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Causes of the Flowing ‘’Brain Drain’’ from Turkish Universities to the Developed Countries in Last 10 Years


Brain drain is very significant threat for the future of countries. This research will cover causes of the brain drain from Turkish universities to the developed countries in last ten years and illuminated topic in deeply. To obtain details of these problems, this research has put account mixed method, qualitative method and quantitative data collection method. Throughout the investigation, it was scanned literature review, student comments and perspectives, it was observed tendency and expectations of university students and it was applied questionnaire on university students from different departments.

As a result, this research revealed detailed picture of current affairs which lead to brain drain phenomena and roots of current contributory factors, thus overall template of the brain drain is provided in deeply.

Keywords: Economy, Education, Political Changes, Turkish Universities


Internal and external difficulties, problems encountered in Turkey since the foundation of the republic have caused well educated people to have a tendency to leave Turkey. Turkey’s problems lead to poor working conditions and poor living conditions in Turkey and brain drain becomes inevitable for well-trained people at the point of maintaining their lives. In this regard, the level of education and competence of the people are determinants of the development and welfare level of a country. However, Turkish university students and academicians prefer to study and work in the foreign country’s universities, thus Turkey loses citizens who are well educated, visionary, highbrow. In this context, this research will illuminate details of problems which lead to brain drain. These problems can be grouped under three headings: education, economy and society. The economic problems in recent years, the wrongs in the education system and the social and political changes in the society are main contributory factors which make people tend to leave Turkey.


Brain drain is the most important topic for the future of the country because countries which give brain drain encounter some problems that prevent advancement of the nations.  

 ‘’49.5% of students cited low expenditure and lack of investment in the educational sector as reasons for studying abroad.’’ (Şimşek, 2011)

‘’Students who are products of the Turkish education system failed to be motivated (15.7%) by the prospect of working in their own country.’’ (Şimşek, 2011)

‘’Pull factors of receiving countries are high occupational income, greater opportunity to advance in profession, better work environment and greater job availability.’’ (Tansel & Nil, 2003) 

When asked about the return plan for Turkish who living abroad ‘’Economic instability and uncertainty in Turkey was marked most often as a very important factor in decision to remain abroad.’’ (Tansel & Nil, 2003) 

‘’Brain drain may occur as a result of political situations, inadequate planning of manpower and labor force, working conditions, research opportunities, social roots and conscious policies.’’ (Erdoğan, 2003) 


Brain drain is a phenomenon defined by the fact that well-trained professionals and scientists and experts leave their own countries in order to settle and work in another country. Historically, the concept of brain drain was first used by the British for qualified, educated Indians who migrated to England. On the other hand, when we focus on terms related to brain drain, we come across terms such as brain hunter countries, brain circulation and brain gain. However, in some cases, people intend to come back to their countries after they got qualified education and work on foreign universities because those people aim to share their experiences and information which they got from abroad, thus they want to pioneer to progress their countries. On the other hand, in the most of the cases, people intend to settle in developed countries completely because these people desire to attend most prestigious universities and after the graduation to work in the huge international companies. At this point, some countries can be seen as a brain hunter such USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and these countries accept well educated people and students from less developed or developing countries. Also, these countries sometimes compete to take under most valuable people in term of education and science. All these terms are related topics arising from the main topic of brain drain. In addition, when we look at what is written and spoken about brain drain, we encounter two different approaches. Firstly, there is a general approach in the form of brain drain from a country that negatively affects that country, while on the other side there is a positive approach to brain drain. Names like Allan Findlay and Lindsay Lowell have pointed out countries which lose well educated citizens are economically, scientifically and educationally weakened and suffered from human absence in pioneer to advance country. On the other hand, the names that emphasize the positive effects of brain drain, such as sociology professor Hein de Haas and South Korean academician Jisong Kim, mention that per capita national income increases in the countries that give brain drain, and they claim that the citizens who have moved abroad  and then returned could benefit to their countries in terms of experience and expertise. 

According to Turkey Statistics Institute’s ‘International Migration Statistics’ report, the number of people who emigrated from Turkey in 2017, show 42.5% increase compared to the previous year and it became 253.640. Also, Netherlands Immigration and Naturalization Agency (IN) has announced that last year 1.020 academics and highly educated people from Turkey applied to settle in the Netherlands.  However, brain drain is not a new problem facing Turkey but increased in the recent years. The main reasons for this new wave of brain drain in our country are as follows: Our economy is becoming more and more unstable, the uncertainties and deficiencies in the education system affect all educational institutions, especially academic structure of universities, and politicians divide the society into as pro-power and opposition, restrictions on freedom of thought have occurred and injustices have increased. As a result, increased brain drain has affected especially the academic structure of universities and students, while all faculties have been affected by this brain erosion. 

