Akdeniz Üniversitesi

Introduction

It is widely appreciated today that the internationalization of higher education is the most important item on the agenda of universities. Internationalization in higher education is defined as the systematic inclusion process of the international dimension to the higher education institution's education, research and service function”. Internationalization which increases understanding of higher education contributes to an increase in the quality of research and education in universities, as well as strengthening their regional and global role and changing the concept of the uniform university.

It is necessary to have a healthy functioning strategy in order to successfully carry out the process of internationalization. In this strategy, international students are the most important component in the process. Similarly, it is very important for the internationalization of universities that they offer a suitable academic environment in which international guest researchers can deliver lectures and pursue their research activities.

Within Akdeniz University it was clear that there was insufficient and ineffective coordination between the Branch Directorate of Foreign Relations, the Bologna Coordination Office and the Farabi Coordination Office in the way their external relations activities were being conducted. This situation led to units engaging in independent operations when they should have been coordinating with each other and benefiting from each other's outputs and activities. In addition, due to the dispersed structure within which they were operating, it was not possible to identify an internationalization strategy for our university which was both applicable and sustainable in the face of growing global competition in higher education. Information about the units which are responsible for international relations activities in our university are summarized briefly below.

The Branch Directorate of Foreign Relations was first established as the Department of International Relations on October 17th 2001, (decision No. 267 of the Akdeniz University Board of Directors). The name ‘Branch Directorate of Foreign Relations was chosen in accordance with the encoding system which was defined in the CoHE article dated 06.08.2008. The Branch Directorate of Foreign Relations was established within the organizational structure of the administrative units which had been placed under the authority of the General Secretary. The purpose of this move was to promote the development of bilateral cooperation between Akdeniz University and foreign educational institutions. In 2003 our University expanded its role by joining the Erasmus Programme as a pilot university, as well as initiating activities related to the European Union Education and Youth Programmes, (Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius, Grundtvig, and Youth). The Department was also made responsible for handling information related to the promotion of active participation in European Union grant programmes.

The Farabi Coordination Office: The Farabi Exchange Programme regulations were published as ‘A Nationwide Programme for Turkey’ by the CoHE in 2009. Our University established the Farabi Coordination Office within the Rectorate, and a Coordinator responsible for the Farabi Exchange Programme was appointed. The Office is not included in the list of academic or administrative units in the organizational structure, and the range of duties which it performs is determined by the Vice-Rector who is responsible for educational activities.

The Bologna Coordination Office: The Bologna Process Coordination Office (BPCO) was established at the beginning of 2011 to ensure that BP activities are executed actively and sustainably in all units of our university, as well as managing the internationalization of the Bologna Process in our University. The duties of the Bologna Coordination Office include; to provide a corporate identity to the work carried out under the Bologna Process, to determine the institutional strategy needed to implement the Bologna Process, to create awareness of the Bologna Process, to improve and expand the awareness which already exists, to monitor the activities of domestic and foreign institutions within this field, and to create and maintain a comprehensive archive.

The Mevlana Exchange Programme is the next international programme in which Akdeniz University has plans to participate, but our involvement will not begin until 2013. The Mevlana Programme operates under regulations prepared by the CoHE which came into force after being published in the official newspaper on 23rd August 2011, and deal with the principles and procedures required for operations involving higher education institutions which provide both domestic education, and exchange programme in other countries for students and teachers.

The Advisor to the Rector (Prof. Dr. Burhan Ozkan) was appointed to the position of Coordinator of European Union Education and Youth Programmes and International Relations with responsibility for related topics by the Rector of Akdeniz University, Prof. Dr. Israfil Kurtcephe, on 7th August 2012. The scope of the assignment was; to undertake studies which would establish the conditions needed to advance our university to the status of a world class university, to create and develop a closer alignment with the conditions needed for the internationalization of our education programme, to work towards an improvement in quality while maintaining a holistic approach to our education programme which would take into account our determination to take on the role of a major player in the European Higher Education Area. The restructuring tasks required for the internationalization of the university were decided during several working meetings with the staff of the International Relations Office (IRO), the Bologna Coordination Office and the Farabi Coordination Office under the chairmanship of International Relations Coordinator.

