved from initial talks in 2000, and an initial cohort of 33 students in 2003, to a range of programs that by 2006 had encompassed more than 1,500 students in 24 programs, with nine Turkish and ten SUNY campuses participating, and the first cohorts of students receiving their diplomas.

Initial talks began in 2000, after SUNY’s Trustees had formally established the Office of International Programs with a primary goal of bringing more international students to SUNY campuses, to help prepare its graduates for citizenship in a more interdependent world. At the same time, the Turkish system was struggling with a demand for higher education that far outpaced its limited capacity (395,000 places in the universities and 230,000 distance learning places in the open university). As a result, nearly two thirds of the 1.5 million students taking national university entrance exams were forced to seek their undergraduate degrees from foreign institutions or abandon their plans of pursuing higher education.

To meet these needs, talks focused on undergraduate education, and the dual diploma program concept was born. The Turkish students would spend half of their undergraduate career at their home campus and half at a partner SUNY campus, leading to a bachelor’s degrees in four years and receiving two diplomas—one Turkish, one SUNY. This would ultimately increase the number of Turkish students admitted to Turkish universities by providing additional places for qualified students.

In 2001, the Turkish Higher Education Council President, and the SUNY Chancellor signed a preliminary agreement and turned the detailed curriculum planning and financial arrangements over to the campuses and departments. Among the tasks was ensuring that each program fulfilled all degree completion requirements of both the Turkish and the SUNY campuses within the four-year period. Joint-degrees are unusual at the undergraduate level, presumably because it is harder to articulate degree requirements across national systems than at the master's level and because students are younger and may require more support services.

A three-year Department of State university linkage grant of $125,000 assisted with the initial travel needs of faculty and administrators, and the hosting side paid for meals and local lodging and transportation, enabling faculty to work together on curricular needs.

The SUNY dual-diploma programs were offered through the Turkish Higher Education Council placement exam for the first time in 2003. More than 3,800 Turkish students applied for the 300 places offered (30 in each of the ten pilot programs) -- a nearly 13-to-1 ratio. This competition ensured a high level of academic potential among the students selected and demonstrated that the program responded to an urgent need. This year more than 330 Turkish students were enrolled at the Universities at Binghamton and Buffalo, as well as the Colleges at Cortland, New Paltz, the Maritime College, the Fashion Institute of Technology and Empire State College. New programs have enrolled students in Turkey and will see students arriving over the next few years at the Colleges in Brockport, Fredonia, Geneseo, and Purchase. As the program has expanded, SUNY campuses have developed new programs and policies that benefit these and many other international students.

The dual diploma program benefits both Turkey and the United States. The SUNY and Turkish campuses gain more international exposure and benefit from the faculty exchanges which are built into the programs. SUNY is now working on programs to take NYS students to Turkey, but even among those NYS students who never go to Turkey, their undergraduate experience is greatly enhanced by studying and living side-by-side with their Turkish peers. This program contributes to their knowledge of the Muslim world, a part of the world which is often not well-understood among US university students, and strengthens the University’s ability to foster a sense of global citizenry among its students.

Based on the success of the Turkish programs, the Office of International Programs and SUNY campuses are currently developing dual diploma programs with universities in Russia, Poland, Mexico and Brazil.