Which European country sends more students to U.S. universities than any other? Is it Britain, which shares a common language and a reverence for ancient collegiate campuses? Or Germany, whose great research universities did so much to shape U.S. higher education?
The answer, it turns out, is neither. Though Britain sent more than 9,000 students to the United States last year — more than ever before — and Germany sent about 9,300, both lagged behind Turkey, which has been sending more than 10,000 students a year to the United States since 2000.
The numbers have fluctuated, with a sharp falloff after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the United States was seen as a less desirable destination, and when Turkey was mired in its own economic crisis. But according to Open Doors, a census of international student movement issued by the Institute for International Education in New York, Turkey has long been the only European country to figure regularly in the top 10 sending nations, behind mainstays like China, India, Canada and Mexico. In 2012, Turkey sent nearly 12,000 students to the United States.
“Turkey’s vision has always been looking to the West,” said Zeynep Gurhan-Canli, a professor in the business faculty at Koc University on the outskirts of Istanbul. “We have always looked to Europe and the U.S.,” she said.