In recent years, brain drain has become an increasing threat to Turkey and it has the potential to affect future generation of country directly. The academic structure and students of the universities were most affected by this brain drain wave.  This research investigates details about brain drain in Turkish universities in regard to social, economical and political perspectives. Also, this research will illuminate causes of the brain drain in Turkey deeply. 

Research Objectives

At this point, I aim to explore the details of academic brain drain from various perspectives by focusing on the position with a social and economic/political approaches. Also, I determine to clarify problems and details of case, so I applied to collect information from questionnaire, literature review and observation. Today, brain drain is still important problem for the Turkey.

Research Questions

a. What is the current image of brain drain in Turkey?

b. What is main contributory factor that is pushing university students and academicians to go to developed countries?

c. How brain drain affects Turkish education system?

3.1 Methodology

It is the research that is descriptive because we are focusing on some specific case/phenomenon. Also, it is causal because I will detect causes and consequences of the brain drain. And finally, it will be also exploratory. For actualizing my research purpose, I will apply literature review, observation, questionnaire which covers 37 university students from different universities. These are Kadir Has University, Marmara University, Istanbul Technical University, Beykent University. To provide qualified information, I will scan literature about brain drain, making an observation, talking with students, focusing on examples. These are my itineraries of methodology.

3.2 Findings

Questionnaire conclusions show that reasons of brain drain at first, then reveal consequences of brain drain. This questionnaire covers students who are from different universities, different ages and different fields. Finally, this questionnaire emphasizes important effect of brain drain in Turkish universities.  


Approximately 64.8% of students prefer to go abroad for work and this finding reveals that students from different universities have a tendency to work in abroad rather than work in Turkey. This means Turkey will encounter new brain drain wave in the future and loss of well-trained people can cause to stop development of the country in the many fields.


Approximately 82% of students think that Turkish universities are insufficient in the sense of educational attainment and this reveals why most of students don’t attend postgraduate programs of Turkish universities. This means in the most of the cases, after the postgraduate programs students don’t want to come back from abroad. 


Approximately 8% of students think that university budget is sufficient in the sense of educational attainment and this reveals that why Turkish students are unhappy economically in their universities. This means that students could prefer universities which have larger budget rather than universities with lower budget.


Approximately 90% of students think that economical conditions have a huge impact on brain drain issue and this reveal that students believe economical conditions are essential for well-trained people. This means that economical conditions are important reason to go abroad according to this student group.


Approximately 70% of students think that freedom of speech is under threaten in Turkey and this reveals that students consider Turkish universities are uncomfortable in sense of freedom of speech. This means that students care about freedom of speech in their universities.  


Approximately 35% of students think that they will be able to find a job in their field and this reveals that most of students are hopeless to find a job in their fields. This means that out of the 35% could prefer to work in abroad in their fields.


Approximately 40% of students don’t have any idea about this issue and this reveals that students are uninformed about possibility of finding a job in here or abroad. This means that students are unaware about these possibilities. 


Approximately 85% of students think that political atmosphere is affecting to brain drain and this reveals that political structure is negative effect on well-trained people. This means that political structure and atmosphere can be seen as a essential point for the remaining in the country or going abroad.


As a result, there are several factor in the emergence of brain drain. These can be shown political factors, economical factors and social factors. In every investigation on this topic could help to detect source of the problem. But the crucial  step is to focus on core of the problem and make an effort to prevent brain drain from Turkish universities. Every single nation which is developed, consider its people who are well-trained for its benefit. If the highbrow people stands their country, it could help for creating an atmosphere which has a potential to develop, investigate in deeply. In the atmosphere like that, every single nation could develop easily. Because of that, brain drain from Turkish universities to abroad is an essential problem for Turkey’s advancement. If the brain drain increase consistently, Turkish people will face lots of threatening. 

Ümit Kuş, Marmara University/ Faculty of Communication/ Journalism,  umit.kus1998@gmail.com 


Ayşit Tansel, N. D. (2003). Brain Drain from Turkey: Survey Evidence of Student Non-Return. Career Development International, 30.
Ayşit Tansel, N. D. (2003). Brain Drain from Turkey: Survey Evidence of Student Non-Return. Career International Development , 14.
Erdoğan, İ. (2003). Brain Drain and Turkey. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 98.
Şimşek, M. (01.03.2011). Opinions of the Turkish Postgraduates in the United States Regarding Return to Turkey: An Analysis in terms of Brain Drain. Journal of Academic Research in Economics, 101.
Şimşek, M. (01.03.2011). Opinions of the Turkish Postgraduates in the United States Regarding Return to Turkey: An Analysis in terms of Brain Drain. Journal of Academic Research in Economics, 101.

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