As a result of these studies, which took into account the current situation of our university and current developments in higher education, a list of proposed activities related to internationalization was presented, with briefing files, to our Rector Prof. Dr. Israfil Kurtcephe. This programme of activities, which would encompass the Erasmus, Farabi and Mevlana Exchange Programmes, the Bologna Process, EU Youth Programmes, International Students, IAESTE, and Joint Degree Programmes, would be carried out under the name of the International Relations Office.

In order to maintain the efficiency and effectiveness of our internationalization activities, the Board of Directors produced a restructuring proposal on September 12th 2012. This required units responsible for the Erasmus, Farabi and Mevlana Exchange Programmes, Bologna Process, EU Youth Programmes, IAESTE, International students, as well as proposed activities related to the internationalization of business and transactions, to be brought together under the title; 'The International Relations Office'.

The International Relations Office was thereby established as the link between the International Relations Coordinator and the offices created to represent the 6 main fields of activity; the EU Education and Youth Programme, International Cooperation and Publicity,the Bologna Process, Mevlana Programme, International Students and Farabi Programme. In addition, in order to ensure an efficient level of communication for all internationalization activities, the 6th floor of the Rectorate Building has been established as a dedicated location where all of the main units dealing with international relations can be brought together under the title; “the International Relations Office”.

The International Relations Coordination Board (IRCB) was established in order to ensure there was effective coordination between the units, and to monitor all activities carried out by the International Relations Office within the new structure. The International Relations Coordination Board was created with the participation of the Office Coordinators (The Farabi Coordinator, the EU Education and Youth Programme Coordinator, the Bologna Process Vice-Coordinator, the International Cooperation and Publicity Coordinator, International Student Coordinator and the Mevlana Coordinator), as well as the Head of the Registrar's Office, the Head of the Department of Health, Culture and Sports, and the Head of the Student Council. Meetings of the Board, which will be chaired by the Vice-Rector responsible for International Relations will be held once a month. The minutes of the International Relations Coordination Board will be submitted to the Rector’s Office every other month.

The Internationalization Strategy Board (ISB) has also been established within the structure of the International Relations Office, and is expected to take on a very important role in the internationalization process of our university.

In the restructuring of the International Relations Office, the Internationalization Strategy Board is expected to play a crucial role in the internationalization process of our university. The aims of the Council are to identify and direct the internationalization strategy of our University, and to contribute to the work of the International Relations Office. The members of the Internationalization Strategy Board will be selected from the academic staffs of the Faculties and Schools of Akdeniz University, who wish to voluntarily contribute their expertise to help define the effective internationalization strategy needed to become a world class University. The Internationalization Strategy Board, meeting under the presidency of Vice-Rector is expected play a crucial role in our University’s Internationalization Strategy. Selection of the members of the Internationalization Strategy Board is currently in progress, and once the process is complete the Council will meet once during each academic semester, after which the minutes of the meetings will be submitted to the Rector.

The institutional structuring of the International Relations Office, European Union Education and Youth Programmes, International Cooperation and Publicity, the Bologna Process, the Farabi Programme and the Mevlana Programme has enabled us to define the positions and roles of the staff members, as well as the institutional identity and the aims of the Internationalization Strategy Board and the International Relations Coordination Board. An office logo has been designed in order to establish and promote our new identity, and the form and distribution of the facilities of the International Relations Office is rapidly taking shape.

With so much work having been completed, the development of the webpages of the International Relations Office is our next priority. Topics which can be found on our web pages include information on the Erasmus, Farabi, and Mevlana Programmes, the Bologna Process, European Union Education and Youth Programmes, International Students IAESTE, Joint Diploma Programmes, as well as other documents dealing with internationalization, relevant forms, announcements, and the minutes of meetings.

The International Relations Office web page was activated as part of the university’s main webpage on September 17th 2012. Information is available in both Turkish and English at present, while work on pages in Russian and French  will start in the forthcoming semester.