Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A brief comparison of Australian and Turkish universities: The case of RMIT and METU

Image via @metu_odtu on Instagram

By Aylin Turgut-Ecevit
As a part of Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility staff mobility program, and thanks to an exchange agreement between my university (Middle East Technical University [METU], in Ankara, Turkey) and RMIT, I’ve had the great opportunity of spending two weeks on Melbourne City campus.
My first impression about RMIT before coming here was how big it was. But soon after I came, I realised that it is beyond my estimations.
As I am working full-time as a part of the press office at METU, my main goal was picking the brains of the central Communications team. Thankfully, they welcomed me as soon as I arrived and they helped me gain insight into RMIT, linking me to other communications and marketing units across the University, and giving me the opportunity to present on the higher education system in Turkey and at METU.
My journey started with a brief City campus tour and it really impressed me a lot. Bringing different architectural styles together without crowding each other out, aesthetic usage of shapes and colours, especially in recreational and study areas created and designed for students – those are the physical elements that fascinated me.
I have learnt about how things are done at RMIT related to marketing and communications, and thanks to various marketing teams within different departments had some useful ideas about improving METU’s strengths in these areas.
Overall, as far as I can see, there are differences as well as similarities between the two universities. If we start with the student populations, we are nearly half the size of RMIT, comparing the main campuses. (We have a graduate school campus in the Mediterranean region of Turkey, namely Mersin/Erdemli and an overseas campus in Northern Cyprus other than our main campus in Ankara.)
Second, we have a totally different system in the area of domestic recruitment. We have a central exam system, and school leavers in Turkey choose on the basis of the scores they get in a national two-stage exam. If their score is enough to be enrolled in one of their choices, they are placed in a university and program by the central system. So, we can’t recruit our domestic students on our own.
Another difference is on the operational side. METU has a central communications office. Each and every department is in contact with this office. In other words, we don’t have different communications or marketing offices that handle work locally.
Instead, they’re sending their requests about making a video, designing a poster for an upcoming event, submitting press releases, etc. to our “Corporate Communications Office”.
In short, instead of every department operating their own marketing and communications, everything is centralised.
This isn’t to criticise, because both systems have their own pros and cons (for instance; decentralisation provides more creativity and independence, a central body ensures corporate brand management).
One other difference depends on the completely different education sectors. Our higher education system is still nearly completely free. If you are an undergraduate student, and if you finish your degree within the normal time-period (four to six years according to the Department of Higher Education) you pay nothing in tuition.
You need to pay a nominal fee only if you prolong your study period. So, our university needs to generate income by other means in order to provide a better service for the students. We do this through collaboration with industry and other sources of research funding. At METU, research revenues account for more than 35 per cent of all university expenditures annually (including all payroll costs).
To sum up, due to the distinctive features of both secondary and higher education systems in the two countries, there are various approaches to domestic recruitment and communications. They both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Observing different kinds of applications within similar institutions, as I did here in the RMIT, can provide in-depth analysis and allow us to identify possible progress for both systems.