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Research findings show brain drain in Turkish academia to be worryingly high

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Recent research has revealed that 12,000 academics have left Turkey with no intention of returning, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the T24 news website.

According to a study conducted by economist Dr. Ufuk Akçiğit from the University of Chicago, academics with the best track records were gradually leaving Turkey to find work in other countries. These academics are often the best in their fields and have the highest number of publications, grant acquisitions and citation impact.

“The best academics leave the country, and the more they establish themselves in the academic world, the less they want to return to Turkey. This is called a brain drain paradox,” he said.

Those academics who did eventually return experienced a significant drop in work efficiency.

The brain drain has become a hot topic in Turkey in recent years, as political pressure has led the brightest minds of the country to leave in search of a better life. According to Turkish pollster Metropoll, 47 percent of Turks would like to work or study abroad.

Speaking to various news outlets, young professionals and academics have complained that they feel disrespected in Turkey and do not want to raise their children in a country where freedom of expression is not valued.

Many who have left Turkey said the 2013 Gezi Park protests were a turning point and had a major effect on their decision to leave. They no longer felt safe in expressing their opinions about the government and did not want to live under an oppressive regime.

The Turkish government has allowed little breathing room for critical-minded academics, with many currently behind bars for criticism of the Turkish government and its president.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly targeted academics critical of his government’s policies on several occasions, calling them “academic terrorists.”

The most notorious case involves the prosecution a group of academics who referred to themselves as the “Peace Academics.” These academics signed a declaration in early 2016 calling on the government to halt operations by security forces in southeastern Turkey, restore peace to the country and return to the negotiating table to restart shelved talks to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.

The move attracted widespread criticism from the government. Many of the signatories were fired, sentenced to prison or subjected to overseas travel bans. After the initial signatories were targeted by Erdoğan, more academics signed the peace declaration in solidarity, with the total number exceeding 2,000.

Moreover, a total of 7,316 academics were dismissed in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016. Professors and lecturers from nearly all universities in Turkey were targeted in the government’s post-coup crackdown.

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